Welch: Israel should bolster Abbas

Sharon and the American emissary met to advance the road map.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and American emissary David Welch met Tuesday afternoon to discuss efforts to advance implementation of the road map, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s upcoming visit to Washington and Abbas’s ability to take control of the Gaza Strip, a Sharon aide said. According to the aide, the meeting “was sort of a maintenance meeting that was intended to examine how we can move forward.” He added that Israel would make no gestures to the Palestinians, such as releasing prisoners, until they took measures to ensure stability in areas under their control. Welch met with Sharon after meeting Monday with Abbas and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Welch was active, according to Israeli officials, in trying to set up the Sharon-Abbas meeting that was originally scheduled to take place on Tuesday but had been postponed until after Abbas returns from Washington at the end of the month. Israeli officials said that Welch signaled in his talks that the US wanted Israel to do whatever it could to enhance Abbas’s position among the Palestinians, while the US remained opposed to any shortcuts through the first stage of the road map, which called for the Palestinians to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.