Fayad wants release of 2,000 prisoners

Says Israel should make "bold moves" ahead of parley; Abbas: Road Map should be implemented.

Fayad 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Fayad 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
The Palestinian Authority demands that Washington make an effort to achieve a document that would stand up to the Palestinian people's expectations and would help make the upcoming peace conference scheduled to take place at Annapolis, Maryland a success, Israel Radio reported Saturday evening. The Palestinian demand was announced by PA President Mahmoud Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh following a meeting in Ramallah between Abbas and the United States' Assistant Secretary of State David Welsh. According to Rudaineh, Abbas told Welsh that the Palestinians were working to implement the first stage of the 'Road Map' and asked that Israel, too, would take measures to implement its own Road Map obligations. In a meeting in Jericho with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Welsh expressed readiness on the side of the US to oversee that the first stage of the Road Map is implemented, if the sides agree to it. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayad on urged Israel to agree to a deadline for peace talks and make "bold moves" ahead of the conference, including the release of 2,000 of more than 12,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Israel has rejected demands for a timetable, and US officials have also been cool to the idea, but Fayad told The Associated Press in an interview that a deadline is essential for restoring credibility to more than a decade of failed peace efforts. Fayad, a pragmatist who meets frequently with Israeli leaders, said he is making headway on his plan to wrest control of the West Bank's streets from Palestinian militants. On Friday, 300 Palestinian police were deployed in the West Bank's most chaotic city, Nablus, as part of his gradual approach to restoring control. Asked about recent threats by Hamas in Gaza that the Islamic terror group would one day seize control of the West Bank, Fayad said Abbas's security forces in the West Bank are gradually performing better. "With each passing day, our confidence rises," said Fayad, who was installed as prime minister after Abbas fired the Hamas-led government in response to Hamas's forcible takeover of Gaza in June. "I don't spend too much time thinking about or listening to statements made here or there," Fayad said. "Our goal is clear and including of course, in the run-up to achieving our national objectives, ensuring that what happened in Gaza would not happen in the West Bank," he said. "That's what I preoccupy myself with." Fayyad said Israel needs to do more now to try to restore the Palestinians' trust in peace efforts and begin easing restrictions, such as removing major army roadblocks. "I think we need to really begin to see some bold moves in the direction of dealing with those issues of the here and now, for the people to buy into the process," he said. "We need to rekindle signs of hope after years of deterioration." But Israeli officials have said only that Israel is committed to negotiating a peace deal, and that such an assurance should be sufficient. "Israel is committed to reaching peace with the Palestinians and we want to achieve this in the most expedient way possible based on two states for two peoples," David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman, said Saturday. Asked about a possible release of prisoners and removal of checkpoints, Baker said the issues were being reviewed. "Israel is aware of the importance attached to them by the Palestinians," he said.