US urges PA to 'do more' against terror

Abbas meets Chirac, expresses "sorrow" over Monday's deadly terror attack.

mandel funeral 298 (photo credit: )
mandel funeral 298
(photo credit: )
Even as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas prepared to fly from Paris to Madrid as the next leg of his international tour, the focus of discussion centered on the future of the "road map" peace plan and on Abbas's ability to control terror in Palestinian-controlled areas, especially in light of Monday's deadly shooting attack at the Gush Etzion junction. US State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack emphasized Tuesday America's lack of patience with continued Palestinian terror activity, as Washington prepared for Abbas's arrival in the American capital later this week. "We condemn those attacks. We urge the Palestinian government to continue to meet their roadmap obligations in not only fighting to stop terror attacks but dismantle those terrorist networks that are responsible for these attacks. More needs to be done to stop these kinds of attacks," McCormack said in a State Department press briefing. While calling on Israel "to consider the ramifications of their actions on the ultimate goal" and "to take steps to ease the daily plight of the Palestinian people," McCormack reiterated twice in his briefing "that we understand Israel's right to defend itself. We certainly understand, as victims ourselves of terrorist attacks, that it is an important duty and responsibility of any government to protects its own people." Abbas said Monday he expects a quick resumption of talks that Israel suspended with the Palestinian Authority after deadly drive-by shootings at West Bank settlements. Abbas, in Paris on his way to a highly awaited trip to Washington, said he was "sorry" about the killings Sunday by Palestinian gunmen, who also injured five Israelis. The attack at the Gush Etzion junction was the deadliest since July, and Israel responded with dozens of new checkpoints on major West Bank roads as well as by halting negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. "We are totally certain that they are going to start again very quickly, because there are many subjects we need to take up with the Israelis and we must talk," Abbas told reporters before meeting with President Jacques Chirac, who stood at his side. Abbas condemned the killings, saying, "These events harm the cease-fire and the calm that we have respected." The shootings followed Israeli intelligence warnings that Palestinian terrorists, who claim they drove Israel out of Gaza by force, would now shift their focus to the West Bank. Israel pulled out of Gaza in September in a unilateral move. Abbas, on his first trip to Paris since taking office in January, was meeting Chirac to discuss possibilities for Middle East peacemaking since Israel's withdrawal. "We have begun to plant democracy and the state of law, and we are fully determined to go all the way to the end of this road," the Palestinian leader said outside the presidential Elysee Palace. Turning to Chirac, Abbas said he knew that Palestinians could "count on you," praising the French leader as a "friend" of his late predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Chirac reiterated France's support for the long-stalled, internationally-backed "road map" peace plan, which envisions an independent Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel. The French leader said he was encouraged by the successful withdrawal from Gaza, saying it "marks the start or gives a jolt" to the peace process. Some Palestinian officials have taken issue with a contract signed by two private French companies to develop a tramway linking two Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Members of the Palestinian delegation brought up the issue in the meeting with Chirac, and French officials were examining whether the contract was legal, the Elysee said. The two leaders also discussed EU plans to advise the Palestinian police force starting in January and projects to develop airports and ports infrastructure projects in Gaza, the presidential palace said. Abbas also met Tuesday with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora in Paris, before leaving for Madrid, Spain, then on to Washington.