NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will arrive in Ramallah Tuesday for talks with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials.
The visit was arranged last month in Brussels during a meeting between Shawqi Armaly, the Palestine Liberation Organization representative in Brussels and one of SchefferÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aides.
According to primary information, the visit intends to explore options of strengthening ties between the P.A and NATO, and strengthening efforts to reach a settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Israel informed Scheffer in earlier talks held February 24, 2005, that it apposes any upgrading of the Palestinian status at the NATO.
The Israeli FM Silvan Shalom objected on including the Palestinians in the Mediterranean Dialogue, which so far has been restricted to Jordan, Israel, Egypt and additional four North African countries.
Shalom claims that this step is Ã¢â‚¬Å“prematureÃ¢â‚¬Â because the Palestinian Authority is not a state yet, and claimed that there are Ã¢â‚¬ËœuncertaintiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ of the P.A constructive course of action.
Scheffer said that the NATO is interested in enhancing the Israeli practical and bilateral cooperation with the organization.Ã‚Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, his defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, suggested establishing an Israeli-NATO workgroup to coordinate security, military and intelligence cooperation, between the NATO and Israel.
The Israeli officials made it clear that Israel is responsible for its own security, thus it is not willing to accept guarantees from any side.
Also, Sharon said that he is Ã¢â‚¬Å“determined to carry out Gaza pullout within its timeframe, the summer of 2005.
Scheffer said that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict should be solved step-by step in order to keep the whole process under control.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Gaza pullout is still a pre-road map phase which could lead to further negotiations between the two partiesÃ¢â‚¬Â, Scheffer said.
Sharon, on the other hand, said that Israel is willing to allow the Palestinians build a sea port in Gaza after it withdraws; however, he rejected the idea of constructing an airport.
On the international level, Sharon and Shalom told Scheffer that they observe Iran as a main threat to Israel and the regional security, and a serious threat to Europe, charging that Tehran is Ã¢â‚¬Ëœdetermined to obtain nuclear capabilitiesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.