Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet again soon, Sharon’s office said on Friday.
Israeli official sources expect the meeting to take place before Abbas’ scheduled trip to Washington next month.
The statement also said Abbas called Sharon to wish him well for Passover.
Sharon, Abbas likely to meet on pullout
An Israeli official source said Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before the latter’s visit to Washington next month.
The need for a summit meeting to coordinate the disengagement plan was raised in talks between Sharon’s advisor, Dov Weissglas, and Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat in their Thursday meeting.
The American envoys Elliot Abrams and David Welch, who held separate meetings with Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Thursday, told the Israeli officials that they found the Palestinian Authority more willing than before to coordinate the disengagement from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank. The American envoys met Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday.
Abrams and Welch affirmed to Sharon that Abbas was the elected leader of the PA and he was the one Israel and the United States should work with.
In response, Sharon reiterated complains that Abbas was not acting firmly enough against ‘terror.’
Meanwhile coordination on the economical aspects of the disengagement has already started.
Israeli vice Premier Shimon Peres on Thursday met Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Erekat and discussed the economic aspects of the disengagement.
Qureia told Peres that the Palestinian order of priorities was creating jobs (‘we have 240,000 unemployed people’), rehabilitating water, sewage and electricity infrastructures, and providing access to the Gaza Strip via a sea port and an airport.
Qureia, known as a strong objector to coordinating the disengagement with Israel, has apparently changed stance.
‘We want cooperation in the Oslo spirit,’ Qurei told Peres.
The two sides decided to set up teams of experts to work out the coordination, starting with the transfer of the Erez industrial zone to the Palestinians.
Peres promised Qureia that the pullout from Gaza ‘will not be the last,’ and assured him that Israel was committed to the road map.
Erekat emphasized the need to remove the roadblocks and allow Palestinians freedom of movement.