Rice pressures Barak on roadblocks

Israeli officials urged not to undermine Palestinian security forces in the West Bank.


    Rice has met Israeli and Palestinian leaders to push forward US-backed peace efforts [AFP]

    She said she was pressing Israel to do more to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement but also stressed that Palestinians needed to take further action to meet Israeli security demands.

     

    Olmert is due to meet Abbas on Monday with the twin issues of settlements and roadblocks are likely to be on the agenda.

     

    'Achievable' goal

     
    Rice said the year-end goal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is still "achievable", but urged Israel not to prejudice a final agreement.

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    Rice also met Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, during her visit.
     
    Fayyad said on Sunday that he discussed future deployments of Palestinian police in towns across the West Bank with Rice and Barak.
     
    Rice's visit comes shortly after members of the Middle East Quartet called on Israel to freeze the construction of further illegal settlements in the West Bank.

    The Quartet, which includes the UN, the US, Russia and the European Union, said in a statement on Friday that all Israeli outposts erected after March 2001 should be dismantled.

    Roadblock review

    Palestinians say that Israel has removed only small barriers or partially dismantled obstacles despite pledging to pull them down.

    Rice said she will question the "qualitative character'" of some of the roadblocks Israel has already removed.

    "Not all roadblocks are created equal," she said.

    "The first thing we are going to do is to review the ones that were supposedly moved."

    "We don't want to get into a numbers game where you just remove 'X' number of roadblocks but it's not improving the

    lives of the Palestinians."

    Since 2000 Israel has set up a network of hundreds of checkpoints, gates and barriers in the occupied West Bank.

    After Rice's last trip in late March, Israel said it planned to remove 61 barriers but a UN survey subsequently found that only 44 obstacles had been scrapped and that most were of little or no significance.

    Little progress

    Yossi Mekelberg, a Middle East expert, told Al Jazeera that there has been little progress in peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

    "Everyone agrees that there is no progress, they don't deal with the real issues, and there is not enough momentum. I can't see there is going to be any progress in the near future.

    "The question is [are they] behind the scenes working on issues like Jerusalem and refugees.

    "The United states is the one that has to take the lead. There is a feeling among the Palestinians that the Unites States is not playing an honest broker any more."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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