Secret Israeli Palestininan talks

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has revealed that opposition Labour party leader Shimon Peres held a secret meeting with Palestinian PM Ahmad Quraya last week.

    Ariel Sharon has never met Palestinian PM Ahmad Quraya

    Sharon made the disclosure to parliament's foreign affairs and defence committee on Monday, but without giving details of what was discussed.

    His statement sparked off protests from Labour Knesset members.

    Although nominated in September 2003, Quraya has never met Sharon despite a number of preliminary contacts aimed at clinching a summit between the two prime ministers.

    Back off

    Later in his speech to the committee, Sharon warned Jordan would damage its ties with Israel by joining an international campaign against the separation barrier being built in the West Bank.

    Amman was "leading" the campaign in the Arab world despite having "much to lose in worsening of its relations" with Israel, he said.

    Sharon was addressing parliament's foreign affairs and defence commission during a debate on the barrier's construction before hearings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on the legality of the works.

    The Israeli PM said Jordan was merely frightened that many Palestinians would settle on its territory because of the barrier's erection.

    Legality of barrier

    The United Nations General Assembly asked the ICJ in December to give its opinion on the legality of the barrier, which Palestinians brand "an apartheid wall" and Israel calls an "anti-terror fence."

    In Amman, however, Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Moashir brushed aside Sharon's warning and reaffirmed that Amman would present legal arguments to the ICJ at the end of January.

    "I want to emphasize that Jordan is not Palestine and Israel does not support any kind of Palestinian resettlement in Jordan"

    Silvan Shalom,
    Israel's Foreign Minister

    "Our position is clear. The separation wall presents a direct threat not only to national Palestinian interests and the idea of a Palestinian state but also to Jordan's national security," Moashir told state television.

    "The International Court of Justice was asked by the United Nations' General Assembly to look into the wall and it asked member countries to present their arguments. Jordan will present its arguments by the end of the month," he said.

    Contentious issue

    The barrier could eventually stretch 750km and jut deep into the West Bank, prompting Palestinians to accuse Israel of unilaterally determining the borders of their future state.

    But Israel has consistently argued that the barrier's construction is only motivated by security considerations as it should prevent would-be attackers from infiltrating its territory.

    Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told a Jerusalem press conference on Monday he would soon travel to Jordan, the only Arab country apart from Egypt to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.

    "I want to emphasize that Jordan is not Palestine and Israel does not support any kind of Palestinian resettlement in Jordan," he added, seeking to ease recent tension with the neighbouring kingdom.

    Extreme nationalist Israelis, however, see the West Bank as part of biblical Israel, and want all Palestinians living there to be expelled across the Jordan river.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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