Quraya warns US over Israeli pullout

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya has warned Washington not to issue promises regarding any Israeli pullout from Gaza that could undermine Palestinians in final-status peace talks.

    Quraya: We are the side that needs assurances

    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to meet President George Bush at the White House on Wednesday in the hope of getting his imprimatur on a "Disengagement Plan" to withdraw from Gaza and four of 120 Jewish settlements in the West Bank. 

    While welcoming the prospect of Jewish settlers evacuating Gaza, Palestinians are alarmed at Sharon's intent to twin the pullout with cementing Israel's grip on larger West Bank settlement blocs he hopes to annex eventually. 

    "We warn, starting from now, that there should not be promises made at the expense of our issues...or at the expense of final status issues in particular," Quraya told reporters on Monday in the West Bank city of Ram Allah after a cabinet meeting. 

    "We will not accept anything that will prejudice the outcome of permanent status negotiations ... We are the side that needs assurances," he said. 

    The West Bank settlements take up large parts of occupied territory that Palestinians seek for a viable state under a US-backed "road map" peace plan that has been sidelined by violence on both sides. 

    Expecting a US pledge

    Israeli political sources have said Sharon expects a written US pledge that in exchange for an historic pullout from Gaza, Israel would not have to give up all of the West Bank under a
    future peace deal with the Palestinians. 

    "We warn, starting from now, that there should not be promises made at the expense of our issues...or at the expense of final status issues in particular"

    Ahmad Quraya, 
    Palestinian Prime Minister

    Quraya said a Gaza withdrawal should be comprehensive, including an end to control of entry and exit points, which
    Sharon rejects, and should be followed by the same in the West Bank. Israel seized both lands in the 1967 Middle East war. 

    Sharon has said he has no course but unilateral action because Palestinian authorities have failed to break up resistance groups responsible for attacks on Israelis since 2000. 

    Palestinian officials blame continued settlement building and relentless Israeli invasions and air strikes against resistance fighters for the continued bloodshed. 

    Sharon faces resistance from pro-settler nationalists in his party and wants Bush's guarantees to overcome it. 

    US sources in Washington said last week that "understandings" had been reached with Israel on key aspects of Sharon's plan after officials close to him said he expected approval to retain parts of the West Bank. 

    SOURCE: Reuters


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