PM expected to meet Abbas to coordinate disengagement
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas before the latter's scheduled trip to Washington next month, a Jerusalem source said yesterday.
Sharon's advisor, Dov Weissglas, and Palestinian Minister Saeb Erekat met yesterday after a hiatus of a few months and discussed the meeting between Sharon and Abbas. They did not set a date for the meeting but spoke of the need for one.
American envoys Elliot Abrams and David Welch held separate meetings yesterday with Sharon, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. They reported on their talks in Ramallah on Wednesday and said they found the Palestinians more willing than before to coordinate the disengagement from Gaza and the northern West bank.
Abrams and Welch said Abbas was the elected leader of the PA and he was the one Israel and the United States should work with. They said no date had been fixed yet for Abbas' visit to Washington, slated for May.
Sharon told them Israel was still hoping to hold talks with Abbas, but complained the latter was not acting firmly enough against terror.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres yesterday met Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Erekat and discussed the economic aspects of the disengagement.
Qureia said 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, who previously objected to coordinating the disengagement, now supports it. "We want cooperation in the Oslo spirit," he said.