Mofaz, Yousef agree Israel will hand PA pullout timetable
Mofaz demands PA prevent mortar fire, arms smuggling during pullout; Straw promises EU, G8 aid.
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz met Wednesday night with Palestinian Authority Interior Minister Nasser Yousef to discuss the coordination of the disengagement plan.
The two agreed during the meeting that Israel will hand the PA the timetable of the carrying out of the pullout from the Gaza Strip and the northern West bank.
"The two ministers agreed to coordinate the security side of the withdrawal at the ministerial level and on the level of security planning," said Tawfiq Abu-Khoussa, a spokesman for Youssef, adding teams from both sides would meet next week.
"They plan to tackle every detail of the withdrawal plan," said Abu-Khoussa.
An Israeli Defense Ministry official said there would be "coordination in the field" to enable the Palestinians to deploy security forces "to make sure that militants don't take over" areas vacated by Israel.
Israel would inform the Palestinians in advance when settlements were to be evacuated so "the Palestinians would take care that terrorist groups don't interfere", the official said
Mofaz also demanded that the Palestinians prepare to prevent mortar fire and arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip during the disengagement. The two sides also agreed to form a special Palestinian force with the task of preventing outbreaks of violence and looting of the evacuated settlements in the Strip.
Straw: EU, G8 will do whatever possible to foster Gaza pulloutVisiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Wednesday that the major industrialized states will do whatever possible to foster a smooth Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and four northern West Bank settlements, .
Straw said he was impressed by Israel's resolve to carry out the withdrawal on time despite internal rightist resistance and by a start to Palestinian security reforms to rein in militants since Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas took office in January.
"We will do everything we can as the United Kingdom and with the presidencies [of the EU and G8 industrialized powers] to back the joint efforts of the Palestinian Authority and Israeli government to make a success out of disengagement," he said.
"[That is because] it is crucial to your people in Gaza and crucial to the future of the whole area," he told Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia after talks with him and Abbas.
Straw had a second and last day of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, trying to assess both sides' preparedness for Israel's scheduled August pullout.
Straw said he believed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's commitment to go ahead with the withdrawal, despite fierce opposition from the settlers and their backers.
"I'm struck by the determination of the Israeli government to proceed with this, and proceed with it by the date set in mid-August," he said.
Straw said the pullout presents a "great opportunity" for progress toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians, but also sets challenges, requiring that the Palestinian leadership keep a lid on militants and deliver economic reform.
"I think there's great recognition on both sides of the scale of the opportunities and the scale of the difficulties," he said. "If this is a success, people will see that the Palestinians are capable of running the beginnings of their own state ... they have the future in their hands."
An aide to Sharon, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that at his meeting with Straw, Sharon reaffirmed his intention to go ahead with the pullout, but told the visitor that continued Palestinian violence would block progress on any broader peace moves.
Earlier Wednesday, Straw met Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah. At a news conference with Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al Kidwa, Straw warned that incidents such as Tuesday's mortar and rocket attacks on Gaza Strip settlements and the western Negev town of Sderot, claimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, would hinder progress.
"If the terror and the killing of the destructive kind we saw yesterday, perpetrated by Hamas and other rejectionist groups goes on, it undermines the position of the Palestinian Authority as well as making those pursuing peace in Israel more difficult," he said.