G8 foreign ministers call for orderly withdrawal
LONDON - Foreign ministers from the Group of Eight yesterday called for an orderly Israeli pullout from Gaza after world powers had urged Israel to let Palestinians move more freely around the territories.
A meeting of ministers from the G8 group of industrialized nations, hosted by G8 president Britain, said a smooth evacuation from Gaza was vital to renewing peace moves stalled by nearly five years of bloodshed.
"We urge Israel and the PA to coordinate... with each other on the planning for the withdrawals," said the ministers in a statement. "We are all clear that Gaza disengagement must be a success," it said.
Ahead of the meeting, the Quartet of the United States, Russia, the European Union and United Nations urged Israel "to take immediate steps... to facilitate rehabilitation and reconstruction by easing the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza and the West Bank and between them".
The peace mediators also said Israel and Palestinians should meet more frequently to cement plans for the Israeli pullout from Gaza, which they hope will spur peace moves.
Quartet special envoy James Wolfensohn, a former World Bank president, said he was encouraged by Israeli and Palestinian cooperation on practical problems, such as linking Gaza to the rest of the world. "We have moved from trying to set an agenda to trying to deal with real issues," Wolfensohn said after addressing G8 foreign ministers. "While there are bumps in the road, I am infinitely more optimistic today than I was two weeks ago," he said.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders disagree over how to balance Israel's efforts to stop militants entering the country with Palestinian needs to move more quickly through long lines at security checkpoints.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Palestinians, neighboring states and the international community shared a responsibility "to make sure terrorism is not tolerated."
Wolfensohn, charged with reviving the Palestinian economy after the withdrawal, presented two ideas to foreign ministers. He wants a Palestinian aid package during and after the pullout, for jobs, houses and infrastructure. He also sought backing for a three-year program to create state institutions. "I got evidence that my approach was correct, and I hope to come up with numbers in the next few weeks," he said.