Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Stop the killing, Quartet urges

ROAD MAP The four parties that drafted the peace plan urged Israel and the Palestinians to avoid killing civilians and crack down on terror groups


Palestinian men wait for taxis at concrete barricades near the West Bank village of Sawakre on Friday. The barricades are part of the separation wall Israeli is buiding to keep out suicide bombers.


The US, the UN, the EU and Russia renewed their commitment to peacemaking in the Middle East. They urged Palestinians to crack down immediately on terror groups and Israel to avoid killing civilians.

The four parties known as the Quartet, which drafted the "road map" peace plan, met on Friday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly at a time of escalating Israeli-Palestinian violence that has halted its implementation and thrown its promise of peace into doubt.

But any progress on the plan will have to wait at least for the formation of a new Palestinian Cabinet that would take charge of security, US Secretary of State Colin Powell told a news conference after the meeting.

"That road map is still valid, and we are now waiting to see whether or not the Palestinian people are able to put in place through their own system a prime minister who will enjoy political authority and control over all the security forces so that we can start moving again down the path laid out by the road map,'' he said.

The Quartet laid down requirements for Palestinians -- a government with strong authority that would crack down on militants -- and called on Israel to reciprocate by resuming security cooperation, easing restrictions on Palestinian travel, halting settlement activity and "exerting maximum efforts to avoid civilian casualties."

The Palestinian prime minister-designate, Ahmed Qureia, is in the process of forming a cabinet that could be selected as early as next week. He has said he would try to put an end to illegal weapons in Palestinian areas but stopped short of saying he would disarm militant groups as required by the "road map."

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said after meeting with Powell on Friday that the Americans were waiting for a new Palestinian government that is empowered and committed to the road map.

"I assured him that is happening and President [Yasser] Arafat is playing a very constructive role in making it happen as soon as possible,'' Shaath told reporters.

The road map is designed to point Israel and the Palestinians to an accord that would include establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005 that exists side by side with Israel. But the process has been derailed by continuing violence, with Palestinian militants staging suicide bombings against Israelis and Israel going after Palestinian militants.

The Quartet meeting brought together Powell, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, the EU's Javier Solana and Chris Patten, and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini of Italy, the current EU chair. The four parties, which announced the road map in May, said they will meet again by the end of the year to assess progress.

The Quartet statement condemned Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis. It said the Palestinian Authority must be consolidated under an "empowered prime minister and interior minister" and must ensure that its security forces "begin sustained, targeted and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."

It called for "decisive steps" against militants conducting and planning attacks.

The Quartet statement indirectly urged Israel to stop building a security fence on the West Bank, saying its members "note with great concern" the actual and proposed route of the barrier and that "it undermines Palestinians' trust in the road map process."

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