Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel was standing its ground on Wednesday, insisting that Palestinians halt terrorism before any peace process resumes. The comments came as members of the Quartet visited Jerusalem.
The international community is hoping for a breakthrough in resuming an Israeli-Palestinian peace process following Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's death.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom in Jerusalem on Wednesday. (A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was postponed until Thursday by the prime minister for health reasons.)
Straw's visit was the third by a Quartet member's foreign minister in as many days. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with Israeli officials on Tuesday evening and Secretary of State Colin Powell was here on Monday.
Powell briefed Quartet members on his meetings here at a conference on Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
There has been concern in Jerusalem that some members of the Quartet -- the U.S., European Union, Russia, United Nations -- want to skip the first phase of the road map peace plan and go directly to the creation of a Palestinian state.
The first phase of the road map, written by the Quartet two years ago but never implemented, calls on Palestinians to halt terrorism and incitement and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and calls on Israel to dismantle a number of outposts in the West Bank.
But Israel, backed by the U.S., has made it clear that it is not willing to skip the first phase.
"There are sadly no shortcuts to achieving peace, nor are there any magic recipes to ensure positive movement," Shalom said following his meeting with Straw.
"Progress towards peace requires that terrorism be brought to an end and for direct negotiations between the sides to be resumed," Shalom said. "This is the sequence set down in the road map, and this is the sequence, which must be followed."
Straw said he was encouraged by what he called "the very positive messages" that the Israeli government said it would take to facilitate elections for Palestinian Authority president scheduled for January 9.
Israel has said it would do everything it can to make sure that the elections go smoothly but that it would not endanger its own security.
The Palestinians say that without freedom of movement in the PA territories, candidates cannot campaign properly, nor can Palestinians vote.
On Tuesday, Lavrov asked if Israel wouldn't consider making some gestures to the Palestinians ahead of their elections, such as releasing security prisoners or dismantling outposts, reports said. But Sharon was quoted as saying that such a move would not help the Palestinians.
"We will maintain a link with the Palestinians. We will help them as much as possible, but we will not compromise on the terrorism and security issue," Sharon said according to a statement from his office.
"We helped them vis-a-vis Arafat, both before and after his death. We will render such assistance as they may request, but they don't want us to 'hug' them too closely," he said.
When PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was prime minister of the PA for a short time he clashed with PA Chairman Yasser Arafat and others for holding a public meeting with Sharon in Jerusalem. Such moves are interpreted by radical Palestinian elements as pandering to the Israelis.
Meanwhile, Abbas, who has been chosen by Fatah to be its candidate for the presidential elections, said he intended to follow in the way of Arafat.
"We will follow in the path of the late leader Yasser Arafat, and we will work toward fulfilling his dream," Abbas said at a session of the Palestinian Legislative Council to honor Arafat.
"We promise you that our hearts will not rest until the right of return for our people is achieved and the tragedy of the refugees is ended," he said.
The right of return for Palestinian refugees refers to their demand that several hundred thousand Palestinians and some four million of their descendants be allowed to return to homes they fled from inside Israel in 1948.
Israel says the refugees should be resettled in Arab countries where they live or in a future Palestinian state. Even the most leftwing Israelis agree that allowing millions of refugees to settle in Israel - with a population of six million - would be tantamount to the destruction of the state of Israel.
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