Al-Quds city, — Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice agreed Sunday that
Israel”s planned withdrawal of troops and settlers from
Gaza will make Israel safer and the prospects for peace
with the Palestinians brighter.
"The state of Israel stands at the threshold of a
historic step," Sharon said before a meeting with Rice on
the Gaza plans.
"The fruits of the disengagement can already be seen"
and Israel will be politically and economically better off
for it, Sharon said.
Rice also called the planned August withdrawal historic
and thanked Sharon warmly for making what each said were
"The Israelis deserve a secure and peaceful future free
from the threat of terror and violence," Rice told Sharon.
She said the Gaza plan is key to the success of the
internationally backed peace plan known as the roadmap and
"the eventual ability to get to a two-state solution."
Rice earlier cautioned that time is running out for
Palestinians and Israelis to resolve their differences over
"There is no more time to simply put problems on the
agenda," Rice said after meeting in the West Bank city of
Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and
members of the newly formed Palestinian Cabinet.
She planned to carry the same message to Sharon.
"Both parties will have to do their parts," Rice said.
Genuine coordination and cooperation are essential, she
said at a news conference with Abbas at the Palestinian
Abbas, who plans a summit meeting with Sharon on Tuesday,
promised "total coordination with the Israeli side"
toward a peaceful pullout.
He emphasized that the Palestinians were committed to a
4-month-old truce with Israel. But he also complained that
Israel repeatedly had violated the agreement. He appealed
to Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and lift
Rice said Abbas has made progress to ready Palestinian
security and defense forces. Much more work lies ahead, she
said, "particularly to use actively the security forces to
combat lawlessness and to combat terrorism."
Rice”s visit was her second trip to see Abbas in Ramallah.