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Foreign Media Reaction

February 15, 2005

SHARM EL-SHEIKH SUMMIT: OPPORTUNITY FOR PEACE

KEY FINDINGS

** Abbas must take "sufficient measures to reduce the level of violence."

** Israel must make "hard decisions" regarding concessions to Palestinians.

** Reaction mixed to Sharm el-Sheikh Summit--a "positive start" or "just another summit."

** The U.S. "renewed commitment" towards the Middle East is key to a "prolonged peace."

MAJOR THEMES

Abbas must turn Hamas 'against the use of terror'-- Most editorials agreed that Palestinian President Abbas must "sideline" or "dissolve" Hamas. Canada's conservative National Post suggested that "Abbas's reaction to their defiance will be the first real test of his resolve for peace," while a German paper questioned whether Abbas would "take sufficient measures to reduce the level of violence." Moderate outlets hoped Abbas could entice Hamas into the "political process"; an Indian paper urged the parties to show "patience and courage" even if Hamas tries to "derail the peace initiative."

Sharon must address 'Palestinian concerns'--Observers called on Sharon to speed up "withdrawal from the Palestinian lands in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank." A majority of dailies agreed that Sharon must combat internal opposition to withdrawal from "radical settlers" and "his own ruling Likud party," while even the conservative Jerusalem Post argued that a Palestinian state is a "historic necessity." India's independent Inquilab declared "there is no reason to expect Sharon to be honest and sincere," while the Chennai-based centrist Hindu concluded that "the Palestinians are not likely to be satisfied" by the Israeli prisoner release and Gaza withdrawal.

'A summit that offers cause for cautious optimism'--The Sharm el-Sheikh Summit was viewed as a "positive step" towards "a new era" of peace for the Israeli and Palenstian people. This "psychological barrier breaking" summit has demonstrated the "willingness" of Abbas and Sharon to begin a "fresh start" for a "distant future."Conversely, Israel's nationalist Hatzofe opined that because of "unkept promises" in the past the "2005 summit could join the list of bygone summits."Pessimists viewed the summit as a temporary "break for exhausted Israeli and Palestinian fighters" as the two parties remain "equally far apart now as before."

U.S. acting as 'honest broker'--Numerous dailies cited "indispensable U.S. leadership" as proof of its "renewed commitment" to a "future Palestinian State." A "positive commitment" from the U.S. as an "even-handed gesture" of peace is "essential" to success in the Middle East. Other papers warned that as long as the U.S. "overtly or covertly, played the side of Israel"there would be "no cause for optimism." A Tanzanian paper editorialized that the "international community" must be involved so the U.S. does not "manipulate the situation to its own global interests." Euro writers expressed concern over the "lack of weight of European diplomacy" in the process, which demonstrated the continent's "grave weakness."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITORS: David Meyers, Steven Radwanski

EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 99 reports from 40 countries over 5 - 14 February 2005.Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EUROPE

BRITAIN: "Opening For Peace. A Summit That Offers Cause For Cautious Optimism"

The conservative Times maintained (2/9):"Although Condoleezza Rice decided not to share the stage at Sharm el-Sheik, the influence of the Bush Administration on events of late has been considerable. George W. Bush was at pains to applaud Mr. Abbas during his State of the Union address last week and his Budget released on Monday included an increase in aid for the Palestinians. He has made it plain that Dr. Rice will be his emissary in the Middle East during the coming four years and has invited each party to the White House."

FRANCE: "A Matter Of Trust"

Bruno Frappat held in Catholic La Croix (2/9):"For a time now Israel has shown signs of goodwill.... Palestine has also engaged in a revision of its position.... We have probably entered that intermediary phase in which mistrust is on the wane and trust is not yet very strong. In military language this translates in a 'cease-fire;' in political language it means going back to dialogue; domestically, for each people, it means remaining watchful with regard to extremists and their ambition to sabotage peace....No one other than fanatics wants to see blood being shed in the Middle East. The sponsors of the former Oslo process and of the 'Roadmap,' regional and international powers, everyone has a role to play."

GERMANY: "Opportunity For Patient People"

Joerg Bremer commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/10): "The elections in Iraq, the normalization process in Afghanistan, and the pressure many countries exert on Iran weaken terror groups. Islamist groups like the Tehran-backed Shiite Hezbollah will certainly try to break the truce in the Middle East. Money will probably buy them suicide bombers willing to go to Israel.More people will die, but Palestinian President Abbas can be sure that his people are sick of terror and terrorists. If he pursues the people's interests and takes vigorous actions against terrorists, Abbas does not need to fear Israeli retaliation attacks. But Abbas requires the help of the Israeli leader to effectively rebuild the Palestinian community and pacify his nation.. Any gesture in favor of the Palestinian Authority is costly for Sharon at home. If he were to release today Palestinian prisoners who have Israeli blood on their hands, he would have to do this against the will of mourning relatives. But Abbas needs more than the release of one thousand prisoners. Among them must be Islamists, so Abbas can show to the whole nation that he can deliver. The world can only partially resolve Sharon's problems. U.S. Secretary of State Rice has apparently realized this during her visit.She also prepares in case the process fails by appointing a coordinator. Gen. Ward is not a man whose failure would lead to a loss of prestige for the Bush administration."

"Test"

Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/12): "The optimism, which was expressed after the meeting between Israeli PM Sharon and Palestinian President Abbas in Sharm el-Sheikh, is put to the first test. This test does not come unexpected. Israel said before the meeting that it would give Abbas credit as long as he tries to fight violence. He has done that. However, the recent mortar attacks by Palestinian radicals on settlements in the Gaza Strip clearly reflect the desire of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah: They do not agree with the current policy. The coming days will show whether Abbas is able to take sufficient measures to reduce the level of violence.That is risky for Abbas' life. The current peace efforts suffer from the serious threats to Sharon and Abu Mazen."

"Change Of System"

Dietrich Alexander noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (2/12): "Officers of Abbas' security troops were not able to prevent mortar and missile attacks on Jewish settlements--a very clear provocation against the truce agreed in Sharm el-Sheikh. With such people Abbas can neither internationally survive nor convince his people at home that it is worthwhile to engage in the peace efforts.He had to fire nine unable and unwilling officers and replace them with young and loyal people. This is a clever but also risky move.... Above all, he shows to the U.S. and Israel that he is willing to implement changes in favor of a peaceful vision for the Holy Land....Abbas is making progress in his effort to change Arafat's system. He speaks of a national project and does not accept disruptions.He needs international backing by Sharon and the U.S. President in particular. Both are ready for it, but their patience is limited and will be seriously tested when Palestinian extremists attack Israel again."

"Change For Peace"

Tomas Avenarius opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/10): "Because of Hamas' Janus-face there can only one strategy for Abbas to prevent bomb attacks. He must integrate the group.Every electoral success of the Islamists is a move away from terrorism. Knowing that Hamas will get votes from his Fatah movement, Abbas is promoting a competitor. And the Islamists' parliamentary power will not make it easier for him to strike political deals. On the other side, the Islamists must change the core of their ideology. Hamas must become a real power in parliament and simultaneously renounce parts of its program. It therefore has to distance itself from its sponsors in Tehran, because the Mullah regime uses Hamas as a club against Israel."

"Fresh Start"

Gisela Dachs noted in center-left Die Zeit (2/10): "The Palestinian majority has voted in the January elections for a change of policy and the Israeli PM believes the withdrawal from Gaza is in his interest and does no longer want to pursue it unilaterally. Is there any hope in the Middle East? History tells us that we should not be overly enthusiastic. If the truce were to depend on Hamas' will it would be worthless.On the contrary, their men could use the time to regain their strength in order to attack with full force later.It is not yet clear how Abbas wants to counter terror, apart from talking to Islamists..However, Sharm el-Sheikh was a fresh start that must be supported from the outside."

"How Much Can It Take?"

Erik-Michael Bader commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/9): "Given the history of this conflict, which started three-quarters of a century ago, it is unlikely that the violence will suddenly stop. The political benefit of the truce will be decided by the resilience of the truce. What is the level of disturbance the truce can take? If a violation on one side were to cause the other side to annul its obligations, the ceasefire would be of little political weight, but a hostage of a small group of peace saboteurs. Only with a certain degree of insensitivity towards disturbances the truce has a chance to survive.But it might be counterproductive to declare this stamina, because saboteurs might try to test its limits."

"Rosy Pictures, Sinister Facts"

Thorsten Schmitz wrote in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/9): "The intentions of the summit at Sharm el-Sheik are honorable, but there have been many top meetings in the region in the past and a handshake between Sharon and Abbas has not yet put a stop to the senseless violence. Facts count--and courageous leaders. Abbas must dissolve terror groups and Sharon must do more than withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.However, the Palestinian leader does not plan to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Sharon still allows building settlements in the West Bank. This does not match with the rosy pictures from Sharm el-Sheik."

ITALY: "Sharon And Abbas Together We Lay Down Our Arms"

Antonio Ferrari said in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (2/9): "It's too early to exult...but what happened yesterday in Sharm El Sheik...goes way beyond a basic step forward in ending the mother of all conflicts....Sharon's acknowledgement of his adversary...went beyond due formality.... It confirms that the old general had the courage to put the past behind him and is now convinced that he can go down in history as the only premier that was capable of finding a solution to the conflict....The warm handshakes at the beginning and end of the summit were more than a promise. The atmosphere of reciprocal trust, following years of resentment and suspicion, was the real victor of this summit."

"Allies By Force"

Sandro Viola observed in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/9): "The end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is still very far away. The only thing that was agreed to in Sharm El Sheik was a cease-fire, nothing more. And if they would have discussed the crux of the conflict, like the layout of a future Palestinian state, Jerusalem, the refugees' right of return, there would have been no agreement. We would have witnessed another setback. But it is also true that after four years...of bloody clashes...the cease-fire reached in Sharm El Sheik represents a significant turning point."

RUSSIA: "What Has Changed Since 2000?"

Andrey Popov wrote in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (2/14): "Whatever obstacles there have been on the way to a truce are 'tactical.' 'Strategic' ones are still ahead. Those are well known and include the Jerusalem status, Arab refugees, and future state borders. Barak and Arafat stumbled over those obstacles at Camp David in the fall of 2000. What has changed since then? Having suffered intifada, with both sides determined to get what they wanted at all costs, Israel and Palestine have virtually lost romantics with their trust in peace through talks. Instead, those who believe in the use of force have grown in number immensely. While this may be a nuance to Western peacemakers, it must be a big, if not the biggest, problem to those who are trying to breathe a new life into the peace process."

"A Chance To Take Breather And Regroup"

Aleksandr Reutov noted in business-oriented Kommersant (2/14): "Experts say that, truce or no truce, radicals are not going to put up with Israel. Saturday's statement by Hamas and Islamic Jihad is merely a chance to take a breather and regroup. Besides, the new Palestinian leader may not have time to do what he intends. Britain's Daily Telegraph reported yesterday about Hezbollah's plans to put away Mr. Abbas."

"Talking About Talks"

Nationalist pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya maintained (2/10): "Formally, the 'quartet' was not represented at the negotiations. This, however, does not mean that America, eager for domination in the Middle East, stepped aside, leaving the Arabs and Israelis on their own so they could sort out things between themselves.... It would be an exaggeration to say that Condoleezza Rice gave everyone instructions on the way to behave. But the United States, clearly, won't let the reins of patronage slip out of its hands. Overtly or covertly, America will continue playing on the Israeli side, which is no cause for optimism as far as an early settlement is concerned. What happened in Sharm el-Sheikh was just 'talks about talks.' The main events are still ahead."

AUSTRIA: "The Beginning Of A New Beginning In The Middle East"

Deputy Chief Editor Viktor Hermann asserted in independent Salzburger Nachrichten (2/9): "The path that Sharon and Abbas entered on Tuesday is full of pitfalls and obstacles. Sharon and Abbas had not even finished their speeches when the radical Hamas distanced itself from the ceasefire. This indicates one of the key problems of the Palestinian administration: Mahmud Abbas is not master in his own house. The Palestinian authorities do not have a monopoly on power, which is a sine qua non for any functioning state apparatus. Hamas and Jihad do whatever they like and the Israeli army reserves for itself the right of revenge. As long as Abbas does not succeed in exerting control over these groups, he cannot guarantee peace and security. This means, however, that the basis for a positive economic development in the Palestinian territories is lacking, which, in turn, would be the precondition for strengthening Abbas' mandate for further negotiations. However, Sharon will also have a hard time trying to get the Israelis to accept the idea of renunciation and compromise. This is especially true of those radical settlers for whom already withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is an act of treason against the Chosen People. It is also a piquancy of history that it is Sharon, of all people, who now wants to dismantle settlements. After all, for many years he was the one who pushed their construction. When he did that, he created facts that could now make his life difficult."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Exhaustion From Disappointed Hopes"

Pavel Masa commented in center-right Lidove Noviny (2/9): "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have 'only' agreed on ceasing violence. But even this is uncertain since the extremists from Hammas oppose the agreement (from Sharm el-Sheikh)."

"How Much Time For Hope?"

Adam Cerny opined in business-oriented Hospodarske Noviny (2/9): "The beauty of the hope from Sharm el-Sheikh is in the expectation of change.The lifespan of such a hope will become apparent once the Palestinians and the Israelis reach the same point when they discovered a couple of years ago that they would not be able to make an agreement."

"Another New Start"

Jan Rybar maintained in leading, centrist MF Dnes (2/9): "The era of Arafat ended, and the era of Abbas has begun - the man who took on himself yesterday to "halt violent actions against Israel."The future of the peace process will depend on whether he will be able to keep his word."

FINLAND: "Ceasefire Is A Major Step Forward But Many Questions Remain"

Left-of-center Hufvudstadsbladet editorialized (2/10): "There is cause for optimism for many reasons. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis are psychologically tired of not being able to lead normal lives. Arafat is gone, Abbas enjoys a high degree of confidence among the Israelis and internationally. What role will Israel's best friend, the United States, play? Bush has signaled renewed willingness to engage in the Middle East.Only the United States has enough power, money and authority to revitalize the peace process which has run aground."

"Hope For Progress In The Middle East But Peace Still Distant"

Leading centrist Helsingin Sanomat editorialized (2/10): "The budding hopes of progress are mainly based on the growing credibility of Abbas and Sharon as peacemakers, and on the impression that the United States is resuming active diplomacy in the Middle East. Without strong pressure from Washington, the negotiations will lead nowhere. President Bush's interest in Mideast diplomacy vanished soon after the Aqaba summit of 2003. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has let it be understood that things are different now that Arafat, whom Bush disliked, has left the scene."

HUNGARY: "Peace Not Here Yet"

Gabor Miklos pointed out in top-circulation, center-left Nepszabadsag (2/9): "All peace-implementing measures are going to demand from both nations that they acknowledge the historical grievances of the other side as well.... Therefore, the ceasefire must extend to human relations, too....The Palestinians have decades of experience of how a Western-type democracy and market economy is working next door. In good times, they [the Palestinians] were able to work in it as second-class guest workers. The ceasefire will [only] mature into peace if they are able to experience the benefits of this world back home. We are talking about the best-educated nation of the Middle East. Their education has not brought them much so far. In the current situation there is no consolidated power whose interest would be maintaining tension, and peace, against its interest. Only global terrorism could act against it. Peace, prosperity and the chance for co-existence would shake its [terrorism's] very foundation. I do not think we have heard the last word from them. Those for whom human lives don't matter."

IRELAND: "Israeli-Palestinian Truce Seen As A Feather In Bush's Cap"

The left-of-center Sunday Business Post reported (2/13): "The truce between Israel and the Palestinians is still too fresh and untested to be described as a triumph. But the agreement is, at least, a feather in the cap for the Bush administration in general and Condoleezza Rice in particular. On her first trip to the Middle East since being confirmed as US secretary of state, Rice was able to nudge both sides towards the most significant agreement since the current cycle of conflict began more than four years ago. In doing so, she seemed to demonstrate that the US was once again willing to get involved in the effort to find a lasting peace in the region. Rice spoke cautiously in the days before the truce was announced. She seemed keen to preserve the sense that the two sides should find agreement themselves. When she arrived in Israel, Rice insisted that 'if the parties are able to continue to move on their own, that's the very best outcome'. But she also expressed the hope that Israel would continue 'to make the hard decisions that must be taken in order to promote peace'...Bush supporters counter that the rapid progress made since Abbas was elected proves that Arafat was part of the problem. They insist that the US president has gone further than any of his predecessors in expressing his desire to see an independent Palestinian state established. The road ahead is likely to be bumpy. But US reengagement was underlined by the appointment of Lieutenant General William E Ward as a 'senior security coordinator' last Monday."

"The Grim Reality Of Peace"

The left-of-center Sunday Business Post opined (2/13): "So why should Tuesday's lofty declarations ring any less hollow than those declared in Aqaba and Washington? The election of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian president is one reason for a little hope. Abbas was actually invited by Sharon to visit his ranch in the Negev desert when they met on Tuesday. A small gesture, perhaps, but a significant one that suggests a warming of relations between hostile negotiators. What is unclear is whether Abbas, a highly intellectual man who studied law in Egypt before doing a doctorate in Moscow, can control the militants, resolve internal Palestinian law and order problems, and maintain his side of the ceasefire bargain. Another sign of hope is the American perception of Abbas as a man they can do better business with than his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. Condoleezza Rice pledged renewed US commitment to the peace process when she visited Abbas in Ramallah on Monday....Increased US involvement can be a double-edged sword. Traditional US support of Israel, both financially and politically, has made it a partial, if influential, player in the Middle East. The US needs to take a more centric negotiating position for it to be seen as a credible player by the Palestinians. The other imponderable is Sharon, with his ability and commitment to sign up fully to a long-term peace deal, which will ultimately lead to an independent Palestinian state."

"Cautious Hope In The Middle East"

The center-left Irish Times held (2/9): "Yesterday's Israeli-Palestinian summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh is a welcome return to political engagement in this deadly and intractable conflict.... Realistically, however, it would be wise to be cautious, even sceptical, about this in the light of previous false dawns. The two leaders remain far apart and both sides have quite different expectations from any new process, even if there is a fresh momentum behind it and a palpable war fatigue among Israelis and Palestinians alike. There are plausible reasons for optimism that it will be possible to return to serious negotiations on the 'road map' set out at the Aqaba summit in June 2003, as the US says it wants to see happen....Unfortunately the road map effort collapsed in mutual recriminations and renewed violence. Certainly there are several new factors now at play. Mr Abbas has been elected to succeed Yasser Arafat. Mr Sharon is in a new coalition with Labour. A re-elected President Bush has pledged to see a Palestinian state within four years and badly needs a settlement for the credibility of his wider foreign policy - not least in Iraq. His Secretary of State, Ms Condoleezza Rice, says the US will be 'very active' in pursuit of it, has called on Israel to make the necessary hard decisions for peace and has appointed a general to supervise the mutual military cessation.Mr Abbas badly needs a rapid transition to substantive talks on an overall settlement, rather than the prolonged period without any violence sought by Mr Sharon.... Despite these huge obstacles the potentially transforming prize of peace demands the most determined effort to bring it about by all the parties to the conflict."

"Summit Is The Easy Part For Israeli Leader"

The center-left Irish Times (2/9):"The summit, Mr Sharon knows, will be the easy part. He will have been relieved that none of the substantive issues at the heart of the conflict--final borders, the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees--were on the table yesterday. But he will not be able to engage in diplomatic foreplay forever. Already yesterday, the gap between him and Mr Abbas over when final-status issues should be on the table was evident. The Palestinian leader said he considered the steps he had already taken to end the violence, including the deployment of his forces in Gaza, to be part of the first stage of the road map peace plan. But Mr Sharon, who has never been an enthusiast of the internationally backed plan, would only say that his blueprint for a Gaza withdrawal - meant to begin in the summer - could lead to the revival of the road map.... Already the Palestinian leader has won praise in Washington for the steps he has taken to douse the violence, and during her trip to the region earlier this week, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made it clear she expected the sides to return to the road map. But the most serious challenge the Israeli leader faces in the coming months is the opposition at home to his plan to evacuate all 21 settlements in Gaza--especially from lawmakers inside his own ruling Likud Party who are fighting to prevent a pull-out."

NETHERLANDS: "Now For The Real Work"

Influential independent NRC Handelsblad editorialized (2/9): "The U.S. has committed itself to the process through the words and the optimism of Condoleezza Rice. She said the U.S. will be 'very active.' That, too, gives hope: for too long the Americans were absent in this conflict that has a worldwide negative effect."

NORWAY: "Sharm-Offensive By Top Leaders"

Per A. Christiansen contended in newspaper-of-record Aftenposten (2/9): "It would, of course, be nice if a definite step in the direction of peace could be made in Sharm el-Sheikh. And, after all, it is better that the parties talk with each other, than that they shoot at each other. But, when it comes to the realities of the conflict, they are equally far apart now as before....The Americans administer the attempt to get the parties to follow the Roadmap to Peace, which was developed in cooperation with Russia, the EU and the UN, and which both the Israeli government and the Palestinian self-governing administration have accepted. Yesterday's meeting was also an American initiative. And that being the case, none of the parties could decline out of common decency. But if the talks are going to lead anywhere, both parties have to show a much greater will to create peace than they have done so far."

SERBIA: "New Beginning"

Influential Belgrade-based Politika opined (2/11):"President Bush has improved his rating in the U.S. thanks to the elections in Iraq and...thanks to Secretary Rice's European tour. The tour is sending signals that the U.S. and Europe are facing a new beginning. The U.S. engagement in achieving a ceasefire between Israelis and Palestinians, and signs from Berlin and Paris on their willingness to mend fences are surely encouraging."

SLOVENIA: "Time For Peace"

Vojislav Bercko commented in left-of-center independent Vecer (2/9): "Almost five years have passed since...Barak and...Arafat shook hands in Camp David. There have been no handshakes since then....The Israeli, rather than the Palestinian side, is responsible: in his weak government coalition, Sharon could not afford to negotiate with Arafat, whom he persistently described as a terrorist.... The ceasefire is weak since Abbas lacks support of all extreme Palestinian groups....Nevertheless, two factors raise hope that the ceasefire may develop into a lasting peace.... The Israelis and Palestinians alike are tired and fed up with fighting, terror, fear, and tears.... And, American President George Bush has made the stabilization of the Middle East his foreign policy priority. Knowing that--in spite of elections--events in Iraq do not develop according to the plans of the Pentagon and White House, the Administration needs a resounding success in the Middle East....Reaching Israeli-Palestinian peace is the easiest--although far from easy--path to American triumph. Particularly, because part of the responsibility for eventual failure would be carried by the United Nations, the EU, and Russia."

SPAIN: "Hope For Peace In The Middle East Emerges"

Daily-of-record La Nacion editorialized (2/10): "In order to reach a lasting peace in the Middle East, four things are firstly required. One, convey hope for a peace process that has been stalled due to violence. Second, guarantee individual security both to Israelis and Palestinians on equal terms. Third, that the leaders of the two sides share a confident view that a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians is feasible. Finally, that the main countries of the world and the entire international community are decisively committed to the peace process. The recent summit between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt is an important step forward... The US, as requested by the EU, has visibly committed itself again to the Middle East peace process. The deal reached on the margins of the Red Sea is still fragile and, in order to advance, it needs the two sides' good faith and the support of all, but a renewed attitude of hope has spread and an incipient amount of security has been obtained. Both sides openly convey their willingness to make progress as a whole, and the international community, with the indispensable US leadership, has again committed its efforts to the peace process in the Middle East. It is not a minor thing. This is why there is a prevailing feeling that we are witnessing a different opportunity. Time will tell if we took advantage of it."

"A New Era Without Europe"

Conservative ABC maintained (2/9):"No matter what the outcome in the mid-term is, it is certain that the U.S. will be the main engine so that it finally results in a definitive peace agreement.In fact, U.S. involvement in the achievement of this suspension of hostilities has been decisive.The steps promoted by Condoleezza Rice show that the new Bush Administration has taken very seriously its wish to articulate a new geostrategic design for the Middle East that corrects the pile of problems left behind by European powers when they dismembered the centuries-old Ottoman empire and imposed their arbitrary colonial drawing pen during the interwar period.... But the most striking fact of the peace process opened yesterday is the lack of weight of European diplomacy. This way, Europe starts to show a grave weakness in its institutional architecture."

"Palestine-Israel, Starting Again"

Business-oriented Expansin said (2/9):"Without doubt it has been the US that has generated the favorable atmosphere for the understanding by demonstrating in recent days an unmistakable commitment to the revival of the peace process and in pursuing concrete results, like the immediate financial aid to the Palestinian Authority--US $40 million--the calling of a summit with Sharon and Mazen in the United States, and the designation of General Ward to oversee security in the region.... The danger now for the embryonic peace process is the vicious circle, in whose end all international diplomacy should be actively involved, especially the U.S., and also it would be desirable that Europe is involved, to define concrete advances, feasible, and beneficial for both parts."

"Obligatory Steps"

Centrist La Vanguardia stated (2/9):"The cease of hostilities is an obligatory and indispensable step in restarting the dialogue between Israel and Palestine.... To arrive at this dialogue, a change of strategies should be produced.Israel should abandon the idea that its security is only from force of arms, and the Palestinians should be convinced that they will never have an independent state by following the road of terrorism.But it will not be easy....If George W. Bush wants to crown his second administration with an historic peace between Israel and Palestine, like his predecessor Bill Clinton pursued with enthusiasm, he should involve himself much more and count on Europe."

"Arduous Decisions"

Left-of-center El Pas declared (2/9):"It is to be expected that good faith will prevail in their gestures from Sharm el Sheij and these will mean a ray of light after Arafat's death. But even if everything goes initially well, the immediate future is full of challenges. There have been many false dawns in this sixty-year-old conflict. And almost a miracle is necessary to control so many variables in such a degraded scenario."

SWEDEN: "Another Historic Moment In The Mideast"

Independent, liberal Dagens Nyheter editorialized (2/9): "The remarkable thing is that Sharon and Abbas met, and that there is common willingness to break the spiral of violence. It is obvious that main responsibility rests with the two parties. But the role of the international community, not least the U.S., is central. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region was tangible evidence of much needed new approach by the Bush administration. Otherwise the process, that has only just begun, risks being history before any real progress is made."

TURKEY: "Peace? Maybe!"

Zafer Atay a economic-political Dunya commented (2/14): "If the terms of the Sharm Al-Sheikh agreement are implemented, the Palestinian and Israeli leaders will meet again this week. Thousands of Palestinians will be freed from Israeli prisons.Thousands of Palestinians suffering from unemployment in Palestine will be able to fill vacant jobs in Israel.The US and the EU will release all kinds of assistance after the 'cease-fire' agreement, and the people living in poverty will achieve prosperity. The leader of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, believes that an independent Palestinian state can only be created through dialogue. For many years, Abbas worked as Arafat's deputy, but no one ever seen him with a gun on his belt. Sharon, on the other hand, is a warrior. In the past, he took part in many bloody incidents. But, lately, he realized that guns and tanks cannot solve any problems.The whole world is waiting cautiously and acting with optimism. I wish peace would come immediately. But, in a region where logic is in short supply, even to wait for a possible peace gives one hope."

"The Peace Winds In Middle East Strengthen Bush's Power"

Hakan Celik Posta noted (2/10):"The summit in Egypt brought very important results for peace in the Middle East. Israel and Palestine promised to stop attacks on one another.Now, the whole world wonders whether these promises will be kept. It is a positive development for the US that the peace agreement was reached during Condoleezza Rice's Middle East tour. This will be registered as a positive mark for Rice, and the Bush Administration's activity in the region will increase. The international community urges the US to not open a new war front before the Palestine-Israel issue is solved. Current developments will help the Bush Administration increase pressure on Syria and Iran. As host of the summit, Egyptian President Mubarak announced that as a good will gesture he will appoint an ambassador to Israel. The ruling AKP of Turkey put distance between itself and Israel in order to get closer to the Arabs. Naturally this policy negatively affected Turkish-Israeli bilateral ties and eliminated the possibility of Turkey for playing a role in solving the Israel-Arab dispute. Thus, when Turkey offered to become a mediator in the Middle East dispute and to host a summit, it was not accepted by either side."

"One More Chance For Peace"

Hasan Cemal Milliyet observed (2/9):"After yesterday's Abbas-Sharon summit, a new door opened slightly toward peace in the Middle East.One more time a 'cease fire' was declared.But this time everyone is more cautious.Of course, this is not very surprising.Witnessing the disregard of a ceasefire decision ten times before, it is only natural for the people to be more careful. Since there are fanatics on both sides ready to destroy the peace, one cannot blame these people for being cautious. For a lasting ceasefire, Mahmoud Abbas should reorganize his security forces and arm them in order to establish internal security on the Palestine side.If he cannot accomplish this, many people believe that the radical Islamist groups can undermine the peace at any moment. There are many difficulties on both sides' path to peace. Nevertheless, it is still rather exciting that the door to the peace process was opened at the Sharm-El- Sheikh summit. We want to be optimistic because it is not possible to survive without hope."

"A New Chapter?"

Hadi Uluengin Hurriyet stated (2/10): "It was interesting that Rice talked about 'opening a new chapter' shortly after she started her Paris visit. Her approach might be an indication of a more flexible policy line in the second Bush administration. At this stage, deeds are needed more than the words in order to believe that this is the case.It is certain, however, that there is in both the US and Europe the desire to open a new chapter . Secretary Rice very rightfully highlighted the common values shared by America and Europe, which put her diplomatic approach onto the right track.As the US and Europe prepare for a new chapter in their ties, another brand-new chapter has appeared in the Middle East. The Israel-Palestine peace is good news for the whole world and for the relationship between the US and Europe."

"A New Era Without Europe"

Conservative ABC maintained (2/9):"No matter what the outcome in the mid-term is, it is certain that the U.S. will be the main engine so that it finally results in a definitive peace agreement.In fact, U.S. involvement in the achievement of this suspension of hostilities has been decisive.The steps promoted by Condoleezza Rice show that the new Bush Administration has taken very seriously its wish to articulate a new geostrategic design for the Middle East that corrects the pile of problems left behind by European powers when they dismembered the centuries-old Ottoman empire and imposed their arbitrary colonial drawing pen during the interwar period.... But the most striking fact of the peace process opened yesterday is the lack of weight of European diplomacy. This way, Europe starts to show a grave weakness in its institutional architecture."

MIDDLE EAST

ISRAEL: "Shalom's Choice"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/14): "While [Foreign Minister Silvan] Shalom is not part of the 'putsch' nor counted with the Likud rebels, practically speaking his behavior is undermining the Prime Minister's policies and challenging the legitimacy of the disengagement process that Sharon is leading.But it is much worse than that, because Shalom is responsible for explaining the disengagement plan to the world and persuading the world of its legitimacy and chances for its implementation.... There will not be a referendum because the Knesset and government have already decided on disengagement, because the Prime Minister has stuck to his position, and because the plan is on course and there is no way back without causing damage to the country, and Shalom knows this. If building his political strength in the party is so important to him that he is prepared to support a lost cause, just so that he will be remembered for it, he should leave the government and devote his private time to the issue. Israel's foreign policy should not be damaged by someone trying to have his cake and eat it, too."

"Ink On His Hands"

Independent, left-leaning Ha'aretz editorialized (2/11): "The goal of Abbas's policy is to entice Hamas, Islamic Jihad and their comrades in the rejectionist front to restrain themselves -- without confronting them, without arresting their members (other than temporarily detaining operatives and then releasing them) and without depriving them of their arms caches. Abbas's idea is to present this restraint to the world, if it is achieved, as fulfillment of the Palestinian obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, which is dictated by the first stage of the road map. American acceptance of this claim would shift the burden of road map implementation onto Israel. The Americans did not make do with this. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the appointment of an American 'security coordinator,' Lieutenant General William Ward.... Words are not enough. Abbas -- unlike his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, who sabotaged peace... has thus far kept his hands clean of Israeli blood. That is a necessary condition, but it is not sufficient. If Abbas remains armed only with flowery documents -- only with ink on his hands -- neither he nor his government will have a future."

"Bombs And Qassam Rockets On The Katif Bloc"

Nationalist, Orthodox Hatzofe editorialized (2/11): "It has suddenly started to turn out that the 2005 summit could join the list of bygone summits in past years on which no superfluous hopes could be pinned. The shooting on the day following the meeting, as the members of the Israeli delegation were coming back home, does not presage anything good.... The Sharm el-Sheikh summit made no strides toward peace.... The shooting continues. The bombs are falling.... This has so far been the net achievement of the Sharm summit."

"It's All Right To Believe"

Editor-in-Chief Amnon Dankner stated in popular, pluralist Maariv noted (2/9): "So many wise people write and speak cautiously, warn against sinking into euphoria and express great skepticism and fear that everything will immediately crumble, until a desire arises to be optimistic despite everything.Because most of these wise people have been wrong and misled us so many times--admittedly, usually in the other direction--so why not this time too.... The greatest contribution of this change in Ariel Sharon's approach, aside from the concrete issues, lies in enabling us to understand that if this steadfast rock, this advocate of adhering to every inch of land, can behave so differently now, it is a sign that a lot of other things in the region can change. If things have really changed, if the two peoples really calm down somewhat in a period of relative quiet and prosperity, it will be possible to slowly and cautiously advance to the next stage. It is advisable to be balanced and not hope for great things, since those who read the road map realistically see it ending not in a full peace and final status arrangement, but rather in a long-term interim agreement that includes a Palestinian state with non-final borders, which will leave much work for the coming generations of state leaders and military commanders. Much will depend, of course, on the degree of quiet that exists here, meaning the level of terror, which will not disappear completely, regrettably enough.In fact, this leads us back to square one of the Oslo accords, in other words, the idea that quiet and a scarcity of violence will build mutual trust, which will smooth the way to the final status arrangement."

"Abbas's Absent Talk Of Compromise"

The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/9): "In the next few months, Sharon has committed to carrying out the most concrete down payment toward such a state that Israel has ever made, include signing and implementing Oslo itself. Disengagement is neither conditional nor an experiment. It is a concrete manifestation of Israel's deep and irreversible consensus, as Sharon said to the Palestinian people, that we have 'no desire to continue to govern over you and control your fate'....Israel has given up the dream of many of its citizens to permanently reclaim the Biblical heartland that it captured in 1967. At least as profoundly, the perception of a Palestinian state has flipped from being regarded as a mortal threat to being seen as a historic necessity. The Palestinians, by contrast, have not begun the parallel evolution that must take place for a two-state solution to have a chance.They have not begun to give up their claim to a Palestinian right to live on both sides of the Green Line.Abbas has not begun to speak, even in general, of the need for painful Palestinian concessions, let alone specifically of the need to give up, forever, the dream of 'return' to Haifa, Jaffa or Safed, where Abbas himself was born. On the contrary, on Tuesday he repeated the well-worn code words for such unacceptable demands.... Abbas, then, missed an opportunity to speak to Israelis as Sharon spoke to Palestinians. 'The time has come for the Palestinian people to achieve their independence and their freedom,' Abbas said. That goal is certainly within the Palestinians' grasp. Indeed, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from doing what they need to do to achieve it: abandon terror, democratize, and give up the dream of two states, both of them Palestinian."

WEST BANK: "After The Summit"

Independent Al-Ayyam held (2/11):"Although the summit concluded with limited outcomes, it will open the way for the political process to take off and allow for the opportunity to achieve new agreements. The rockets that were fired on Israeli settlements and military outposts in Gaza were completely 'political,' mainly used to undermine security and to score political gains on the ground. The firing of those rockets carried a message to everyone that the current Palestinian Authority does not represent the real Palestinian position, and that there are other effectual powers on the ground with a role and the ability to act and enforce conditions. That message also meant to communicate that these powers should be part of the Authority and that without them, the PA would not be able to forge any security or political agreement."

"Let's Carry On The Dialogue And See What Happens"

Official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said (2/11):"There are those who have clearly gone too far in their criticism and attacks on Hamas and the other factions, merely because these factions question the occupation's intentions and do not buy into the justifications of the need for enforcing calm.Despite the public's desire for an improvement [in the situation], people have tremendous respect and support for Hamas and the resistance. Several work plans are needed to achieve quiet, none of which should be aimed at undermining Hamas.. We don't want quiet on the basis that people are fed up and need to relax and travel freely.Neither do people welcome that quiet in order to see some of their sons let out of prisons just a month before they are due to be released anyway. We aspire to a calm based on mutual conviction that there is a real political horizon that will lead to independence and freedom."

"An End To Bullets"

Basim Abu Sumaya wrote in official Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (2/10): "Can we imagine Israeli PM Sharon being our guest, putting a floral wreath on the late Abu Ammar's grave and announcing before the PLC his recognition of the independent Palestinian state? Everything can be possible...once we reach a peace agreement with Israel.... If [Sharon] should think of coming to Ramallah tomorrow escorted by convoys of tanks and military forces and asking to meet the President and the PM at one of the [Israeli] military headquarters such as 'Beit El' or 'Dhahiya,' he would be persona non grata. He must not even think about doing so before translating what was announced at the Sharm summit into action, including the implementation of Israel's commitments under the original, not the revised, Roadmap....Let the announcement of a mutual cease-fire be binding on both parties and an end the bullets between them.Only then, I believe, will we not hesitate to welcome Sharon with olive branches, and applause if necessary, when he visits us."

"President Abbas's Policy: Taking Away The Pretexts"

Muhammad Yaghi asserted in independent Al-Ayyam (2/10): "While Israel uses the ongoing 'violence' as a pretext not to return to the final-status negotiations, a complete end to the state of violence so as to disclose the real intentions is required. Since the American administration has refrained from intervening in the conflict for the same reason, it's essential to get it involved again by doing what it has demanded for the past four years. In brief, this is what the Palestinian President aims to do.... Abbas's policy aims at returning the negotiations to the final track using an international consensus headed by the U.S., which wants to close the file on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict for reasons bigger than the conflict itself, such as the wish for success in Iraq. Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would mean more diplomacy dedicated to the Iraqi issue and more active, confident and capable American diplomacy for strengthening democracy and freedom in the Arab world."

"Abu Mazen And The Truce Challenges"

Tawfiq Al-Madini commented in independent Al-Quds (2/10): "The American-Israeli vision of the Roadmap is simple, yet dangerous: in exchange for U.S. promises to keep the Palestinian regime alive, the PA must end violence against Israelis everywhere including the occupied territories and to fight and dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, i.e. the armed Palestinian resistance groups.... By this Israeli blackmail, Sharon weakened the Palestinian party's expectations from the Sharm summit...where Sharon claimed that a return to the Roadmap, which the summit aims at reviving, is impossible unless the PA gets rid of the resistance.... The challenges and hardships Abu Mazin faces will increase the burdens on the PA.The ones responsible for this are Sharon...and the current American administration, which made things worse when President Bush promised Sharon to cancel the international resolutions on the Palestinian cause, judaize most of Palestine and undermine the foundations of Palestinian independence. A return to the June 4, 1967 lines becomes impossible, in Bush's view, when he admits Israel's right to annex the six large settlement blocs...and to build the separation wall...that transforms what remains of the Palestinian land into racist ghettoes and military detention camps."

"Agreement Demanding Israeli Commitment"

Independent Al-Quds editorialized (2/9):"The meeting that brought President Abbas and Israeli PM Sharon together in Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday...resulted in the announcement of a mutual cease-fire and an end of all forms of violence....Perhaps the positive atmosphere and the speeches of President Abbas, PM Sharon and the host, President Mubarak, are a positive step that couldn't have been possible in the past four years.Such an atmosphere can continue and be reinforced through constructive and realistic positions by the Israeli party, which could make this meeting a beginning of a new era in the Palestinian-Israeli relations."

"Sharm El-Sheikh, A Quick Initial Reading"

Hani Habib opined in independent Al-Ayyam (2/9):"The outcome of the summit...can be seen as a start of a long and hard path, just like any other serious beginning.It's also an opportunity that can turn fragile if the various parties fail to overcome the obstacles in the way of the negotiations. By the various parties we specifically mean the Palestinians and the Americans, since the Israeli position, which Sharon reiterated at the summit, is well known.Regarding the American party, the success of its efforts will lie in its ability to use a new policy based on balanced pressure on both sides [Palestinian and Israeli] in order to reach a just solution.... Perhaps the presence of Condoleezza Rice, who enjoys great support from President Bush, at the head of the State Department will enable the American role to become less prejudiced toward Israel once the U.S. actually wants its efforts on the Palestinian-Israeli issue to bear fruit."

SAUDI ARABIA: "Awards' Summit"

Jeddah's conservative Al-Madina contended (2/10):"It is difficult to identify a winning party at Sharm El-Sheikh summit, which was held without the participation of the principal sponsor of peace.... In fact, the whole thing was nothing but a ceasefire and a break for exhausted Israeli and Palestinian fighters after many years of continuous fighting.The results of the summit were very predictable, especially after the visit of the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Israel just before the summit....The summit has succeeded in awarding prizes to both sides of the conflict. Sharon got the Egyptian and Jordanian Ambassadors back and Abu Mazen got a wave of commendations from President Bush and Miss Rice.In addition, he received conditional promises of economic support from Washington and the EU....The decisive issue here is whether or not the American coordinator can be fair and truthful in his mission to monitor any violation of the ceasefire terms that were signed by the two rivals.We will wait and see!"

UAE: "Another Opportunity Beckons In Mideast"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times noted (2/10): "Hope is in the air again. With Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announcing a historic truce...moves for peace in the region get a fresh lease of life. But almost immediately, militant factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad have disowned the truce, saying they are not part of it, and therefore, not bound by the ceasefire agreement. Similarly, many hardliners in the Israeli Knesset are not exactly happy with Sharon's overtures.... Yet if peace has to prevail in the region, there has to be a beginning somewhere.... There's got to be a day when adversaries meet and decide to settle their differences for the sake of peace in the region and the well-being of their future generations....It's always small steps that make a new way or break new paths.... If the majority want peace, let those who don't want it stay behind. They must not be allowed to mar another golden opportunity."

JORDAN: "After Sharm El-Sheikh"

Saleh Qallab argued in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (2/9): "All indications point to the fact that the launch of the peace process is serious, that all these contacts and meetings are not mere public relations, and that the Americans are determined to reduce the tension so that they might focus on other important issues such as Iraq and the war on terrorism....What happened at Sharm El-Sheikh constitutes the first stop on the path to re-launching the peace process, which came after four years and as a result--on the one hand--of the realization of Sharon and his right wing coalition of the difficulty if not impossibility of imposing Israel's will over the Palestinian people and of striking them out of the Middle East formula, and - on the other hand--the realization of the Palestinian factions that time is no longer in their favor with the current imbalance of power in this region.... The Sharm El-Sheikh summit--which was not convened to liquidate the Intifada as some people like to believe, but rather to salvage the meaning of all the Palestinian blood that was shed during this Intifada--will be followed by further meetings and contacts, which might maintain the push that led to convening the summit in the first place."

"The Summit Of Hard Beginnings Leading Onto The Difficult Path"

Urayb Rintawi wrote in center-left, influential Al-Dustour (2/9): "One conclusive result came out of the Sharm El-Sheikh summit, namely a Palestinian Israeli agreement on a mutual and comprehensive ceasefire and halt of all military and violent operations against Israelis and Palestinians everywhere....Observers note that there is a new spirit rising through the veins of the stiffened peace process....While we are under the influence of the positive atmosphere of the first summit to be held in four years, we believe it is premature to launch optimistic predictions. Even the return of the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors to Tel Aviv cannot be considered sufficient indication of a breakthrough....Sharm El-Sheikh summit meeting could be a serious beginning for the long, difficult and complicated path towards just, lasting and comprehensive peace. Yet, this possibility will continue to be subject to threats and loss and breakdown if extremism succeeds in dictating its agenda to the region, and this extremism is not limited to the Palestinians alone, but also includes the Israelis."

"Sharm El-Sheikh Summit Broke The Psychological Barrier"

Sa'd Hattar concluded in independent Al-Ghad (2/9):"The Israelis described it as the summit meeting of hope and the Palestinians saw in it the setting out on the difficult road towards to rebuilding trust and resolving pending political issues.This is the 'psychological barrier breaking' summit, held after the Intifada, expressing the hope that the bloodshed will stop. However, it failed toprovide answers to urgent political questions and did not resolve the complex issues that have been shelved since the beginning of the Intifada.... Disputes still run deep when it comes to final-status issues.That is why the Sharm El-Sheikh summit must serve as the bridge for the resubmission of these issues to the negotiating table. Otherwise it would be as if the parties have gone back to square one.... Washington...worked hard behind the scenes to make this quadrilateral meeting successful, having appointed a security envoy to the Palestinians and the Israelis for the first time in decades, during which dozens of peace envoys were dispatched to no avail.A new hope is born with the Sharm El-Sheikh summit, accompanied by a test of intentions under intensive Jordanian and Egyptian auspices. This optimism will face a test over the coming days, which will determine the seriousness of the Israeli and Palestinian proposals."

KUWAIT: "Sharm Hope Shines On Us All"

The independent, English-language usually pro-American Arab Times declared (2/9): "We finally see light at the end of the tunnel of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.... During the time of Arafat Arab countries went through a series of civil wars, and disputes. They were lying to each other and trading in slogans looking for their own interests. Now that we see light at the end of the tunnel we hope Arab regimes will stop feeding on the Palestinian cause. We are optimistic terrorism will end on both sides--Arab countries and Israel. The Sharm el-Sheikh summit heralds a new era where there is no place for false slogans and regimes which lead Arabs into bloody disputes....Mahmood Abbas...is the antithesis of Yasser Arafat who lost international trust by claiming his eyes were always on the Palestinian street and not on real issues.... We also hope the peace process will tone down the voice of terrorists and extremists.... Peace in Palestine will be a relief not only for Palestinians but for all Arabs. We wish we hadn't called the late Tunisian President a traitor when he asked Arabs to negotiate with Israel for the sake of peace. If we had heeded his call we could have avoided all this bloodshed."

LEBANON: "What Is Next After Sharm El-Sheikh?"

Rafiq Khoury asked in centrist Al-Anwar (2/9):"After four years of the Intifada, the Palestinian return to point zero means that...militarizing the intifada was a choice that led to losses much more than victories.It also means that the Palestinians had to overlook Sharon's murders and view him as a partner in negotiations....Furthermore, the Palestinian negotiating position today is much weaker that it was during Camp David or Taba....Now, Abbas has to implement the Road Map by starting with the dismantling of the Palestinian Resistance...Everyone realizes that, this time, failure means that the Palestinians will have no choice but to resist until the end."

"A Bargain To End The Intifada"

Aouni Al-Kaaki asserted in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (2/9):"We wish that Arab citizens would use their memory to remember the following: 1) Sadat signed the Camp David Accord and it resulted in his assassination.2) Rabin signed the Oslo Agreement and it resulted in his assassination. 3) Arafat signed a reconciliation with Rabin...but it is said that he was killed....The problem is clear....Jewish radicals will never be able to take the idea of peace completely on board.... Sharon was never far from these radicals....He only agreed to the Sharm-el-Sheikh Agreement to rescue Israel from its economic crisis....In addition to that, the Sharm-el-Sheikh Agreement also ended and buried the Palestinian Intifada...and is leading up to Israeli partial withdrawal from the West Bank and a solution for the issue of Jerusalem.... All this is in Israel's interest.... The question for Mr. Mahmoud Abbas is as follows: Will he be able to confront the Palestinian Resistance, namely, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Kata'ib Al-Aqsa?"

ASIA PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA: "Middle East Wakes To A Sort Of Peace"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald remarked (2/10): "Renewed hope tempered by a realism learnt from bitter experience is the sensible reaction to this week's Israeli-Palestinian summit.... Perhaps it is just as well that expectations of this summit were deliberately kept low. Disappointment breeds desperation. Just as well, too, that President George Bush stayed away. Instead, his new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, visited Jerusalem and Ramallah, announcing new financial aid for Palestinians and the appointment of a US security adviser to the region, and then tactfully leaving before the summit began. US pressure, and US money, will certainly be vital to progress, but it is probably best they be exercised with discretion while there is a prospect of the contending sides finding their own, incremental way towards peace."

"Ceasefire Is A Beginning"

An editorial in the national conservative Australian read (2/10): "A natural tendency to dance in the streets following Tuesday's announcement of a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians should be tempered by a slight sense of deja-vu. It is less than two years since the same two key players, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, shook hands over an identical deal. And all we have seen since is more death....How, and to what extent, the road map can be reactivated remains unknown. But as a first sign of how the new Sharon-Abbas dynamic could transform the conflict, the region, and the war on terror, Tuesday's summit must be regarded a positive start."

CHINA: "Newly-Appointed Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice 'Tests Water' In The Middle East"

The official popular newspaper Beijing Youth Daily reports (2/8): "Optimists think the Sharon-Abbas summit means Israeli-Palestinian relations will begin a new chapter. Others, however, think behind the faade lies a divide too great to conquer, and short-term measures won't equal long-term gains. The differences between the Israeli and Palestinian sides pose a severe challenge to the U.S. as it seeks to intervene. Of course, U.S. interference has its own goals."

CHINA (HONG KONG SAR) :"Force No Way To Foster Middle East Democracy"

The independent English-language South China Morning Post maintained (2/14): "For all the efforts of the U.S. and its allies, the Middle East remains the world's most volatile region. The catch-cry from Washington and London may be that democracy is the solution, but it is clear that peace and prosperity will come only with a more far-reaching commitment. Iraq, Iran, Syria and the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians top the agenda of international concern, much as they have done in previous decades.That is despite hundreds of billions of dollars having been poured into Iraq and dozens of foreign negotiating teams spending thousands of hours trying to settle concerns elsewhere.The focus may appear to be on Iraq, but resolution of its countless problems will not be the domino of success that spills over to its neighbors. Changing a region takes time, effort and patience, as the example of East Asia proves....Democracy, peace and prosperity are ideals for the nations of the Middle East, but must come through the pressure of their populations on their leaders, not through divisive means from foreign governments. The key lies in time and experience - not foreign pressure, especially through military means."

JAPAN: "Bush Must Make Utmost Effort To Bring Peace To Middle East"

Liberal Mainichi editorialized (2/10): "Despite the truce agreement reached Tuesday between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the situation in the Middle East still remain unpredictable.Both Israelis and Palestinians need to maintain their strong will to patiently move forward on Middle East peace.The U.S. must also make its utmost effort to mediate between the two parties. During the former Clinton government and the first Bush administration, the U.S. was unable to come up with effective measures to stop bloodshed in the region.As a result, the Oslo Agreement collapsed and the roadmap for Middle East peace failed to be implemented.The Middle East peace process was left to the wayside while Washington concentrated its focus on Afghanistan and Iraq.Such negligence appears to have fueled anti-U.S. sentiment among Arabs and has consequently led to a rise in terrorist acts. It is time for President Bush, who has declared to end tyranny and spread democracy in the world, to make maximum efforts to achieve Middle East peace. We welcome the president's decision to invite Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and PA President Abbas to Washington as a positive move toward such a goal."

"Buds Of Peace Should Not Be Nipped"

Liberal Tokyo Shimbun maintained (2/10):"The death of Arafat and the appointment of appeasement-oriented Abbas as the new Palestinian leader appears to have helped efforts to reach a truce agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.The move is an important first step toward Middle East peace, but there are still a number of factors to be addressed. We welcome the positive commitment by the second Bush administration to bringing peace to the Middle East, shown in its decision to send Secretary of State Rice to the region and to invite Sharon and Abbas to visit the U.S. President Bush appears to consider the Middle East peace process an opportunity to restore international confidence in the U.S.The international community must also help the emerging buds of peace in the region."

"Seize The Moment"

Conservative Sankei editorialized (2/9):"Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Abbas agreed to end violence.The ceasefire comes at a time when democratic moves have begun spreading in the Middle East, with the collapse of the Hussein regime and the recent elections in Iraq serving as a catalyst.The latest truce agreement materialized in light of such a historic trend. Both parties as well as the international community must seize this historic occasion to advance Middle East peace.... Due consideration and respect must be paid to local cultures and sentiment in order to bring democracy to the Middle East. 'Reserved' U.S. posturing, demonstrated by Secretary of State Rice during her recent diplomatic debut in the Middle East, suggests that Washington has learned from past foreign policy failures to adopt a new diplomatic approach. We now see brighter prospects for an upcoming international Middle East peace conference in London in March."

"More Failures Must Not Be Allowed"

Liberal Asahi insisted (2/9):"How many times have we witnessed broken promises for a ceasefire between the Israelis and Palestinians?More failures must not be allowed.In order to prevent the confusion associated with the Iraq war from spreading into the entire Middle East, peace must be instilled in Palestine.... Without President Bush's active engagement, there would have been little progress on the Middle East peace front. He has dispatched Secretary of State Rice to Europe and the Middle East.The president is reportedly anxious to invite Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Washington to broker peace.Bush's attempt to renew coordination with some European countries on Middle East peace symbolizes Washington's willingness to repair ties with Europe in order to stabilize Iraq, which would be crucial for his smooth political management at home.... Despite his strong personal commitment, which helped create the foundation of the Palestine Autonomous Authority, former President Clinton failed to install permanent peace in the Middle East.President Bush must proceed cautiously with peace talks in order to win back lost trust within the Arab world."

INDONESIA: "Not Easy To Keep Israel-Palestine Truce"

Leading independent Kompas commented (2/12): "The truce agreement has revived the Road Map to Peace, which had deadlock because of waves of violence.If the Palestinian Authority were able to curb the militant groups, it would not be impossible that the plan to establish a free Palestinian state could be arranged in 2005.Israel has decided to pull out all its settlers from the Gaza Strip this year. Some of the Jewish settlers will also be pulled out of the West Bank. Israel has also reopened its borders and allowed Palestinians to work in Israel.This series of impressive developments has been strengthened by U.S. support to establish ties between the two countries, Israel and Palestine, so they can coexist in peace.All these positive and impressive developments would be setback should the Palestinian Authority not be able to curb militants and Israel not speed up its withdrawal from the Palestinian lands in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank."

THAILAND: "A Ray Of Sense In The Mideast"

The English-language moderately-conservative, Bangkok Post read (2/13): "The meeting between the leaders of Israel and the Palestinians is an undeniable step forward to solving the bloodshed and stalemate of the Middle East.The general outlines of a plan for a lasting peace have long been accepted by all concerned. The devil is in the details and that remains true today.But when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Chairman Mahmoud Abbas reached across a conference table to shake hands at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit, it seemed there are finally men and women who want to work on those details.. A cease-fire, upbeat meetings and goodwill are not enough to achieve a permanent peace and Palestinian homeland.But without them, nothing will happen.The Sharm e-Sheikh handshake and the return of the Arabs and outsiders world to negotiations provide reason for optimism. If Israel, Palestinians and their friends fail to move towards a Mideast settlement, history will judge them harshly."

"Renewed Hope For Peace In Mideast"

The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (2/9): "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas declared an end to four years of violence at a landmark summit in Egypt yesterday, potentially paving the way for a revival of the dormant Mideast peace process.While there were no joint statements, no agreements and no shortage of dashed hopes for peace in the past...there are good reasons to be hopeful that this pledged break in hostilities will lead to a more lasting truce.... A third encouraging factor is the more even-handed approach of the U.S., which in the past gave Sharon a virtual free hand to carry out his hard-line policies in the Palestinian territories. While applauding the Israelis' decision to withdraw from Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice stressed two days ago that Israel needed to make more 'hard decisions' for peace and said the U.S. would tolerate no backsliding on issues such as West Bank settlement outposts.... If this improved atmosphere can lead to breakthroughs on issues such as prisoner releases and the curbing of militant activity, talks on the 'road map' to Palestinian statehood should be able to restart in the not-too-distant future."

NEW ZEALAND: "A War Suspended"

The Dunedin-based moderate Otago Daily Times editorialized (2/11): "It was widely predicted, particularly in the United States, that the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the election of a more moderate replacement would enable progress to be made in reaching a form of accord between Palestinians and Israelis, and so it has come to pass."

"Let The Real Work Begin In The Middle East."

 

The Auckland-based center-left New Zealand Herald editorialized (2/10): "Successful summits need not be the product of 11th-hour agreements hammered out after a lot of table-thumping and arm-twisting. Sometimes it is enough that a meeting affirms a changed climate. Such will be the legacy of the talks between the new Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at Sharm el-Sheikh, which ended with the declaration of a ceasefire.... [A]s the American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it, "this is a time of opportunity and it is a time that we must seize....Israel may well be content to drag the chain .... In that respect, the US has an important role. Confidence in Mr Abbas is the cornerstone of a more balanced Bush Administration approach.He is seen as the vehicle for putting its 'road map' for peace back on track. The US must ensure Israeli intransigence does not undo him. Israel has, as Condoleezza Rice also said, some 'hard decisions' to make. Palestinians will continue to support their moderate President's strategy as long as they see progress. At the moment most are weary of war, and willing him to succeed. But if they see him flailing ineffectually, they will be more inclined to back the militants. It is, therefore, in Israel's interests to enter serious negotiations. As it is in the White House's interest to ensure they proceed promptly."

"Breaking The Cycle"

The Wellington-based left-of-center Dominion Post opined (2/9): "There have been many false dawns in the bloody history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict....But hopes are higher now than at any recent time that an end can be brought to the bloodletting that has claimed thousands of lives since 2000. The death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the election of the moderate Mahmoud Abbas have provided a rare opportunity to break the cycle of violence. The Israelis and their American allies should grasp it with both hands.... Hamas and the Islamic Jihad often appeared beyond the control of Mr Arafat, but with Mr Abbas at the helm, there are tentative signs they might be willing to be drawn into the political process.... The key to it holding will be addressing Palestinian concerns. They include the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the occupied territories, the dismantling of up to 50 illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank, and a halt to the construction of the 'security barrier' separating farmers from their land in the West Bank.... These are encouraging developments but...now is the time for 'hard decisions' by Israel.If Israelis want their children to be able to board a bus or enter a restaurant without fear of being blown up by a suicide bomber, they are going to have to make meaningful concessions.Mr Abbas' political future lies in their hands. If Palestinians see his moderate approach paying dividends, they are likely to stick with him. If he is unable to secure a decent future for his people, the killing will undoubtedly resume. Now is not the time for Israel to drive the hardest bargain. It is a time for generosity."

SOUTH ASIA

INDIA: "Grounds For Optimism"

An editorial in the pro-economic-reforms The Economic Times observed (2/11): "Given the history of unkept promises in West Asia, it is easy to be cynical about the latest ceasefire agreement between Israeli Premier Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.The leaders are themselves aware that the existence of extremists on both sides makes the pact extremely fragile ... But the fact that it has not vehemently rejected it out of hand indicates that the group may be willing to give peace a chance for now - the dominant view among Palestinians being that four years of conflict has not got them anywhere.But if the Sharon-Abbas talks do not show substantial progress soon, Hamas will be quick to tap the resultant Palestinian discontent. The issues that confront President Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon - mostly to do with the security of both Palestinians and Israelis - don't lend themselves to quick answers. The widespread global appreciation and support for the ceasefire, despite such odds, may well represent the triumph of hope over experience.That India, too, should hope for peace in West Asia is natural. That would be a major gain not just for the global war on terror but also for the ongoing fight in India between liberal democracy and sectarian politics that spreads communal disaffection. But there are reasons to believe that this optimism is not entirely misplaced."

"A Chance For Peace"

The Chennai-based centrist Hindu observed (2/10):"An opportunity to restart negotiations for a permanent settlement of the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians could arise if the ceasefire declared on February 8 is sustained....However, given the history of the conflict, it will be foolhardy to assert that a lasting peace is around the corner. While this caveat should be kept in mind, the first summit-level meeting between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders since the start of the second intifada in September 2000 must be regarded as a welcome development....There is no need to over-react to the declaration by Hamas that it is not a party to the ceasefire. This militant organization, along with others, has already reached an informal agreement with the Authority to suspend the violent campaign....Israel has promised that it will release hundreds of Palestinian detenus and withdraw its troops from five West Bank cities. While these measures can provide some relief to the people in the occupied territories, the Palestinians are not likely to be satisfied by these conciliatory gestures alone....With Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, promising to assist in the task of controlling militant activity, Israel's excuses for delaying the withdrawal have become weaker. Palestinians are not likely to give up the armed resistance without tangible evidence that peace will bring benefits."

"Miles To Go"

The pro-BJP right-of-center Pioneer stated (2/10):"It is entirely understandable that a measure of skepticism should stalk such feeling of relief as may be felt over Tuesday's agreement between the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, and the President of the PA, Mahmoud Abbas, to end violence between their two sides. Both Israelis and Palestinians--indeed, the world--is only too familiar with the hope of peace in the region soaring only to come down crashing....If there is still hope this time--notwithstanding the fate of the last summit as well as those in 1993 and 2000--it is because of two factors. First, Abbas is in a much stronger position now than in 2003 when the figure of Yasser Arafat, then the powerful President of the PA, angry because of being left out of the summit, loomed in the background....Second, Israel has agreed on specific targets and deadlines, particularly to hand over five West Bank townships to Palestinians within three weeks and release 500 Palestinian prisoners immediately.... And there is Hamas, the terrorist organization that is already threatening to be a spoiler. Effective sidelining of it will crucial to the success of the peace process underway."

"Cease Fire In The Middle East"

An editorial in the nationalist Urdu Akhbar-E-Mashrq opined (2/10): "The Middle East has been on the look out for peace for a long time... The declaration of cease fire that Palestine's new leader Mehmud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon made...has created new hope for peace in the Middle East..."

"A Shaky Handshake"

An editorial in the nationalist The Hindustan Times wrote (2/10): "Given the many false dawns, there will be understandable reservations over the latest Israel-Palestine agreement arrived at the Egyptian border town of Shram-el-Sheikh ... Needless to say that at the heart of the agreement is the ability of each side to meet their principal obligation - ending of armed attacks on each other. In this, Mr. Sharon's task is much easier ... All he has to do is to order the Israeli security forces to stop the assassination of militants and the destructive military incursions into Palestinian territory. Abbas has yet to get the Islamic Resistance Movement or Hamas and the Islamic Jihad on board ... The Palestinians clearly feel that the Israeli commitment to release only 90, of the nearly 8,000 Palestinians it holds, is inadequate ... But there are even more complicated issues ... In the euphoria, it must not be forgotten that in June 2003, Sharon and Abbas, too, announced support for President Bush's West Asian roadmap plan at a summit."

"Shaking Hands"

An editorial in the centrist The Telegraph stated (2/10): "Yasser Arafat is dead; his successor, reputedly moderate and better trusted by the Israelis, has been democratically elected. Mr. George W. Bush has promised to spend 'political capital' on west Asia in his second term. Mr. Sharon seems to be determined to pull out of the Gaza Strip. And, perhaps most important, ordinary people on either side of the violently disputed borders, are at the end of their tether ... Israel, however, is unwilling to call this a ceasefire and prefers to refer to it as an 'understanding'. Palestinians want to negotiate a final peace settlement, while the Israelis would want to see the extent to which Mr. Abbas can convince Hamas and its suicide bombers against the use of terror ... A genuine 'political' solution can only be glimpsed when each side is willing to give up its perception of itself as the sole victim of the conflict, and acknowledge the other's suffering. This will mean - for both Israel and Palestine - a radical realignment with history. Identities may be begotten in the past, but they can only be lived out in the present."

"Israel-Palestine Peace Talks: Only The Beginning"

An editorial in the pro-BJP Bengali Bartaman opined (2/10): "A historic saga has begun to unfold on the Egyptian soil ... Seeing Sharon and Abbas in good spirits who will say that their two countries had been engaged in bloody conflicts for more than five decades? ... A pragmatic and sagacious leader like Abbas has emerged in Palestine and at the same time the Israeli leader Sharon too has ultimately bowed down to the extreme American pressure ... Regardless of which country takes credit for bringing the two sides on the negotiating table it is a truth that this meeting could not be such a success had America not come forward with its Road Map and pressured Sharon to behave properly. Let it be noted that former SecState Powell and his present successor Rice have even greater contributions than President Bush in advancing the West Asia peace process to such length. But that said it would be foolish to think that the danger is over ... Extremist Islamic outfits including Hamas will constantly try to derail the peace initiative. There are several forces in the Arab world itself to fuel violence. Especially, al-Qaida loyalists are not going to tolerate Palestinians' hobnobbing with 'heathen' Israel in any way. Under this circumstance both the Israel and the Palestinian authorities face a great challenge to get the noble initiative going with patience and courage."

"One More Agreement"

An editorial in the independent Urdu-language Inquilab stated (2/10): "Although the so-called agreement between the Palestinian leader Mahmood Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is to be projected as a new landmark on the road to peace in the region, there is nothing to be optimistic or excited about. Israel has a consistent history of being dishonest, breaking promises and going back on its words soon after making an agreement. If there was no progress so far on the road to peace, it was only and solely due to Israel's arrogant refusal to fulfill its part of the commitments made under any agreement so far. It has been signing agreements only to break it and initiate a new wave of terror and tyranny against Palestinians. Far more tragic is the fact that the aggression committed regularly by Israel goes largely ignored and while the Palestinian resistance against tyranny is deliberately defamed as terrorism. This is why the Sharm el-Sheik accord evokes no enthusiasm regardless of lofty claims being made about it. In this agreement, too, Israel has preferred to be silent on most of the critical issue, especially about returning all occupied Palestinian lands and allowing the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Unless all the legitimate rights are restored to Palestinians, no justice and therefore no lasting peace is possible. There is no reason to expect Sharon to be honest and sincere in his latest handshake with Abbas. The latter is still satisfied with the progress, he is only stepping into a trap.

"A New Beginning"

An editorial in the Bangalore-based left-of-center Deccan Herald stated (2/10):"A ray of hope has emerged in the bleak Middle East scenario with Israeli and Palestinian leaders declaring a truce. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on the truce at a meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Beyond an immediate end to the violence, the deal envisages the transfer of 'certain Palestinian areas' from Israeli to Palestinian control. Israel will pull out its troops from Jericho and four West Bank towns within three weeks. It will also release Palestinian prisoners - around 500 prisoners by next week and another 400 subsequently - in its custody. The Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have announced that they are not bound by the ceasefire deal. Hamas has claimed that it was not consulted on the issue by the Palestinian leadership. But while their rejection of the truce is a reminder of how fragile the situation remains, the meeting at Sharm el-Sheikh and the truce constitute a breakthrough of sorts. This is the first time since the start of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 that the two sides are meeting at the highest level. The truce could provide the violence-weary people in the occupied territories and Israel a much-needed respite. The relative quiet it will bring could provide the space for further rounds of negotiations for a settlement of the larger Palestinian problem. ... There is a danger that the present truce could run aground ... if it fails to bring real change in the lives of people on the ground ... The Israelis must take decisive and sincere steps to end their occupation of Palestinian land and the Palestinian Authority should not hold back from reining in the militants. The truce could be the beginning of a new era, if Israeli and Palestinian leaders show vision to transform the relative quiet that the truce will bring, into a permanent peace."

"Cautious Peace"

An editorial in the left-of-center Deccan Chronicle read (2/10): "The formal declaration of yet another Israel-Palestine truce, accompanied by solemn pledges to end armed hostility by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, ought in the normal course of history to herald an era of peace in the West Asian region. Yet, history itself counsels caution in assessing the latest development in an euphoric perspective. This is not the first truce agreement during the last four post-Intifada years of bloodshed nor does it contain a built-in guarantee of an end to violence...... Although Palestinians overwhelmingly voted in support of Mahmoud Abbas' moderate line in the recent elections, the three major Palestinian militants groups, including the powerful Hamas and the Islamic Resistance Movement, never made a secret of their reservations over pursuing a path of peace with Israel on a platform of non-violence. Even the positive outcome of the Sharon-Abbas summit does not appear to have induced them to shed these reservations. Israel's policies have done little to convince the Palestinians of either its sincerity or credibility, and the Palestinians' resolve not to be intimidated by Israeli military superiority have led to a stage where mutual trust has become a casualty. The West Asian situation is so unpredictable that even trivial and thoughtless acts of provocation from either side can spark resumption of mutual hostilities. However, there are more encouraging factors favoring durability of the ceasefire this time than in the past. The Bush administration appears more determined to help in keeping the peace process alive. The new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conveyed the renewed US commitment to a peaceful West Asian settlement to both the summit leaders before they met at Sharm El-Sheikh in the presence of Egyptian President Mubarak and Jordan King Abdullah. Prospects of the revival of the peace process seem brighter, but many imponderables that can kill the truce still remain."

PAKISTAN: "Hanging By A Thread"

An editorial in the center-right national,The Nation editorialized (2/10):"Another factor that can derail the peace process is Washington's partiality for Israel.While every U.S. administration has fully supported Tel Aviv, none has been so slavish as President Bush's, whose prominent advisers include pro-Likud elements. If Washington fails to act as an honest broker, hopes roused regarding peace will be short-lived."

"A Positive Development On Middle East Road Map"

An editorial in the Urdu daily, Jang wrote (2/10): "The most encouraging aspect of the recent developments in the Middle East is the fact that the United States, who was the main patron of Camp David and Oslo agreements, acted in a very responsible fashion and reminded both the parties of their responsibilities. Had the United States forced Israel earlier to abide by these agreements and to allow setting up of an independent Palestinian state then peace and stability could have been achieved much earlier. However, the U.S. role could not be overlooked in the manner Israel responded positively to the peace initiative and laxity in attitude of Palestinian leadership."

"New Israel-Palestine Treaty?"

An editorial in the second largest Urdu daily Nawa-e-Waqt stated (2/10): "Mere ceasefire and release of prisoners can't normalize the situation and it would not be so until Israel leaves Jerusalem and ends conspiracies against the Arab and Islamic worlds. Everyone knows the level of Mahmud Abbas's popularity.... In this respect the government of Pakistan should not have any illusion and should desist from any "accidental" meeting with Sharon, as the logical result of "incidental" meeting between PM Shaukat Aziz and Israeli Foreign Minister."

"Ceasefire Between Palestinian Authority And Israel"

An editorial in the, pro-Taliban/Jihad Urdu daily, Islam wrote (2/10): "It seems that Israel is still using delaying tactics by engaging the Palestinian authority in the labyrinth of dialogue process thereby getting rid of Intifada. After the announcement of resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel by Egypt and Jordan, now pressure could be exerted on Pakistan to recognize Israel.The new U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is very actively working on a plan to get this illegitimate state of Israel recognized by the Islamic world."

"Israel-Palestine Peace Treaty"

An editorial in the center-right Urdu daily Pakistan opined (2/10): "Now America has decided to test this new formula, but it would succeed only if the U.S. and Israel have sincere intentions. Apparently, we don't see any positive change in the attitudes of America and Israel. Present treaty is a halfhearted attempt, as Israel is not inclined to give breathing space to Palestinian and America has adopted a policy of destroying Islamic countries; this all is contributing to expand circle of terrorism."

"Agreement On A Ceasefire Between Israel And The Palestinian Authority"

An editorial in the populist Urdu daily Khabrain wrote (2/10): "Although the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had announced measures to improve relations with Israel soon after his election and the Israeli leader had also responded to this announcement in a positive manner, it must be admitted that the process has gained momentum due to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit.Hence it is now the UN and U.S.' responsibility to move the process forward so that this conciliation can be saved from sabotage, and the Middle East can actually be turned into a peaceful area."

"Sharm-el-Sheikh Accord"

Sensationalist Urdu-language Ummat editorialized (2/10): "It would not be right to attach too much expectations to the verbal accord reached between the two warring factions of Middle East in Sharm-ul-Shaikh since Hamas and Islamic Jihad have rejected any such agreement. Had the U.S. desired, the bloodshed in the Middle East could have stopped any time during the last half a century?Now that it so desired, both the parties sat together and reached an agreement. It is to be seen how far the Muslim world would be pressured under the guise of this agreement and what trick would be adopted to get Israel recognized by the Muslim countries."

"Arab-Israeli Ceasefire"

Karachi-based center-left independent Dawn observed (2/10): "The Oslo process is dead, while the roadmap crafted by the Quartet was treated with contempt by America itself. The ceasefire will never last unless peace moves are seen to be made in good faith.The Palestinians are the aggrieved party, and naturally it is they who would expect things to move.Here America alone matters.If the U.S. lets Mr. Sharon treat Tuesday's accord the way he did the Oslo treaties and the 2003 roadmap, there is little possibility of this latest bilateral announcement becoming a landmark in the Arab-Israel conflict. Already in his second term, President George Bush could perhaps feel himself less dependent on America's Zionist lobby and put his foot down on Mr. Sharon.Ultimately, it is the U.S., which will decide the fate of the latest announcement at Sharm el-Sheikh."

BANGLADESH: "A Cautious Beginning For Abbas"

The independent English-language New Age commented (2/10): "If there is anything the Middle East is in need of today, it is clearly a climate of peace and calm after all these months of trouble. If the Abbas-Sharon deal can work, something of a breakthrough may actually be seen at the end of the day.The stubborn way in which President Bush and Mr. Sharon refused to deal with Yasser Arafat in the final years of his life did not in any way advance the cause of peace. Mr. Arafat was considered, in a terrible example of bad judgment, as an obstacle by Washington and Tel Aviv. Perhaps there was much about Arafatfs policies that was not correct, but what he stood for was significant for his fellow Palestinians. Now that he is dead, there is that hint of a suspicion that his successor may not be able to stand up to Israel and the United States when it is a matter of reaching a comprehensive, broad-based deal for the Palestinians.There is also the important question of how militant organizations like Hamas observe the Abbas-Sharon agreement. In recent months, the leading figures of Hamas have systematically been wiped out through targeted Israeli assassinations. That has inevitably made Hamas weak and has raised questions about its ability to strike in the way it used to. That may be a good thing for the deal. But one will simply have to wait and see."

"Middle East Talks:Dawning Of A New Era?"

Independent English language The Daily Starcomments (2/10):We sincerely hope that the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signals a turning point in the long-standing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We can only consider the latest developments to be positive. Any initiative that helps the Palestinians towards self-determination and nationhood and relieves them of the burden of foreign military occupation must be considered a good thing. Similarly, we would welcome a situation where Israelis could live in peace and security and maintain friendly relations with its neighbor to the east.Obviously, negotiation is the way forward. Israel -- and the U.S. -- have long held that the principal stumbling block to peace was the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and argued that there could be no negotiation as long as he remained in power. Well, now they have their wish. Let us hope that the Israelis will now agree to negotiate in good faith with Mahmoud Abbas rather than to dismiss him out of hand and use unrealistic expectations as to the extent of his control over militants as an excuse to drag their feet. Things look more promising than they have for many years. We only hope that this is not another false dawn as we have seen many times in the past, and that this time the expectations and promise are turned into concrete action for the benefit of the long suffering peoples of the region.

SRI LANKA: "Sharm al-Sheikh: Circus Within A Circus"

The independent English-language Daily Mirror commented (2/11): "...How can the mainstream American media such as CNN and Fox, report with joy and glee the victory of Shiite Islam and the triumph of the United Iraq Alliance which is opposed to US occupation? How can they tell the American public that the end result in Iraq will be the formation of an anti-American government dominated by Shiite clerics close to Iran after the sacrifice of 1400 American soldiers?A comparison of their coverages of the election day in Iraq on January 30 and the election results a couple of days later will make one to ask a question whether the mainstream US media were a propaganda arm of their political masters....The US stance has only helped the cause of extremists such as Osama bin Laden, making their recruitment drive easy. If the Americans had played the role of honest broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and helped the Palestinians achieve statehood, then the Iraqis would have welcomed them with rice and rose water as the Americans had expected. The Iraqis would have seen them as liberators not as invaders....At last week's State of the Union address, Mr. Bush made known his agenda - the plan for the democratization of West Asia. His plan seeks to set up an independent democratic state in Palestine, living side by side and at peace with Israel. It also involves confronting regimes that "continue to harbour terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder...."

AFRICA

TANZANIA: "Peace Agreement Should Mark Beginning Of Lasting Peace"

Kiswahili-language independent Mtanzania commented (2/10): "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas have just signed a ceasefire, with Abbas declaring the end of the 4-year holy war (jihad) against Israel. On his part, Sharon has announced the cessation of Israeli air bombardments of Palestinian camps."This end of hostilities deserves to be supported by all peace loving people in the world because it is the first step in the right direction. Although some of the Palestinian militant groups have said they are not bound by the ceasefire, there is no doubt they will also join in once they see that their wishes are being implemented."It is the wish of all Palestinians that Israel must withdraw from all occupied territories. Another wish is that Palestinians should have their own state, which is recognized by the international community."As we said, the ceasefire is but the first step in a process that should lead to a lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East. It is expected that the peace negotiations will be carried out in an atmosphere of mutual respect. "Each side should recognize that it has the right to exist within recognized and secure borders. Only then will a true and lasting peace be achieved between Palestine and Israel and eventually in the whole Middle East region.

"Mideast Peace Process Should Not Be Left With U.S. Alone"

The independent, moderate African concluded (2/9):"Yesterday, leaders of Israel and Palestine were expected to announce a deal that may end the four-year Palestinian uprising - the intifada. However, there is one fundamental issue that has to be acknowledged by Israel before any meaningful achievement can be made--and this is none other than accepting that Jewish state has all along been in the wrong in its occupation of Palestinian lands for over half a century now.On the other hand, Israel and its sponsors--read successive US governments--have always held that the Palestinian are in the wrong for fighting off their occupiers--just like Washington now insists that the Iraqi resistance fighters are in the wrong to fight the US-led occupation forces. The Israelis and their sponsors also accuse the Palestinians for not speaking with one voice in any peace process. This accusation can also be directed to the Israeli themselves--because Sharon is leading a minority government, and he finds it hard to also speak with one voice.In any case, it is clear to all that a final peace agreement between Israel and Palestine must address the suffering that the two peoples have caused each other, and their responsibility for that suffering.We also think that the international community must be involved in any peace negotiations, the process should never be left to Washington alone, which is certain to manipulate it to their own global interests."

"Let The Flag Of Peace Fly Higher In The Middle East"

The independent, moderate Guardian opined (2/9):"Israelis and Palestinians have finally agreed to end hostilities, and this is good news indeed since the decision raises the prospect of peace and calm being restored in the Middle East.We commend both Abbas and Sharon and sincerely hope that the truce they have reached will be maintained.The truce was significant in that it will see end of violence and resumption of peace talks and completion of a plan for deploying Palestinian forces in the southern Gaza strip.We appeal to the international community to support the new truce. We hope that the rebel groups in Palestine will see sense in the truce and desist from violence. Such a truce and continued dialogue is essential in the peaceful creation of a Palestinian state."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA: "A Moment Of Truth For Palestinians"

The conservative National Post opined (2/10): "Two Palestinian terror groups, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have announced they will disregard the ceasefire agreed to by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. Mr. Abbas's reaction to their defiance will be the first real test of his resolve for peace. We have some hope that Mr. Abbas will rise to the challenge.... The bigger question, however, may be how the Palestinian people will react. Will they obey their democratically elected president by choosing peace over war and turning in known terrorists (as some Iraqis are now doing in the wake of that country's election)? Or will they continue to cheer the murderers from the sidelines, conceal their whereabouts and perpetuate the four-year-old intifada? Israel has done everything it can at this point to encourage Palestinian acceptance of the ceasefire without compromising its own security.... Much has been made of the big obstacles to peace still ahead, among them the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees, Israel's still unfinished security barrier in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem and the creation of a separate Palestinian state. But those issues will be moot if the ceasefire cannot be made to last. And that won't happen unless Mr. Abbas and the Palestinian people rein in and dismantle the terror groups that have long thrived in their midst."

"The Summit Of Hope"

Jean-Marc Salvet wrote in centrist French-language Le Soleil editorialized (2/8): "It will be a meaningful breakthrough if today's Israeli-Palestinian summit in Sharm el-Sheik concludes, as predicted, with the announcement of a cease-fire....If it is announced, the cease-fire will not please everybody. Yesterday afternoon, political officials feared that a attack by uncontrollable elements would derail at the last minute the meeting between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. The risks will increase the day when real negotiations begin, when sacrifices on both sides will be required, compromises to which radicals will never be totally committed. That is why, despite the difficulties, the international community must stand at the side of Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas. First to encourage them to resist the hawks and the extremists, and then, to help them when the time comes take the decisive steps that will lead to a real peace.The latest political developments should have come a long time ago. So much the better if the new George W. Bush administration has come back to the middle of the political arena and finally seems determined to succeed where it failed during its first mandate. It has made a clear turnaround in this file. The State Department has started to rebalance its position. During her tour of the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice thus called upon Israel to make tough decisions and to come back to the road map, in other words, to include the evacuation of Gaza in the global peace plan presented in 2003, which has been a dead letter up until now. The death of Yasser Arafat broke one lock, but there is more.Washington now shares the analysis of the French, German, and British governments for whom the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most pressing political challenge in the world today, to used the words spoken by Tony Blair, the day after the American presidential elections. The Administration has made the idea that this conflict is central its own."

ARGENTINIA: "Hope For Peace In The Middle East Emerges"

Daily-of-record La Nacion editorializes (2/10): "In order to reach a lasting peace in the Middle East, four things are firstly required. One, convey hope for a peace process that has been stalled due to violence. Second, guarantee individual security both to Israelis and Palestinians on equal terms. Third, that the leaders of the two sides share a confident view that a peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians is feasible. Finally, that the main countries of the world and the entire international community are decisively committed to the peace process. The recent summit between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas in Egypt is an important step forward... The US, as requested by the EU, has visibly committed itself again to the Middle East peace process. The deal reached on the margins of the Red Sea is still fragile and, in order to advance, it needs the two sides' good faith and the support of all, but a renewed attitude of hope has spread and an incipient amount of security has been obtained. Both sides openly convey their willingness to make progress as a whole, and the international community, with the indispensable US leadership, has again committed its efforts to the peace process in the Middle East. It is not a minor thing. This is why there is a prevailing feeling that we are witnessing a different opportunity. Time will tell if we took advantage of it."

BRAZIL: "Time Of Truth"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo editorialized (2/12): "Mahmoud Abbas is aware that it is worthless to try to convince Israel that he represents all the Palestinians as long as his security forces and armed militias continue to act according to their own strategies, which have been sometimes sponsored by other Arab nations such as Syria. They are groups that have not yet abandoned the unacceptable and anachronistic idea of destroying Israel. There are also radical sectors among the Israelis that deny the Palestinians the right to organize their own nation. They are groups that foster confrontation, but are limited to political actions only. They do not carry out military actions and do not constitute a parallel power."

"Beyond The Truce"

 

Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (2/10): "The sequence of great hopes and enormous frustrations has led the world to look with skepticism to any peace intiative between Israelis and Palestinians.... [Mahmoud] Abbas wants to act against extremists at a pace which is compatible with his still unsure effective power, but he does want to go back to conversations with Israel as early as possible....Even Abbas'close collaborators are convinced that [Ariel] Sharon wants to unilaterally borders to a Palestine State,annexing a significant part of the West Bank-a move which President Bush has labeled 'the reality of the situation'. Not even Abbas will be able accept such pax israelensis."

"May Abbas, Sharon And The U.S. Take This Chance."

 

Center-right O Globo stated (2/10):"Now let's hope that Palestinians and Israelis are convinced...that violence is the shortest way to no where.It is not the first time that rulers in the region make promises...impossible to be fulfilled....One of then is precisely the failure of the Intifada and Israeli's military reaction.... For now, the truce is informal and should be respected, as each party trusts the other's movements. Moreover, Sharon and Abbas have frail political structures and are subject to predictable, impatient protests by radical groups whom have not joined the cease-fire. It is essential that the U.S.--according to State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, now disposed to help--is able to restrain Sharon's dangerous impulsiveness.Another vital factor depends on Washington's commitment: The political strengthening of Mahmoud Abbas- newly arrived and filled with the most praiseworthy goodwill."

"Rare Opportunity For Peace."

 

Independent Jornal do Brasil opines"(2/10):"The passage of Secretary Condoleezza Rice through the region has shown the US disposition to create a free, democratic Palestinian State. The naming of the experienced General William Ward as security issues coordinator is another evidence of the White House's greater involvement. In its turn, Israel has promised to transfer the control of five West Bank cities to the Palestinians.. All that gives reason for hope. Though, some stumbles and setbacks may still occur."

"Not A Truce Or A Cease-Fire: It's Surrender."

Liberal Folha de Sao Paulo opined (2/9):"Truce or ceasefire are inadequate words to describe what was agreed upon yesterday in the meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas. It would be correct to say that it is, fully, the surrender of the new Palestinian leadership to an army - the Israeli Army - of immense superiority in every respect. Or, if one prefers to look from another angle:the defeat of the Intifadah, if restricted to the armed - but not terrorist - uprising of the Palestinians; and it is, in equal measure, a victory of hard-line policy: the very same one that gave President George Walker Bush an apparent victory in Afghanistan and Iraq".

"A Viable Peace"

An editorial in liberal Folha de S. Paulo read (2/5): "Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas have accepted the Egyptian president and king of Jordan's invitation for a first meeting...Abbas has to bear the high cost of serious errors made by his predecessor, Yasser Arafat...Even so, the prospects for a possible peace are much more encouraging than the climate of mutual hostility which has killed around 3,000 people from both sides in the last four years, including civilians and children...Peace continues to be a fragile possibility. However, signs show that the difficult path to peace has been give another shot."

PANAMA: "The Great Obstacle"

Conservative daily Panama America wrote (2/10): ".the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Palestine met without the presence or tutelage of the President of the United States, the representative of the European Union, nor the United Nations Secretary General. Now they wear the long pants of foreign affairs and take into their hands the destiny of their region. This time Arafat is not there. Although no document or treaty was signed in this summit, the peace offerings of each party show more hope than any agreement signed by Mr. Arafat. Flamboyant Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice opined,'This is the best opportunity for Peace that we have had in many years."

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