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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source:
8 November 2005



New meetings on resolving Gaza-Egypt border fate

Top-level meetings were continuing Tuesday in a bid to resolve differences between Israel and the Palestinians on reopening the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, not least on surveillance cameras.

At talks with the Palestinians late Monday, Israel insisted cameras be installed to offer it a live feed of the Rafah terminal, which has remained largely closed since Israel left the Gaza Strip in September, both sides said.

"It is a fundamental question of security over which Israel will not deviate," an official was quoted as saying by public radio.

Without agreement on how Rafah and other border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip will function, Israel has threatened to withhold customs duties from the Palestinian Authority in the impoverished territory.

Rafah is the Palestinians' only land access to the outside world from the Gaza Strip that bypasses Israel.

Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei told a news conference in Ramallah that some progress had been made on the Rafah issue, which he said would also be discussed with visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday.

Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat earlier admitted that "certain problems remain, notably the question of real-time surveillance cameras," but said otherwise there had been progress in the talks.

Israel is under pressure from the United States to conclude an agreement on the crossings as quickly as possible in a bid to rekindle economic life in Gaza, otherwise in deep malaise.

On Tuesday, special international envoy James Wolfensohn was to hold separate meetings on the issue with Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.

EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte was also to meet Israeli officials to thrash out a European role at the Rafah terminal.

"Hopefully we will sign an agreement after a tripartite meeting on Wednesday," one European diplomat told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The diplomat said the European Union would not accept any role unless there was a "clear-cut mandate with a protocol between Israelis and Palestinians".

The official said the Europeans would not "play the role of Palestinian customs officer and we will not take over the role the Israelis had before."

Israel closed the Rafah terminal on September 7, shortly before withdrawing all ground troops from the territory. Since then the crossing has only opened intermittently.


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