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High-level Israeli-Palestinian meeting signals possible thaw

By: David Harris, Xinhua


Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak will meet in the next few days, according to Barak. This will be the first publicly- acknowledged meeting between leaders from the two peoples since indirect talks were initially launched in March.

The announcement by Barak is the latest sign of a thaw in relations between the two and may suggest that face-to-face negotiations are around the corner.
However, there are still obstacles, with the Palestinians unhappy about potential house demolitions in eastern Jerusalem.
Speaking on Wednesday, Barak made clear what he hopes to discuss when he meets Fayyad. First and foremost in Israeli minds is security. If Israel is to make any territorial compromise in a final peace deal, it has to be convinced that the Palestinian areas will not become what it terms "a launching pad for terror."
In recent years, the Americans have been helping to build confidence between various Palestinian and Israeli security services.
Israel is gradually handing control of parts of the West Bank to the Palestinians, and on the whole Israel has expressed satisfaction with the way the Palestinians have handled their new responsibilities. The Palestinian officers have received considerable training under U.S. instruction, with much of the work taking place on Jordanian soil.
Israel has been gradually reducing the number of its checkpoints throughout the West Bank. The Palestinians demand the free flow of people and goods and it is understood that Barak favors further relaxations.
While Barak's portfolio focuses on security issues, his meeting with Fayyad will have a broader brief.

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