Armed militias obstacle to Palestinian state | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 18, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 18, 2007

Armed militias obstacle to Palestinian state

Says Fayyad

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The continued existence of armed militias is an obstacle to the promised Palestinian state, Western-backed Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said on Thursday.
"Building towards statehood and independence on the one hand, and continuing to tolerate armed militias on the other, are two mutually exclusive paths that will never meet," Fayyad said in an interview with the foreign press.
"We are learning that from experience. We need to deal with this. That's the key principle that needs to be understood, and understood clearly, and that has to be implemented.
"Today that's what we are beginning to do in the West Bank and that is something that should be generalised.
"We simply cannot go back to a situation where matters are taken into the hands of the people acting outside of the... Palestinian authority. This is the key requirement," he said in the wide-ranging interview in English at his Ramallah office.
Fayyad, an economist widely respected in the West, was named premier by president Mahmud Abbas two months ago, after fighters from Islamist Hamas routed forces loyal to the moderate leader in the Gaza Strip on June 15.
The takeover has left the Palestinians deeply divided, with the Western-backed Abbas controlling the occupied West Bank and the Western-shunned Hamas ruling Gaza.
In its wake, the West has sought to boost Abbas, isolate the Islamists, and to jumpstart the dormant peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
Saying that actions done in the name of armed resistance had hurt the Palestinian cause, Fayyad said his government was committed to "non-violent steadfastness."
"We know that practices that were engaged in under this heading of armed resistance were most detrimental to our cause," he said.
"To me, a child scaling a checkpoint trying to go to his school is a form of resistance. It's non-violent steadfastness. That's our programme."
Hamas had blasted Fayyad for not including the term "resistance" in the programme of his government published in late July. Asked about the incident, he said:
"We live up to commitments we made and there was a key commitment that the PLO had made on behalf of all the Palestinian people going back to 1993 in which we had committed to renouncing violence as means of getting to where we need to get, which is to free our people of occupation, to end it."
On the peace front, Fayyad said that Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have started to discuss "political" issues ahead of an international peace conference called by US President George W. Bush for this autumn.
"Up until the last meeting, the discussions had focused on transitional issues... day to day issues, not the political ones."
"That discussion has started and we are pleased that these issues are being discussed.
"It is important to build on that" ahead of the conference.
"We are looking for a serious process... a process leading to a framework agreement where the parameters are clarified, specified."
"Then, before the meeting that was called by President Bush, it will be important to give that process an important push forward, toward translating that framework into a concrete agreement that can be implemented."
Fayyad said that early elections would eventually be held in the Palestinian territories, but that no date has been set.
"We are trying to stabilise the situation to go back to the people," he said. "We'll do that when it's feasible. Is it feasible now? Obviously not."
"But elections will take place, both in Gaza and the West Bank."

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