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Palestinians to host western diplomats
Updated: 2004-11-18 21:34

The leading sponsors of the "road map" peace plan will send top officials to the West Bank next week in a renewed effort to revive the internationally backed peace plan, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said Thursday.

Shaath said the talks would focus on Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and ways to ensure that the withdrawal is part of the road map.

Shaath said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are scheduled to come to Ramallah next week, in the days after a visit next Monday by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. The foreign ministers of Spain and Germany are also expected in the coming weeks, Shaath said.

The diplomats are all part of the "Quartet" of road map sponsors the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.

"All of these important foreign ministers are coming to meet the Palestinian leadership and to talk about an action plan for the coming period," Shaath said.

He said those elements would include "work on reviving the implementation of the road map and that any withdrawal from Gaza should be part of the road map and should be coordinated with the Palestinian Authority."

The road map, meant to bring about an independent Palestinian state, has been stalled since it was signed in June 2003. The international community has expressed hope for reviving the plan in the wake of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death last week.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to negotiate with Arafat, and instead pushed forward with the Gaza withdrawal as part of his "unilateral disengagement" plan to separate Israel and the Palestinians.

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