Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told a U.N. summit of world leaders on Thursday that it was up to the Palestinians to build on the momentum he set in motion by withdrawing from the Gaza Strip.
Sharon, who has enjoyed a warm reception at the summit in New York because of the pullout, acknowledged the Palestinians' right to a state of their own. But at the same time, he reasserted Israel's claims to disputed Jerusalem as its “eternal and united capital.”
Palestinians see the eastern sector of the city as a capital of a future state, and the competing claims have made Jerusalem one of the most contentious issues in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
“Now it is the Palestinians' turn to prove their desire for peace,” Sharon said. “The most important test the Palestinian leaders will face is in fulfilling their commitment to putting an end to terror and its infrastructures, eliminate the anarchic regime of armed gangs and cease the incitement and indoctrination of hatred toward Israel and the Jews.”
The General Assembly hall gave Sharon courteous applause when he finished his speech, though Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al-Kidwa was shown sitting with his arms folded over his chest.
Israeli, Qatari ministers huddle
Meanwhile, the foreign ministers of Israel and Qatar met Thursday on the sidelines of the summit, a sign of further movement toward improving relations between the Jewish state and the Arab world in the wake of Israel’s Gaza withdrawal.
The talks — a first step in efforts to arrange an Israeli-Qatari summit — came a day after Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani, urged Arab nations to open up to the Jewish state.
In line with that trend, Sheik Hamad said it was possible for Qatar to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel before the formation of an independent Palestine.
“It could happen,” he told reporters before heading into closed meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. “But we need to see a timetable — how we will start the peace process and how we will end.”