U.S. interagency team will monitor 'roadmap' and security

Friday, June 6, 2003

The United States intends to send observers to monitor the process of a Palestinian ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

U.S. officials said the Bush administration has established a team that would monitor both security and political developments connected to the roadmap. They said the team would be composed of members of the State Department, U.S. military and CIA.

The U.S. team would determine Israeli and Palestinian compliance with the roadmap and report to the White House and State Department, officials said. They said the first challenge of the team would be to ensure the dismantling of unauthorized Israeli outposts in the West Bank.

"This mission will be charged with helping the parties to move towards peace, monitoring their progress and stating clearly who is fulfilling their responsibilities," President George Bush said in Aqaba on Wednesday. "And we expect both parties to keep their promises."

Officials said the team would be composed entirely of Americans in the initial stage but could be augmented by other members of the so-called Quartet, which drafted the roadmap. In addition to the United States, the Quartet consists of the European Union, United Nations and Russia.

Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation John Wolf has been appointed head of the monitoring group. Wolf, who will resign from the post of assistant secretary, is expected to arrive in Israel over the weekend to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Officials said he will be aided by the U.S. ambassador in Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.

"We're going to have a very strong team here," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Officials said the group, which will be composed of about a dozen intelligence officers and diplomats, will help Israeli and Palestinian officials engage and coordinate. Another task would help rebuild PA security services.

"One of the critical things right now is not only to have understandings, but to have both sides know there is accountability," Dennis Ross, who led U.S. peace efforts under the Clinton administration, said.

"Now, if you're not going to have envoy but you have team on the ground with the leader of that team, which seems to be the administration's preference, then make it very clear that the president is paying very close attention."

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pledged to remove an unspecified number of unauthorized outposts in the West Bank. Sharon also said he would honor the Palestinian demand for a state with territorial contiguity.

"I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law," Sharon said in a statement during the Aqaba summit. "Thus we will begin immediately to evacuate unauthorized outposts."

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