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Europe

EU Urges Palestinian Security Crackdown

The European Commission and US officials on Tuesday called on Palestinians and Israelis to prevent the derailment of the peace process following a deadly Tel Aviv bomb blast.

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Tony Blair with Mahmoud Abbas in London on Tuesday

Coming just days after a suicide bomb in Tel Aviv threatened to undermine the three-week-old ceasefire declaration between Palestinians and Israelis, Tuesday's one-day meeting in London was seen by many as a good first chance to revive the "road map" plan for Middle East peace.

In response to Friday's bombing in Tel Aviv that has endangered a fragile peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States called for "immediate action by the Palestinian Authority to apprehend and bring to justice the perpetrators" of the attack that killed five people.

During the meeting, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas again condemned Friday's attack, which undermined a three-week-old truce with Israel. He told a news conference he held with Tony Blair, who hosted the conference, that Palestinians were committed to preventing attacks and promised to track down the culprits.

About 50 radical Islamic protestors from the Party of Freedom, an organization which is banned in many countries, demonstrated outside the conference, denouncing Abbas for what they called "acquiescence" to the United States. A speaker for the group said its aim was to return Israel and the Occupied Territories to governance under Islamic law and one leader.

"Muslim land is not for sale," they chanted.

Large international presence

The London talks brought together Abbas, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UN Secretary Genera Kofi Annan as well as some 40 European and Arab foreign ministers and World Bank and International Monetary Fund representatives.

"We are trying to lay a foundation for a successful movement through the road map to a two-state solution," Rice told a news conference in London.

Bildergalerie2 EU-Kommissare Benita Ferrero-Waldner External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Austrian

EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner

European Union external relations chief Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who attended the talks, said it was the duty of everyone attending to work towards helping Palestinians reap the "fruits of peace."

"Each of us must play our part to ensure that the new momentum for peace is not derailed," she said Monday.

Israel calls for resolution

Ein zögerlicher Händedruck

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Egypt on Feb. 8.

Israeli officials meanwhile called on conference participants to pass a resolution committing the Palestinian Authority to dismantle militant activity.

"We want the London conference, which is set to promote reform in the Palestinian Authority, to commit to dismantling terrorist infrastructure," said foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

Keeping peace process on track

Following Friday's bomb blast in downtown Tel Aviv -- the first since a landmark summit and ceasefire between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Egypt of Feb. 8 -- observers in Europe worried the fragile peace process could suffer another set-back.

Ferrero-Waldner called on Abbas to strengthen a clampdown on militant factions, such as the Islamic Jihad which claimed responsibility for the Tel Aviv blast.

"President Abbas must take effective steps to fight and dismantle terror organizations, stop incitement, and maintain law and order within the Palestinian territories and vis-à-vis Israel," the EU official said while pointing out that Israel, for its part, needs to "ease restrictions on freedom of movement."

"Both sides are taking risks for peace and need our support," she added.

Concrete efforts

In the run-up to the London conference, the EU announced that it had earmarked up to €250 million ($331 million) this year to support steps towards the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The money will go towards creating a functioning judiciary system, supporting elections, and continuing efforts to improve governance and financial transparency. "We will make funds available to help deliver tangible improvements in living conditions, to build up the Palestinian's government capacity, and support the reconstruction of infrastructure and basic services," Ferrero-Waldner said.

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