Cheney ties Mideast peace to quelling terror

JERUSALEM — Declaring that an independent Palestinian state was “long overdue,” Vice President Dick Cheney on Sunday said the success of the U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations depends on the Palestinian ability to rein in militant groups that favor armed resistance over negotiations.

“Terror and rockets do not merely kill civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people,” Cheney said after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “The future belongs to the advocates of peace and reconciliation.”

Abbas is largely unable to limit the activities of the largest Palestinian militant group, Hamas. After a unity government between Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah party collapsed last summer, Hamas gunmen drove Fatah forces out of the Gaza Strip, leaving Abbas in control of only the West Bank.

Efforts to reconcile the warring Palestinian factions continued Sunday in Yemen with both sides agreeing only to continue talking.

Abbas complained that Israeli actions in both the West Bank and Gaza were undermining Palestinian faith in a negotiated settlement with Israel.

“Peace and stability will not be achieved through settlement expansion or the setting up of checkpoints around towns and villages and the military escalation against Gaza,” he said.

He condemned the rocket attacks that Hamas and other militant groups regularly launch from Gaza at southern Israel, but he expressed hope that a fair negotiated settlement would cripple support for Hamas.

“If this peace is established, then its first results would be to weaken the extremist forces and the creation of a regional environment for cooperation and good neighborly relations,” Abbas said. “What is required is good will and the courage, and strong support from the international community — particularly the United States of America.”

Cheney arrived in Jerusalem on Saturday as part of a regional tour that included stops in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf. President Bush visited the region in January and returns in May, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came this month and is back in April.

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