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Israelis, Palestinians discuss safe passage from Gaza to West Bank

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Tel Aviv/Ramallah (dpa) - Israel and the Palestinians are negotiating a "safe passage" route from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, to be implemented after the Israelis withdrawal from the Strip later this summer, reports on both sides said Tuesday.

Israel Radio reported the sides have reached an agreement in principle on operating the route, with, in the first stage, Israeli security forces escorting convoys of Palestinian vehicles.

A train line between the Gaza Strip and West Bank will be built at a later stage, the report said.

However, Palestinian National Economy Minister Mazen Sonokort said no agreements have yet been reached on the safe passage route.

"The issue is not yet resolved," he told Voice of Palestine Radio.

Palestinians were insisting on implementing earlier agreements regarding the safe passage, he said.

Sources in Ramallah added the Palestinians were hesitant about accepting a temporary solution, lest it become a permanent one.

Israel and the Palestinians operated - briefly - a safe passage route in 1999, between the Erez checkpoint in the Gaza Strip and the Tarkumiah checkpoint in the West Bank.

The safe passage was scrapped following the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000. dpa jab pmc

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