Another road map for peace

DO-GOODER Tony Blair is apparently laying the groundwork for next Monday's Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that will be held in Annapolis on the east coast of the US. As part of his first major initiative since taking over as the international community's peace envoy to the Middle East, Blair would be announcing a slew of economic projects that are aimed at generating employment opportunities for thousands of Palestinians.

Among other things, there's a plan to build a trade park in West Bank. Also, a modern sewerage system is being planned in Gaza, although it's not clear whether Hamas will be engaged in such schemes. It is being said that Blair is keen to show some positive steps towards creating an atmosphere conducive to the peace talks in Annapolis.

What Blair is offering are definitely admirable confidence building measures, although it is being pointed out that some of the projects are those that have been shelved earlier. But the need of the hour is definitely not quick-fix solutions. Efforts should be made to solve the settlement problems. The Palestinians, the Saudi government and the US authorities are demanding a freeze of settlement construction before the negotiations and the Israeli authorities have given an assurance that such issues will be taken into consideration. New settlements, security barriers and roadblocks in the West Bank are apparently depriving Palestinians of their livelihood and therefore they are heavily dependent on foreign aid. Instead of cosmetic measures, the international community should see to it that such issues are tackled on a war-footing.

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