But despite a planned visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who hopes to bestow Washington’s blessings upon the sides if an agreement is reached, few believe the November date would be met.
In Israel a week of diplomacy awaits Vice Premier Shimon Peres, whose office is representing Jerusalem in talks about the crossing’s reopening.
On Sunday European Union representatives met officials from the Defense Ministry in Peres’ Tel Aviv office, where the role of EU monitors was discussed.
This week Peres is expected to discuss the reopening of the Rafah crossing with a number of representatives, including Quartet Envoy James Wolfensohn on Monday and Wednesday, and European Union Security Affairs Chief Javier Solana on Thursday.
'Uniquely symbolic meeting'
EU representatives will discuss a draft plan for operational procedures at the crossing submitted by Israel, hoping to reach a joint stance on security issues. In the evening the EU representatives will head to the territories where they will report the fruits of their talks with Israel to the Palestinians.
Israeli representatives remain doubtful that a agreement can be finalized before the end of the week, despite the fact that all sides involved in the talks agree on the main issues pertaining to the reopening of the crossing.
Washington is applying pressure on all sides to reach an agreement that will ensure the crossing is functional by November 15. Yet few hurdles remain in the way with Israel resisting Palestinian demands that it allow the transportation of goods in an out of Gaza through Rafah, and the Europeans reporting that their team of observers has not been formed yet.
“I believe this meeting is uniquely symbolic as it coincides with the 10th anniversary of (Yitzhak) Rabin’s murder. All sides want to open all crossings, and first the Rafah crossing, as soon as possible. Israel is interested in a stable Gaza. We are ready to start negotiations to solve all problems,” Peres said at the meeting’s opening.
EU representatives said that the European team will do all it can to ensure the safety of the Israelis and the freedom of movement of Palestinians.