U.S. envoy General Anthony Zinni on Saturday continued his mission to calm tensions in the Middle East, meeting top Palestinian negotiator and Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia, also known as Abu Alla.
The meeting took place despite new Israeli accusations that the Palestinian Authority is engaged in terrorism, and tried to smuggle by sea 50 tons of missiles and other weapons into the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Later in the day, Zinni will hold meetings with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and with Palestinian security officials.
Qureia has also held talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres about the framework of a peace agreement.
Under the plan, Israel would recognize a Palestinian state before the two sides negotiate the two sticking points that led to the collapse of negotiations last year: the status of Jerusalem and the fate of four million Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
However, the Peres-Qureia talks were given little chance of success.
The two remain far apart on the dimensions of the Palestinian state to be recognized by Israel, and Peres does not have the full backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Zinni returned to the region on Thursday, for a four-day trip, after his
previous mission was aborted in December amid a surge of factional violence.
The envoy said he was more upbeat this time.
Zinni is trying to nudge both sides toward a formal truce, outlined last year by CIA chief George Tenet.
Under the plan, Israel would withdraw troops to positions they held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000, and the Palestinian security forces would make an all-out effort to prevent attacks on Israelis by Palestinian militants.
With a truce in place, the two sides would then follow a plan for peaceful co-existence proposed last year by an international commission headed by former US Senator George Mitchell.