Israel and the PLO said on 16 February that they were close to agreement on setting up a Palestinian police force in the autonomous areas of Gaza and Jericho. However, the two sides, meeting in the Egyptian town of Taba, will not sign a separate agreement on the issue. They will wait until they have a wide-ranging agreement on the outstanding issues holding up implementation of the Palestinian self-rule accord.
The Taba talks are meant to fill the gaps left when PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres signed a partial agreement in Cairo earlier in the month. A separate security committee began meeting on 16 February to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners convicted of political crimes.
Meanwhile, talks between Israeli and Syrian officials started in Washington on 15 February, but the Syrian press has expressed pessimism over the outcome and criticised the partial PLO-Israel accord in Cairo.