Lead: Gaza may become Palestinian reservation - expert

MOSCOW, September 14 (RIA Novosti, Sergei Zelentsov) - Now that it has been abandoned by Israel, the Gaza Strip may become a Palestinian reservation, a Russian Middle East expert warned Wednesday.

Vladimir Akhmedov of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations said the actions taken by Israel in accordance with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan had positive aspects to them, but their being unilateral made it more difficult for the sides to determine the final status of border checkpoints and travel routes for Palestinians within the evacuated region and out of Gaza.

Akhmedov said one of the key priorities now was the demarcation of the borders of the future Palestinian state, not just with Israel but also with Egypt and Jordan. "This procedure is quite a complicated one, and it will take joint effort and the proactive involvement of the quartet of international mediators to avoid possible unilateral actions by either side," he said. "Otherwise, the abandoned Gaza may turn into a Palestinian reservation, and the leadership of the Palestinian National Authority will then face unsolvable problems, primarily in providing security, overhauling the local government, and carrying out socio-economic reforms."

It is the outstanding problem of border checkpoints that has prompted Palestinian authorities to decide against holding municipal elections in the Gaza Strip, Akhmedov said. But he argued this democratic procedure could lead to the emergence of a united national leadership and the unification of all of Gaza's political forces to form a common platform.

The challenges facing local authorities will be possible to cope with only if all of Gaza's Palestinian forces unite. Their key priority now should be the creation of a transport infrastructure, public services and industrial facilities, something that would cost at least $8-9 billion, Akhmedov said.

France and other leading industrial nations from the G8 are already developing projects to renovate the Gaza airport and build new transport links in the area, Akhmedov said, adding that as a member of both the G8 and the Middle East Quartet, Russia, too, should contribute to Gaza's reconstruction.

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