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U.S. proposal aims to break stalemate over Jerusalem in Mideast talks

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July 21, 2000
Web posted at: 8:39 a.m. EDT (1239 GMT)


In this story:

Palestinians downplay proposal

Albright subs for Clinton

Barak 'talking tough'

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



CAMP DAVID, Maryland (CNN) -- A U.S. proposal to allow a degree of Palestinian control over some Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem appeared to offer the best chance yet of salvaging the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks at Camp David on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and their negotiating teams were still encamped at the Maryland presidential retreat, where they were meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, who launched the peace talks 10 days ago and left on Thursday to attend the Group of Eight economic summit in Okinawa, Japan, was planning an early return to continue his part in the talks.

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  AUDIO

Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi reacts to the U.S. proposal concerning the seemingly intractable issue of Jerusalem (July 21)

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Camp David peace summit and the people it affects:
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The U.S. proposal on Jerusalem is aimed at breaking the most serious impasse in the Mideast talks -- the status of an ancient city that both parties claim as their capital. Israel has demanded that it retain complete control over the city, while the Palestinians want the majority Arab areas of East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.

Michael Melchior, Israeli Minister for Diaspora Affairs, told CNN's Mike Hanna that the U.S. proposal "keeps the general idea that Jerusalem remains as the Israeli capital (a position Israel was not prepared to move from) but with the proposal that some Muslim areas on the outskirts of the city are symbols of sovereignty."

Melchior said that "symbols of sovereignty" meant that these areas would be "places of extended self-rule" for Palestinians, but that those areas would not include the Old City, a section of Jerusalem that is home to holy sites of Jews, Muslims and Christians.

"What's being spoken of is a proposal that is definitely within the red line of the prime minister and therefore the prime minister agreed to the proposal," Melchior said on Israeli radio.

Palestinians downplay proposal

But while Melchior sounded positive about the latest proposal and other Israeli officials spoke of the "inevitability" of some Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem, Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashwari said the plan was simply "semantics" and knocked the minister for his public comments.

"We are not negotiating in public," Ashwari said on CNN Morning Edition. "I would say what he's talking about in terms of semantics is just telling the Palestinians they are willing to return to us some of the suburbs, which are ours anyway, in return for maintaining sovereignty over Jerusalem."

Such a deal would violate international law, Ashwari said, adding that the Palestinian view on sharing sovereignty was markedly different.

"The principle of sharing sovereignty means accepting Israeli sovereignty over West Jerusalem in return for sovereignty over East Jerusalem," the Palestinian spokeswoman said.

"There are still wide gaps," Ashwari said of the negotiations. "I don't think we can read very much into the American proposal, especially since it has not been made public."

Albright subs for Clinton

On Friday, Albright will continue to urge both parties to make tough decisions on Jerusalem before Clinton returns.

The secretary met separately twice with Barak and Arafat on Thursday, the tenth day of talks that nearly ended on Wednesday night. The White House had actually announced the summit's end before an unexpected restart just before Clinton left for Japan.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said Clinton will cut short his Japan trip to return early to the United States to oversee the negotiations.

Clinton was originally expected to leave Okinawa, site of the G8 meeting, on Sunday afternoon to arrive in Washington on Sunday evening. But Lockhart said the White House is now looking at paring the president's schedule in Japan, and the new departure time should be determined soon.

Clinton and daughter Chelsea arrived in Okinawa at 9:22 a.m. Friday (8:22 p.m. Thursday EDT) for the economic summit.

The Group of Eight consists of the world's seven leading industrial nations -- the United States, Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy -- and Russia. Participants plan to discuss issues ranging from economics -- the information-technology revolution in particular -- to security concerns.

Barak 'talking tough'

At Camp David, Clinton will return to talks where both sides are engaging the issue of the future of Jerusalem. Israeli sources say Barak is awaiting a response from Arafat on the U.S. proposal.

Israeli sources say Barak is talking tough, promising to leave if there is no breakthrough by Sunday. But that position is seen by others as ongoing pressure on Arafat to accept a deal.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, the European Union's Mideast peace envoy, said, "The Americans have been working very hard on giving ideas." While Moratinos said those ideas didn't qualify as "a formal proposal," a main focus is how to bridge the publicly stated positions on Jerusalem, which is known by the Palestinians as Al Quds.

"There is a whole package," Moratinos said. "There is the municipal, there is the periphery of Jerusalem, there is the holy places."

Despite the differences, Israeli and Palestinian sources and independent observers stress that the negotiations have gone a long way.

CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna, CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace, CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Barak said to have accepted joint sovereignty in parts of East Jerusalem
July 21, 2000
Albright to step in for Clinton in Mideast peace talks
July 20, 2000
Mideast talks continue at Camp David as Clinton departs for economic summit in Japan
July 20, 2000
Final hours of Mideast summit tick down with no agreement in sight
July 19, 2000
Barak preparing to depart from Camp David without deal
July 19, 2000
White House expects Mideast peace summit to 'wrap up' by Wednesday
July 17, 2000
Camp David talks resume formally after Sabbath break
July 15, 2000
Clinton meets with Barak, Arafat at summit after U.S. withdraws proposals
July 14, 2000
Clinton returns to Camp David hoping to spur talks
July 13, 2000

RELATED SITES:
The Israeli Government's Official Website, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Knesset - The Israeli Parliament
Palestinian National Authority Home Page
U.N. Information System: Palestine
Near Eastern Affairs: Middle East Peace Process
Camp David Accords
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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