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Camp David negotiators set Jerusalem aside, turn to other issues
CAMP DAVID, Maryland (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have temporarily set aside the nettlesome issue of Jerusalem to address differences on other core issues such as land and refugees, said Palestinian and Israeli sources close to the talks.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher declined to describe the latest developments at the 11-day-old peace talks, except to say negotiations would continue with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright substituting as the U.S. mediator for President Bill Clinton.
"In our view, the parties our making serious efforts to deal with the issues," Boucher said during a Friday afternoon news conference.
The near collapse of the summit Wednesday has brought a new perspective to the talks, Boucher said. Still, he added, it remained "tough going."
A proposal on Jerusalem
Earlier in Jerusalem, Rabbi Michael Melchior, the Israeli minister for Diaspora Affairs, told CNN a U.S. proposal was on the table for joint sovereignty of parts of the city.
Melchior said the 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.
But Hanan Ashrawi, a spokeswoman for the Palestinians, said the proposal contains "nothing new" 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."
Israeli sources say Israeli President Ehud Barak is awaiting a response from Palestinian leader Yasser 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.
Arafat has said Jerusalem must be the capital of a Palestinian state. Barak has said that he is committed to an undivided city as the capital of Israel.
On Wednesday, hours before Clinton was to leave for the Group of Eight summit in Japan, the two sides appeared hopelessly deadlocked and the White House announced the talks were over. But Clinton told reporters 90 minutes later than Barak and Arafat had agreed to stay on and continue negotiating.
Clinton was expected to return from the G-8 meeting by Sunday evening, but Boucher said Friday the president may try to be back at Camp David sooner.
Boucher said that on Thursday night members of the Palestinian and Israeli delegations at the retreat enjoyed an informal buffet at which Barak and Arafat sat with Albright. On Friday, the summit participants were to take part in a baseball game.
U.S. proposal aims to break stalemate over Jerusalem in Mideast talks
The Israeli Government's Official Website, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
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