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Andrea Koppel on recent developments in Mideast peace negotiations
CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel is reporting from Washington as negotiators try to reach an agreement that would allow talks to resume between Palestinians and Israelis on a comprehensive peace accord.
Q: What are officials saying has emerged from the talks between President Clinton and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat?
KOPPEL: After three hours of talks between President Clinton and Yasser Arafat Tuesday, both U.S. and Palestinian officials say that the Palestinian leader accepted the U.S. framework for a possible peace deal -- but he accepted with reservations and conditions.
As to the specifics of those conditions, it remains to be seen whether or not the Israeli leader, Ehud Barak, will accept them as another jumping off point for another round of talks. President Clinton spoke Wednesday with the Israeli prime minister to brief him in detail on the Tuesday meeting with Arafat.
Time is running out. There are 17 days left until President Clinton leaves office.
You can't say that at this point hopes are raised; I think people are realistic. They still have some serious and significant obstacles to overcome. And it remains to be seen whether or not the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will see eye to eye on them.
Q: What are you hearing about the tone of the meeting between Clinton and Arafat?
KOPPEL: They discussed the details of this U.S. proposed framework for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. They had three hours of talks. The final session ran late into the evening Tuesday night. It was very serious.
The Palestinians say the talks were very good, very fruitful, and very serious. The Palestinians believe that President Clinton now appreciates and better understands where they stand, and what their reservations and concerns are.
Palestinian sources tell CNN that there are five reservations that Yasser Arafat expressed to Clinton:
Maps and land. They want to see what 95-96 percent of the West Bank and Gaza the Palestinians will control. They also want to see if this is a contiguous piece of land; in other words, will they have to cross over any Israeli territory to get from one part of this Palestinian state to another.
The second reservation they have concerns security. The Palestinians do not want any Israeli forces in the West Bank. They say an international force would be fine.
The third has to do with the right of return of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians say the priorities should be given to refugees who are now living in Lebanon.
The fourth reservation has to do with sovereignty over holy sites in the old city of Jerusalem, in particular the Temple Mount as it's known by Jews or Haram al-Sharif as it's known by Muslims. The Palestinians want to have sovereignty over this compound, including the ground beneath it.
The final reservation the Palestinians have is this 'end of conflict' agreement. The Palestinians are saying they will not sign an 'end of conflict' agreement until they sign a final peace treaty. And they point out that what is now being discussed is a frameworkagreement and not a peace treaty.
Q: What are officials saying about the possibility of one last trilateral summit between Clinton, Arafat and Barak?
KOPPEL: Since President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke Wednesday morning, the prime minister convened his peace Cabinet. That meeting has since adjourned. Prime Minister Barak is now sending one of his top negotiators to Washington on Thursday.
Gilead Sher, Barakís chief of staff, is coming to Washington for high-level talks with U.S. officials. The plan is that Mr. Sher is going to try to get further clarification on the reservations that were expressed by Yasser Arafat during his meetings with Mr. Clinton.
If that goes well, then the U.S. would invite another Palestinian delegation, not necessarily chairman Arafat, but some of his senior negotiators to come to Washington for follow-up talks with U.S. mediators.
Then, if that goes well, the expectation is that there would be some sort of three-way meeting between U.S., Palestinian and Israeli negotiators -- essentially a precursor to a three-way summit. Thatís the hope right now.
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