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Breaking News

Is the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit Officially Off?

Aired December 27, 2000 - 8:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CATHERINE CALLAWAY, CNN ANCHOR: Let's get more now from the Israeli side. Joining us on the telephone is Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephriam Sneh. Thanks for joining us.

First of all, tell us, is the meeting officially off?

EPHRIAM SNEH, ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: Well, we concluded the meeting just an hour -- you mean the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh?

CALLAWAY: Yes, the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh -- the proposed meeting.

SNEH: Oh, no. No, no, there is no final decision about it. As you know, this meeting was scheduled occur in the evening and we have another 16 or 17 hours and as you know in our region, that's a long, long time.

CALLAWAY: What seems to be the stumbling block at least on the Israeli side at this point?

SNEH: Well, you know, the President Clinton gave to both sides his ideas about how to bridge the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinian. We discussed it. We discussed it during the two sessions of our Cabinet today, those ideas of the president, and we decided that those ideas are an acceptable basis for Israeli- Palestinian negotiations. So, we need some -- a few more clarifications, but we accept the ideas. And now the question is what the Palestinian decide; if they accept those ideas as a basis for negotiation.

CALLAWAY: So, other than a few details, you are pleased with the --the Israeli side is pleased with the Clinton proposal. So, what would it take to move this peace process forward now?

SNEH: Well, please is a little bit exaggeration of the description. As I said, we would like to have some more clarification about some issues, but generally we consider it as a good, acceptable basis for a resumed negotiations. That's the way we define it.

CALLAWAY: What was discussed with the Cabinet members? I know that Ehud Barak has been meeting for several hours with the Cabinet. What were the discussions in that meeting? SNEH: Well, there are some issues of concern, but basically the security of Israel; the most vital interest of Israel, how we conclude that the Palestinian state would be demilitarized and how can we defend our Eastern border. This is one vital interests that was discussed.

Another question, what about the holy shrines in Jerusalem that both we and the Palestinians consider them as sacred, very sacred; most sacred for us. How we share those holy places with the Palestinians? And these are the main issues, and, of course, the question of the border and the refugees.

In every issue we have a vital interest, and we want them to be preserved.

CALLAWAY: I know you said that a lot can happen in 18 hours, but Minister Sneh, do you think that there will be a meeting? Is there a chance?

SNEH: There is a chance, and you know one of the important conditions of this is a quality attitude on the Palestinian side. If they, as we did, accept the ideas of the president as the basis for negotiations, then we can together resume the talks.

CALLAWAY: All right, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh. Thanks for joining us.

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