White House expects 'substantive meetings' with Barak, Arafat
October 20, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On a visit to Norway next month, President Bill Clinton will have "substantive meetings" with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to push forward Middle East peace, the White House said Wednesday.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat are planning to attend a ceremony in Oslo the first week of November commemorating the Middle East peace accords secretly negotiated there in 1993.
The ceremonies also were expected to mark the 1995 assassination of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who signed the Olso pact with Arafat.
The White House said Clinton would also attend and hoped to have a trilateral meeting with both leaders to work towards a final peace settlement.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have set a February deadline for reaching a framework for a permanent peace accord, with the aim of brokering a comprehensive agreement by September 2000.
The peace accord would tackle the most serious issues dividing the two sides, including the status of Jerusalem, the plight of Palestinian refugees, the fate of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, and the borders of a possible Palestinian state.
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said there was "no greater priority for the (Clinton) administration" than helping bring Israel and the Palestinians to a comprehensive peace. He said Washington believes the process has reached a "pivotal strategic moment" and that the United States was not about to step aside and become a spectator of the negotiations.
Barak has urged Washington to take a less active role in the peace process to encourage more face-to-face talks between Israelis and Palestinians. But Palestinian leaders insist the United States must remain a major broker in the talks to ensure Israel lives up to its commitments.
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