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Arafat says 'peace train' must keep going

Arafat

June 4, 1996
Web posted at: 12:40 a.m. EDT (0440 GMT)

From Correspondent Rob Reynolds

OXFORD, England (CNN) -- In his first extended public comments since last week's Israeli elections, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat warned Monday against any attempt to reverse the course of the Middle East peace process.

"The peace process has begun. And the peace train must reach the terminal because the forces for peace in the world will not allow the hands of the clock to be turned back to the times of calamity," Arafat told an audience at Oxford University.

Arafat said that the commitments Israel has made to the Palestinians must be honored.

Reserving judgment on Netanyahu

"Peace agreements are a contractual transaction between two sides with no change of mind and no unilateral withdrawal," Arafat said. "In our own case, they are a transaction which an elected Israeli government has signed and which the Israelis have confirmed through their lawful representatives in their Knesset."

Arafat said he would bide his time before judging Prime Minister-Elect Benjamin Netanyahu's attitude toward the peace process.

"The most important thing is that we respect the democratic choice of the Israeli people," he said. (357K AIFF or WAV sound)

No land, no peace

Arafat also said he would not be able to provide the peace- with-security Netanyahu promised in his election campaign unless Israel gave up territory and permitted a Palestinian state.

"It is no more than naive self-delusion to claim that Israel is capable of achieving peace without a full withdrawal from Palestinian and Arab territory and without recognizing the right of the Palestinians to return to self-determination and establish an independent state with its capital in Jerusalem," Arafat said.

The Palestinian leader paid tribute to slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and defeated Prime Minister Shimon Peres. And while expressing his wariness about Netanyahu, he said nothing would deter him from building on what he called the "peace of the brave."

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