Arafat: Peace process must 'carry on,' despite housing
March 4, 1997
Web posted at: 11:15 a.m. EST (1615 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said
Tuesday he has "no other alternative" but to press peace
negotiations with Israel despite its decision to build new
Jewish housing in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem.
"It is our duty and our job and our target to carry on with
the peace process," Arafat said in a speech at the National
Press Club in Washington.
"We have no other alternative. And in spite of all the
difficulties we are facing, we have one alternative: to carry
on with the peace process. This is our strategic target."
Arafat said Israel's decision to go ahead with the 6,500-apartment housing project in the East Jerusalem area of Jabal Abu Ghneim, known by Israelis as Har Homa, violates a previously negotiated peace agreement.
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President Clinton, in a meeting Monday with Arafat, also
criticized Israel's decision, saying it "builds mistrust"
between Israelis and the Palestinians.
The U.N. Security Council was to meet Tuesday to discuss the
project, and European diplomats were expected to ask Israel
to avoid actions that could change the status of Jerusalem.
Palestinians claim the eastern sector of Jerusalem as a
future capital and fear Har Homa would cut off Arab sections
of Jerusalem from the West Bank.
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PLO leader says Israel makes peace 'difficult'
"What has been declared recently by the Israeli government
has made very difficult circumstances for the peace process,"
said Arafat, who made some of his comments in Arabic but also
waived aside an interpreter and spoke in halting English.
"It is a real challenge for the peace process. No one can
imagine the damage for the peace process for that (housing)
"It will isolate Jerusalem more and more and more and more
and ... separate between Jerusalem and Bethlehem."
Nevertheless, Arafat also said he considers Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu his peace "partner" just as
previous Israeli leaders were.
U.S., Palestinians to form joint committee
Arafat is in the United States for a series of meetings at
the White House and the State Department.
Following the talks, the Clinton administration plans to
announce the formation of a U.S.-Palestinian committee to
regularize contacts on trade, commerce, technology and
cultural affairs, a senior administration official told CNN.
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