Start of Mideast negotiations not promising
Meetings undermined by violence in Gaza Strip
In this story:
June 12, 1997
Web posted at: 8:34 p.m. EDT (2034 GMT)
RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Egyptian envoy Osama el-Baz met
with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Thursday in an attempt
to revive peace talks, but there were indications it will be
a long and difficult process.
"I would not advise raising any expectations," Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat said after el-Baz met with Palestinian
President Yasser Arafat. "Today's meeting demonstrated that
there is a gap that exists between the two sides."
El-Baz met with Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah
after meeting in Tel Aviv with Israeli Prime Minister
It was the first such meetings since negotiations ceased in
March over the construction of a Jewish settlement in east
Jerusalem, and it was undermined by an outbreak of violence
in the Gaza Strip.
The trouble began after about 3,000 Palestinian protesters
went to a disputed area near the Jewish settlement of Morag
to plant olive and fruit trees. When Israeli troops ordered
the Palestinians to leave, they hurled stones at the
soldiers, who responded with tear gas and bullets.
A 72-year-old protester collapsed, apparently after inhaling
tear gas. Doctors said he died from a heart attack.
Gaza situation 'tense and sensitive'
Two Palestinians were wounded by shrapnel and one by a rubber
bullet, hospital officials said. A dozen other Palestinians
were beaten with clubs by Israeli soldiers, according to
In a second clash, Palestinian truckers blocked the entrance
to a Gaza settlement to prevent the unveiling of a memorial
for an Israeli soldier killed in a battle last fall between
Israeli and Palestinian troops.
Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli cars stuck in the
ensuing traffic jam, smashing several windshields. Shots were
fired at one Israeli car.
The Israeli army said Palestinian police eventually restored
order. But Brig. Gen. Yoav Galant, commander of Israeli
forces in Gaza, called the current situation in the Gaza
Strip "tense and sensitive."
The central issue in the negotiations continues to be
Israel's construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, and especially a new Jewish neighborhood in a
disputed area of Jerusalem.
Israel occupied east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six Day War, and
claims the whole city as its eternal, undivided capital in a
move that is not recognized internationally.
Arafat determined to have Palestinian state
The Palestinians want an independent state in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip with a capital in east Jerusalem.
Arafat told a visiting Arab-American group Wednesday that he
would not stop until a Palestinian state had been
established. "We have been fighting 100 years," he said, "and
I say we are willing to fight another 100 years."
Netanyahu has refused to budge on Israeli expansion into
territory it has occupied since 1967, although there have
been media reports that say Israel is offering to slow the
construction in Jerusalem to a near-halt.
El-Baz professes to be untroubled by the apparent stalemate.
"We will continue with more consultations and contacts in
the coming period," he said after meeting with Arafat. "We
hope this ... in a positive spirit will lead to a
breakthrough in the situation that would allow the peace
process to be preserved."
"The most important thing is to find a formula that will be
acceptable to both parties for maintaining peace and
stability and tranquillity in the region."
Palestinians angered by U.S. resolution
There was no indication that el-Baz had arranged another
round of talks, but Erekat said it was premature to jump to
conclusions about the success of the mission.
"We are continuing efforts ... to try to resume the peace
talks and stabilize the security situation," Erekat said.
Further complicating the issue Thursday was a warning from a
top Palestinian official that the Palestinians would pull out
of the peace talks altogether, if the United States
recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moves its
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 406-17 Tuesday to
recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to allocate $100
million to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
"We refuse this resolution," said Ahmed Qureia, speaker of
the Palestinian legislative council, "and we want to address
a very clear message that this resolution will lead to more
violence, and the American Congress will hold the
The issue is so explosive that no major country has moved its
embassy to Jerusalem.
Correspondent Walter Rodgers, The Associated Press
and Reuters contributed to this report.
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