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S P E C I A L Struggle for Peace

Albright, Arafat end talks without breakthrough

Albright and Arafat conclude peace talks in London  

In this story:

May 18, 1998
Web posted at: 3:01 p.m. EDT (1901 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat ended their talks on the Mideast peace process without major progress, a State Department spokesman said Monday.

"I cannot say that we have a breakthrough," James Rubin told reporters after a meeting that lasted one hour and 45 minutes. "On the contrary, we are working very hard to overcome differences."

Rubin said Albright told Arafat about her talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington last week.

He said Albright would fly to Geneva to brief President Clinton on the negotiations, which have been deadlocked for the past 14 months.

Asked whether she thought a breakthrough could still be achieved, a weary Albright told reporters as she left her London hotel, "We'll see. We had good, constructive talks."

The United States has been pressing Netanyahu to cede 13 percent of the West Bank still occupied by Israel to Palestinian rule in exchange for a clamp-down on Palestinian terrorists.

Netanyahu wants 'closed deal'

The Israelis have opposed giving up any more than 9 percent, and Netanyahu denied Monday an Israel Radio report that he had accepted the U.S. proposal.

Netanyahu comments on what the Palestinians could do to achieve a breakthrough in peace
icon 266KB/23 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"Certain things were published which were wrong, as if I had agreed to a second redeployment of 13 percent," Netanyahu told a news conference on his return from a visit to the United States. "That is not true.

"There is no agreement. Nothing has been finalized," he said. "There is no breakthrough at this time."

Netanyahu said he is pushing for a "closed deal" that would provide specific terms for the Israeli withdrawal and the start of talks on a final peace settlement.

"We want everything closed as for the first, second, and third withdrawals," he said, so it will be evident that Israel has fulfilled its commitments and the Palestinians cannot make new demands.

He said that new ideas have been discussed and "maybe something will come of those ideas."

Netanyahu said he had discussed three topics with the Americans:

  • Progress in implementing promises made by the Palestinian Authority.

  • The future framework of final status talks and what role the United States will play.

  • Israeli redeployment in the West bank.

'The most important thing is security'

As he has said often in the past, Netanyahu added, "The most important thing is security. Israel should be able to hand over territories that do not endanger its security."

Under the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israeli agreed to make three troop withdrawals before talks begin on a final peace settlement.

Israel has handed over 27 percent of the land it occupied to Palestinian control. But the construction of Israeli housing triggered suicide bombings and other Palestinian violence, causing Israel to demand better security before it handed over more territory.

Israeli officials had said in Washington after Netanyahu's last visit with U.S. officials that he was willing to withdraw from 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for an agreement that would allow the Israelis to keep all the other Palestinian territory they occupy.

However, Netanyahu flatly rejected that idea Monday.

Observers speculate that Netanyahu may have floated the idea in an attempt to determine if the right-wing members of his government would support such a compromise: 13 percent withdrawal now, but no further withdrawals.

The right-wingers in his coalition have threatened to bring down his government if he gives up more than 9 percent.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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