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World - Middle East

Mideast negotiators: Don't give in to extremists


Despite attack, will intensify peace efforts

October 19, 1998
Web posted at: 3:11 p.m. EDT (1911 GMT)

WYE MILLS, Maryland (CNN) -- Israeli and Palestinian negotiators attending a Middle East summit in this secluded location on Monday pledged to intensify efforts to secure lasting peace in the Middle East -- despite a Palestinian grenade attack that wounded at least 60 people in southern Israel.

"We both agree today to intensify our efforts to achieve agreement that will lead to a secure and lasting peace," said a statement read by U.S. spokesman James Rubin on behalf of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Grenade attack calls attention to security concerns

"We agree not to give in to efforts of extremists to destroy the hope for peace and security for both our peoples," the statement said.

The statement appeared to signal that Israelis and Palestinians would try to find a mutually acceptable peace accord.

Clinton condemned the grenade attack in Israel before departing for more  

U.S. President Bill Clinton on Monday was again in Wye to try to help broker an agreement between Netanyahu and Arafat.

He condemned the attack in the Israeli town of Beersheba and said that talks were the only way forward. The president added that he hoped both Israelis and Palestinians would make the "hard decisions necessary to move this peace process forward." (Audio 388 K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Rubin's statement came less than an hour after Netanyahu said that debate on all issues at the current Wye summit had been postponed -- except for security measures.

The Israelis called on Arafat to give them detailed and firm security guarantees on how the Palestinian Authority wants to crack down on terrorist activities in light of the latest attack.

"We now need a detailed security plan from the Palestinians," Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold told reporters. (Audio 291 K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Israeli officials said all other issues that had been on the table at Wye, such as a Gaza airport, would not be discussed for the time being.

Palestinians angered by demand

The Palestinian delegation had been clearly angered by the Israeli demands.

The Palestinians' representative in the United States, Hassan Abdel Rahman, said the attack should serve as an incentive to accelerate the negotiations.

"If Mr. Netanyahu is looking for a pretext to stop the negotiations and undermine the process, he will always find one. This attack, which we have condemned, should serve as an incentive to accelerate the negotiations," said Rahman.

"If this is his condition to go ahead, it reflects lack of political will to proceed with the peace process and lack of seriousness," he said.

A senior aide to Arafat had also strongly condemned the grenade attack.

"Of course we condemn this act, an act meant to sabotage what is happening here. I think we should consider this as a motive for all of us to work harder to reach an agreement that is good for both of us, that is fair for both of us," Marwan Kanafani said. (Audio 291 K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

Reports of progress

Earlier in the day, there had been reports of a possible breakthrough in the negotiations.

Late Sunday night, Clinton had reportedly brought Arafat a partial agreement to which he said Netanyahu had agreed. But Arafat told him to seek more than a partial agreement, Palestinian sources said Monday.

The partial package would have included a further 13 percent withdrawal by Israel from West Bank territory, an agreement on security issues, an agreement on the establishment of a Palestinian airport and safe passage for Palestinians.

The partial agreement also provided for the release of a limited number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli custody, a Palestinian source said.

The partial agreement did not address two key points Arafat wanted addressed, the sources said: a third phase of Israeli troop withdrawals and the status of all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Correspondent Walter Rodgers contributed to this report.

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