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World - Middle East

U.S., Israel say Mideast peace on track

'Your first visit as Israel's leader has been an enormous success,' Albright told Barak

Israel wounds three Palestinians in Gaza clashes

Arafat seeks PLO unity, dreads U.S. pressure

Mideast peace


July 20, 1999
Web posted at: 4:12 p.m. EDT (2012 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking Tuesday before a series of meetings with U.S. congressional leaders, said he was confident of continued U.S. support for the Mideast peace process.

Barak was on the final day of a five-day trip to the United States to promote his peace efforts. Earlier Tuesday, he met for breakfast with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who praised Barak's commitment.

"I think it's fair to say that the prime minister's visit has ushered in a new phase in both Israeli-U.S. relations and in Arab-Israeli peace," Albright said. "As the prime minister has said, tough and painful decisions will be required by all parties, but it is equally clear that we are now pointed in the right direction."

Albright also reiterated her plans to travel to the Middle East next month to push the peace process along.

Barak met with Albright and President Bill Clinton in the early part of his U.S. visit late last week, then traveled to New York over the weekend for meetings with American Jewish leaders.

He returned to Washington for a White House dinner Sunday night and further meetings with Clinton, Albright and other administration officials Monday and Tuesday.

Clinton, Barak pledge cooperation

On Monday, Barak stressed Israel's commitment to the October 1998 Wye River accord -- suspended by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu -- and pledged to implement it. He set a 15-month timetable for completing talks on the issue.

Barak and Clinton
Barak and Clinton announced they will meet every four months in an effort to advance the Middle East peace process  

"We do not intend to drag our feet for another three years," he said Monday at a news conference with the president.

But Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said Tuesday that a 15-month time frame is too long.

"We don't agree to this. We need to see an immediate implementation to what has been agreed upon ... It is not reasonable to waste more time with the new government," he said.

In Washington, Barak immediately modified his earlier statement.

"I agree with him. It won't take that long," Barak said after a meeting with Vice President Al Gore.

Clinton and Barak pledged Monday to meet regularly until Clinton leaves office in January 2001.

Before meeting with Clinton, Barak met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, pledging to phase out U.S. economic aid to Israel over the next 10 years. But military aid will be boosted if Congress approves.

Following his meeting with Albright, the Israeli prime minister was to meet with congressional leaders and attend a luncheon at Gore's residence.

Barak will leave Washington Tuesday and fly to London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the peace process moved on several fronts:

  • Israeli Interior Minister Natan Sharansky said that Israel would review is policy of stripping Palestinians of their right to live in Jerusalem if they leave the city for more than seven years.
  • Arafat plans to meet with leaders of two Palestinian Liberation Organization groups that oppose his peace deals with Israel.
  • Barak's chief of staff, Danny Yatom, said that talks with Syria could resume in a matter of weeks
  • Jewish settlers in the Golan Heights -- which Barak said over the weekend would be under discussion with Syria -- announced a propaganda campaign aimed at stopping any withdrawal from the strategic plateau.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Clinton, Barak to meet every four months
July 19, 1999
Israeli media: U.S. offers $1.2 billion for West Bank pullout
July 18, 1999
Israeli premier to meet with U.S. Jewish leaders
July 17, 1999
Albright praises Barak, plans Mideast visit
July 16, 1999
Clinton, Barak vow to keep peace on track
July 15, 1999
Barak arrives in U.S.
July 14, 1999

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