Arafat agrees to consider proposal
July 27, 1999
Web posted at: 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT)
From staff and wire reports.
EREZ, Gaza (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on
Tuesday asked Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat to
merge discussions about implementing the Wye River accord into
talks on the issue of the final status for Palestinians.
Arafat agreed to form a joint Palestinian-Israeli committee
to consider the proposal for two weeks before making a
The two leaders sat down to their first working meeting
Tuesday since Barak was sworn in as prime minister earlier
The main topic of discussion was implementation of the Wye
River accord, signed last October by Arafat and then-Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Netanyahu, charging the Palestinians weren't doing enough to curb terrorist activities, suspended the accord in December.
Since his election, Barak has made clear his intentions to completely implement the accord, but is expected to ask for some concessions on Tuesday.
Israeli radio reported that Barak wants to delay one phase of troop redeployment from lands in the West Bank until the so-called "final status" talks -- on such issues as borders and the future of Jerusalem -- begin.
Under Wye, Israel was to withdraw troops from 13 percent of the West Bank. Netanyahu stopped the withdrawal in November after only a withdrawal from only 2 percent.
Barak reportedly agrees to the next phase, a 5 percent withdrawal, but wants to wait on the third phase because a complete pullout would leave 15 Jewish settlements surrounded by Palestinian-controlled land.
But, Barak said, Israel is prepared to move forward
on Wye if the Palestinians reject his proposals to alter the timetable.
"All the points connected to the Wye agreement will be decided only in a way that will be acceptable by the other party, the Palestinian Authority, and not decided unilaterally by Israel," he said.
Palestinians oppose delay
The Palestinians are already on record as opposing Barak's suggestions of change.
"I hope that nothing will be suggested to the effect of trying to postpone or freeze implementation of any of the segments of the redeployment, because I think this is the key to restore confidence in the peace process," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
"We need the complete, honest implementation of the Wye agreement and all outstanding interim issues," said Arafat adviser Nabil Abu Rdainah. "We reject changing the agreement, which has already been signed and just requires implementation."
But Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin called for Arafat to accept Barak's proposals, because they are not aimed at stalling the process indefinitely.
"We are not talking about Netanyahu II," Beilin said on Israeli radio.
Barak to Egypt next
Barak and Arafat had planned to meet Saturday, but the death of Moroccan King Hassan II forced a postponement. The two leaders met previously five days after Barak was sworn in as Israel's new prime minister.
In Morocco's capital, Rabat for Hassan's funeral, Barak met briefly with Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton, and took the opportunity to meet with other long-time Arab adversaries.
Israeli television showed a surprisingly friendly exchange between the newly elected Israeli leader and Algeria's new leader, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
That meeting was most surprising because Israel and Algeria are still technically in a state of war. Arab analysts say such meetings are important, but that hard negotiation still lies ahead.
"Hopefully these types of meetings in Rabat would be the beginning of more serious kinds of meetings between different Arab leaders and the new Israeli leadership," said Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khateeb.
Barak is also scheduled to fly to Cairo on Thursday for a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also postponed by Hassan's funeral.
Correspondent Gayle Young contributed to this report.
Moroccan meetings boost Barak's peace efforts
July 25, 1999
Morocco's King Hassan buried as thousands mourn
July 25, 1999
Arab-Israeli talks delayed for Moroccan king's funeral
July 24, 1999
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