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Archive for Saturday, August 19, 2000

No progress on Mideast talks

U.S. mediator brings new proposals on key issues

August 19, 2000

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— Israeli and Palestinian leaders accused each other of intransigence Friday, as a U.S. envoy was expected to raise new proposals on the two most intractable issues of the peace talks -- Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak said after a meeting with the envoy, Dennis Ross, that there is no point in holding another Mideast summit hosted by President Clinton as long as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat showed no signs of flexibility.

Arafat, who was touring Japan, one of the last stops on this world tour, blamed Barak for the breakdown of last month's Camp David summit and warned that there would be an "explosion" in the Middle East if negotiations failed altogether.

Ross arrived in the Middle East on Thursday to gauge prospects for a second summit during which an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty could be concluded.

Barak's office said Clinton would meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders separately when they attend the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York in early September.

At Camp David, negotiators reached some understandings on the borders of a Palestinian state and Jewish settlements, but gaps remained and nothing was put on paper.

A Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Friday that during his current trip, Ross was expected to deliver new proposals on the most difficult issues -- the future of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

At Camp David, Barak for the first time offered the Palestinians control over parts of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, but Arafat insisted on full sovereignty over the eastern sector, which is home to major Muslim, Jewish and Christian shrines.

In a gesture to the Palestinians, Barak delivered his clearest statement on independence yet, saying Thursday that he offered them a state if they formally ended their conflict with Israel.

At the same time, Barak warned the Palestinians not to declare a state unilaterally. Arafat has said often that he has the right to make such a declaration after Sept. 13, a target date the two sides set for completing a peace treaty.

Ross on Friday paid a courtesy call to Israel's new president, Moshe Katsav, before holding two hours of talks with Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Dahlan.

Later in the day, Ross met with Barak. "During the meeting, Ross emphasized the time factor and said there was only a very narrow window of opportunity," Barak's office said in a statement.

Barak told Ross that he did not believe a second summit would make sense as long as Arafat did not show flexibility.

A Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that on Saturday, Ross was to fly to Egypt, which in recent days has taken on a more active role as a negotiator.

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