PNA angry at Israel's deferral of third phase pullout
Palestine-Israel, Politics, 1/17/2000
Palestinian officials strongly condemned Israel's decision to defer the further redeployment, scheduled on this 20 January, by three more weeks. PNA President Yasser Arafat blamed Israel for the deadlock in the talks and said that the Jewish state "is continuing in its lack of seriousness."
"A lack of progress in the talks," warned Arafat, "will damage the peace process." Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Israeli government has created numerous pretexts to justify the numerous delays in the implementation of the interim agreements. He said that the PNA would not accept Israel's excuses and has appealed for support from various countries. "There has been a chain of Israeli delays in the implementation of the interim agreements and therefore it is difficult to see how the final status talks can achieve any progress while the interim issues are still up in limbo," said Erekat.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel announced Saturday night that he has decided to defer the upcoming stage of redeployment of his troops in the West Bank for three more weeks, waiting for the outcome of this week's summit between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and US President Bill Clinton in Washington on January 20. Barak, Israeli sources said, wants to see what new ideas the Palestinian leader is taking with him to Washington before he makes up his mind on the redeployment process. The sources said that one of the reasons Barak decided to postpone the implementation of the third phase redeployment was his failure to mobilize enough support in his Cabinet before he leaves to the US within a few days for further discussions with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa.
Israeli officials said that Barak would prefer to agree on the third stage of withdrawal in a meeting with President Arafat. Arafat was invited for a meeting at the White House on January 20, and Barak is going to be in Shepherdstown for the new round of talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. Some Palestinian and Israeli observers said that a three-way summit involving Clinton, Arafat and Barak is very likely to take place in Washington. If such a meeting is held, they said, the three leaders might come out with a joint declaration on the detailed third phase redeployment in which Israel is due to pull out of 6.1 percent of the West Bank.
The PNA and Israel have failed to settle their differences on the impending withdrawals of the Israeli army as stipulated by the Oslo Accords. The Palestinians are adamant to receive at least parts of occupied Jerusalem in the area of Abu Dis and Izariyeh. Israel, meanwhile, hinted it would listen to the Palestinian demands but insisted that the pace, size and location of the further redeployment in the Jerusalem area and its surroundings will only be determined in the course of the final status arrangement negotiations and that territories in the greater Jerusalem area ought not be included in the implementation of the interim agreement.
According to the interim agreement, ratified as part of the Sharm Al Sheikh memorandum of last year, Israel was to have transferred 6.1 percent of West Bank land to the Palestinian Authority on January 20. On Friday, Barak held another meeting on the withdrawal maps, which were drafted by senior army officers, and a decision was made not to present them to the Sunday Cabinet meeting for approval. Officials in Barak's office claimed that unwritten understandings reached in the Sharm Al Sheikh agreement did not consider the deferral of the implementation of the withdrawal by three weeks a violation of the agreement.
The Palestinians are demanding the transfer of territories in the Jerusalem area as part of the third stage of withdrawal, including territories in the area of Abu Dis. Israeli officials, however, believe that the fate of those territories should only be determined in the course of the final status arrangement negotiations and that territories in the greater Jerusalem area ought not be included in the implementation of the interim agreement.
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