Arafat insists on Israeli troop redeployment in talks with Ross
Palestine, Politics, 10/21/1997
The Palestinian-Israeli Guidance Committees resumed in Tel Aviv Tuesday their talks in the presence of US Special Envoy to the Middle East, Dennis Ross in order to set a mechanism to intensify work of the nine committees, Palestinian sources said, adding that heads of the committees will convene once every ten days with US participation to find a binding mechanism to implement agreements. Referring to the meeting Monday night between PNA President Yasser Arafat and Ross, the sources said that Arafat had insisted that Israel should implement the two phases of troop redeployment in the West Bank and had requested a US involvement in defining the area in which redeployment will take place.
In their meeting in Ramallah, Arafat presented to Ross a political document including Palestinian ideas for resuming the peace process with an emphasis on three major principles that include the cessation of all unilateral actions, implementation of the two phases of troop redeployment and the implementation of all the outstanding clauses of the interim agreements.
Yet, it is not clear whether the PNA and Israel will ever get to the speedy final status talks in light of Israel's rejection of Palestinian demands to halt all settlement activities prior to the start of such talks. Dr. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, had told reporters on Monday that President Arafat is willing to start the final-status negotiations provided Israel stops settlement activities, especially in East Jerusalem.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any talk about freezing settlement works, stressing his determination to resume building the settlement of Harhoma on Jabal Abu Ghaneim in East Jerusalem. The maximum Israel was reportedly ready to offer in return for the start of the final status talks, according to Foreign Minister David Levy, is to reduce construction works in the Jewish settlements down to the "necessary minimum limit." ³We want to move forward and not create a situation which might frustrate all efforts exerted,² Levy was quoted as saying on Monday.
Palestinian observers in Ramallah believe Israel is trying to create an impression that things are moving positively on the Palestinian track in order to help encourage the Arab countries to attend the Doha International Economic Conference in Qatar in early Novemeber. Any report of a breakthrough could help those countries decide to attend, mainly Egypt, the sources said. Therefore, it is believed an agreement is very likely to be reached between the PNA and Israel with regard to Palestinian use of the Gaza International Airport. Such an agreement is expected within days, provided the Palestinians and their Israeli partners reach an agreed formula on security arrangements in the airport.
Brigadier General Fayez Zeidan, head of the Palestinian Civil Aviation Authority, said an agreement was reached that all walls surrounding the airport should be under Palestinian control and that TV monitors placed in the airport be connected with a joint security office to transfer all data. He added that Israel requested to have a security checkpoint outside the airport building, and that the Palestinians accepted the Israeli request in principle but with Palestinian presence. Zeidan added that the Palestinian side insisted that the checks deal only with security, while all issues related to passports and customs be under Palestinian control.
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