Arafat to Netanyahu: Stop evading Oslo agreement
Palestine-Israel, Politics, 2/25/1998
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat reiterated in Gaza Wednesday his rejection of an Israeli offer to start Camp David-style negotiations on the final status of the Palestinian territories unless Israel first implements all the outstanding clauses of the interim agreements, mainly the three-phase redeployment of its troops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Speaking to reporters upon his return from Egypt and Brussels, Arafat said the Israeli offer made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday cannot be accepted as long as it constitutes an attempt to evade implementing clauses of the interim agreement.
Arafat met earlier with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, on his way back from Brussels where he attended the UN-sponsored conference on the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people. Arafat, his aides said, had a "successful and fruitful discussion with his brother, the President of Egypt. Both had focused on the latest developments in light of the Baghdad deal that was reached between Iraq and the UN and the prospects of renewing peace efforts on the Palestinian track."
The sources said the Israeli proposal to hold Camp David-style talks between Palestine and Israel was not raised in full during the Arafat-Mubarak meeting "though the two leaders agreed that all interim agreements should be implemented before any talks are started on the final status of the Palestinian territories."
Back in Brussels, Arafat had also repeated his position saying that the most important thing is the redeployment of Israeli forces and fulfillment of the the existing agreements. He added that if this is done, he would be willing to meet with Netanyahu immediately in order to continue the process.
Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, stated that no progress has so far been achieved in any of the contacts that have taken place between Palestinian and Israeli officials and noted that recent talks at US ambassador Ed Walker's residence had reached a deadlock.
Palestinian chief negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat and Israeli cabinet secretary had a number of meetings at Walker's house, with the participation of other Palestinian and Israeli negotiators. Brigadier General Fayez Zeidan, head of the Palestinian Aviation Authority, who participated in a number of meetings with his Israeli counterparts said that a marginal breakthrough was achieved in the talks on the Gaza International Airport "but more work is needed to sign the airport protocol."
Zeidan said that in the Monday evening meeting with the Israeli delegation, all issues pertinent to the airport were raised and discussed, including security and technical matters. "What matters is not this kind of relief we find in talks with the Israeli side but a concrete signing by Israel of the airport protocol so we can start operating it in full gear," he said. He added that the problem Palestinian negotiators face nowadays is not the lack of an Israeli signing on those agreements as much as it is a fundamental lack of Israeli commitment to implementing those agreements.
Zeidan said the two parties discussed the radar location issue and agreed that the airport's airspace will not be part of Israel's airspace as previously demanded by the Israeli negotiators. He added that an agreement was also reached on the eastern and northern runways but noted that minor differences still exist in the security aspect of the talks.
"We agreed on having a joint section where Palestinian and Israeli security officers work jointly for an interim period but ultimately, the security control over the airport is going to be exclusively Palestinian, though there are some special cases where security matters will be shared with the Israelis."
Zeidan ruled out the possibility of Palestinians being able to use the Gaza Airport for their pilgrimage trip to Mecca and Median in Saudi Arabia, due to start on March 19. He said Israeli has delayed the signing of the airport protocol and as such has disrupted Palestinian plans to fly Palestinian Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia directly from Gaza International Airport instead of having them driven to Al Arish in Egypt from which they would board Mecca-bound planes.
He stressed that if the protocol is signed before mid-March, the Palestinian Aviation Authority will make every effort to guarantee that pilgrims can fly from Gaza on direct flights to Saudi Arabia.
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