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>PD Dec. 8, 1994, V2, #220
Christopher Meets with Arafat
By Ron Pemstein (Gaza)
Secretary of State Warren Christopher has held talks
with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat in Gaza city, in the midst
of his meetings with Israeli leaders in Jerusalem.
The shadow of an Israeli Cabinet decision hung over the talks.
The most urgent topic for Arafat is holding
elections for the Palestinian authority as soon as Israeli
soldiers pull out of Arab towns in the West Bank. Israeli Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin has already hinted the Cabinet may
delay withdrawing the soldiers because of concerns about Arab
terrorism against Israelis.
In the meeting held at the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation
building on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea,
Christopher and Arafat sidestepped giving public
advice to the Cabinet that meets again Thursday to decide the
Arafat, both in the private meeting with Christopher
and publicly before reporters, emphasizes the need for elections
and for taking care of the Israeli security concerns.
"We are looking to have the election very quickly, but at
the same time we are putting our concentration on the
needs of security for the Israelis, and we are ready to
discuss it in detail with them."
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres may inform Arafat about
the Cabinet's thinking when they meet on today. The Israelis
want special security arrangements for the city of Hebron, in the
West Bank, where Israeli settlers are living in the town center.
Christopher describes this meeting as his best
to date with Arafat, because the Palestinian leader was
conscious of his responsibility to control terrorism here in Gaza
and in Jericho.
Christopher has been sympathetic to the Israeli security
concerns. At the same time, he wants to see the agreement with
the Palestinians carried out. As one American official puts it,
this is a fundamental bargain, political and economic life for
the Palestinians in return for Israeli security.
Christopher told reporters here he is encouraged a solution
will be found.
"We recognized in our discussions today the importance of
holding the elections at an early date. In our
discussions, the chairman also made it clear that he
understands the responsibilities and commitments that he
has undertaken in the declaration of principles, and he
intends to carry out those responsibilities against
terror and violence."
.By coming to Gaza, the secretary of state wanted to symbolize
American support for the efforts the Palestinians are making to
carry out the agreement with the Israelis and to establish self
American officials say Arafat was lavish in his praise of the
US efforts at the recent conference in Brussels, where donors
pledged $105 million in new money for the Palestinian
government here to fill in a budget gap and $24 million in
Palestinians, both armed and unarmed, stood guard for
Christopher's motorcade along every meter of the road between
the last Israeli checkpoint and the meeting here. Security is an
issue for the Palestinians, too, because Islamic fundamentalist
attacks against Israelis damage Arafat's credibility.
Everybody has to understand, Arafat says, there is only one
Palestine National Authority, and everyone must respect the law.
Christopher Ends Mideast Shuttle
By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)
Secretary of State Warren Christopher concluded his
brief Israel-Syria shuttle Wednesday morning with statements
indicating no change in the positions which separate the two
countries and indications any Israel-Syria peace accord is months
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin says he got some hope
for the future from his meeting with Christopher, but no
indication of significant change in the positions which have
created the current stalemate.
"I heard from Secretary Christopher his impressions from
his visit to Damascus and I believe there are
impressions and information that he will speak about
later that show that we can overcome certain
difficulties in the future."
But Christopher declined to give any details of his
talks which might provide evidence of progress or reason for
optimism. And speaking in Hebrew, Rabin added that basic
positions have not changed. Israel wants Syrian President Hafez
al-Assad to publicly condemn terrorism and state his vision of
full peace. Assad wants Israel to publicly promise to
return all of the Golan Heights before he will agree to direct
negotiations, without the US mediators.
Christopher met with Assad in Damascus
Tuesday afternoon and with Rabin here Wednesday morning. The
secretary said he concluded that the two leaders are serious
about making peace, but are also focused on the needs and
interests of their own countries.
"I feel that there are real opportunities here to reach a
peace agreement between Israel and Syria. What is going
on here are serious discussions on both sides by leaders
who are, I think, determined to pursue peace, but very
conscious of the needs and interests of both of their
countries. Our work, I believe, is narrowing the gaps,
but much hard work remains to be done."
Christopher also repeated the US commitment to
Israel's security, a statement which will help Israel in the
talks with Syria and it its dispute the Palestinians over the
withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the West Bank. Just
before leaving for Gaza to focus on Israel-Palestinian issues,
Christopher said the US mediation between Israel and Syria
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