Israel, Palestinians trade charges over deadlock
Israel and the Palestinians traded accusations Sunday over who was to blame for the deadlock in efforts to strike a comprehensive peace accord by a mid-September deadline.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would be held responsible if the two sides failed to strike a deal, but the Palestinians stood firm on their demand for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory, including Jerusalem.
"The PA chairman (Arafat) must decide whether or not he is willing to move towards a settlement; if not, he must then bear the responsibility for the deadlock which is liable to be created," Barak told a weekly cabinet meeting.
He said there were ongoing low-intensity contacts at various levels in a addition to intensive diplomatic efforts as the September 13 deadline approaches.
"There is no way to know the outcome of the current efforts. While only one side is necessary to force a confrontation, an agreement requires both sides," he added.
The two sides face a self-imposed September 13 deadline for an accord on Jerusalem, final borders, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlements and water and security issues.
"Any solution that does not include an Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem and Palestinian sovereignty in Jerusalem is rejected," said top Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qorei, who is also speaker of the Palestinian legislative council.
"They want the Palestinian side to be flexible, but on what? They want parts of Palestinian flesh when they request Israeli sovereignty on al-Haram al-Sharif," he said, referring to the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City that is the third holiest site in Islam.
The compound is known to Jews as Temple Mount, built on the site of two former Jewish temples.
Sovereignty over east Jerusalem, particularly the Old City, is the key sticking point in efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord and led to the collapse of the Camp David summit a month ago.
"We are also going to refuse any solution that does not include an Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian lands, which were occupied in 1967," Qorei told Voice of Palestine radio, referring to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He said that after Camp David, there had been no "real serious negotiations," adding that Israel's position in the talks must be one that abides by international resolutions.
"In absence of that, we are going to continue to tread water," he said.
The United States and Egypt are intensifying efforts to bring the Palestinians and Israelis closer to an accord, particularly on Jerusalem, and President Bill Clinton is due in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak.
Clinton is also due to hold separate meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 6.
But Qorei said there were "no signs" of a three-way summit. — (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)