Arabs Insist on Palestinian Rights on Refugees, Jerusalem
Arab foreign ministers on Thursday stood firm on the Palestinian right to sovereignty over Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem and that of refugees to return to their homes, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said.
The ministers "unanimously gave support to the Palestinian position concerning Jerusalem and Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif", the al-Aqsa mosque compound, Moussa said after near four hours of talks.
"There is a commitment in the Arab, Islamic and Christian world to the rights of the Palestinians over Jerusalem and over refugees, particularly the right to return," Mussa said.
Asked about an eventual Palestinian agreement to the peace plan of US President Bill Clinton, Moussa replied there were still questions and clarifications sought by the Palestinians.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat briefed the committee on his talks with Clinton held Tuesday, after which he conditionally accepted the plan, according to the White House.
But Arafat gave no statement after the meeting here, even though top aide Nabil Shaath said he would announce the Palestinian position after briefing the ministers on the US proposals.
Clinton has proposed that the Palestinians should have sovereignty over the mosque esplanade on top of it, and Israel over the "Wailing Wall" on the western side of the sacred hill.
The al-Aqsa mosque is the third most holy shrine in Islam, while the Western Wall, the last vestige of their temple destroyed by the Romans in AD70, is the holiest site for Jews.
The plan also provides for Palestinian control over Arab areas of east Jerusalem, 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip.
However, the Palestinians will be required to waive the right of return of refugees who fled Israel in the wake of the creation of the Jewish state in 1948 and their descendants.
In an interview with Voice of Palestine radio, Shaath, who is in Cairo, said that Arafat had voiced reservations to Clinton about refugees and over anything short of full sovereignty over the holy site in Jerusalem.
"We request the amendments of some points or to start negotiations while accounting for the Palestinian reservations," he said.
"We cannot commit to resolutions that do not give the legitimate rights of return to refugees based on (UN) resolution 194. We accept no suspicions in regards to Palestinian sovereignty over al-Haram al-Sharif," he said -- CAIRO (AFP)