Arafat Dismisses Barak Gesture as just 'Another Warning'
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday derided Israel's decision to extend a deadline for the cessation of violence in the region as an empty gesture, reported AFP.
"Another warning, after another warning, after another warning," was Arafat's reaction to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's decision to give him another "three or four days" to end the unrest, as a previous two-day ultimatum expired.
"Unfortunately, there are still violent clashes in which the Israeli army is using tanks, artillery, rockets and helicopters against our people in Hebron, Nablus, Bethlehem," said Arafat as he emerged from a series of talks designed to end the violence and save the Middle East peace process, said the agency.
Arafat hosted UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for talks at his Gaza offices early Tuesday, the second meeting between the men since Annan arrived in the region late Monday in a desperate bid to save the peace process submerged by a 13-day tidal wave of violence, added AFP.
Annan made no comment after his 30-minute one-on-one meeting with the Palestinian President, which was immediately followed by three-way talks involving Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Ivanov then met Arafat for a further one-on-one session.
Annan was scheduled to meet Barak in Jerusalem in the afternoon, according to AFP.
"We hope that Russia, as one of the sponsors of the peace process, will continue its role. It was an important and successful meeting with Ivanov. We discussed in detail issues related to the peace process and how to protect it despite the challenges we face," said Arafat.
Ivanov, who is due to hold talks later Tuesday with Barak and Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, said Russia still supported "a just peace in the Middle East."
"We are concerned about the recent situation in the region. We discussed in detail the situation, how to put an end to violence and to resume the negotiating process. Russia will give all its efforts to achieve this goal."
Meanwhile, top Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Ereikat, told Cable News Network (CNN) that Barak's new ultimatum was "like adding fuel to the fire."
"You do not calm the situation by issuing ultimatums or threats to the Palestinian people," he told CNN.
He added that what Palestinians need to see is an "end to this massacre committed against our people." - (Several Sources)
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