Arafat-Peres Meeting Delayed; President in Damascus Wednesday
A top Palestinian official said Tuesday that an expected meeting between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will "probably" take place in the coming days. Meanwhile, Arafat heads Wednesday for Damascus for talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Arafat’s aide, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said that "at present, no timing has been set because we have a disagreement over the venue but the meeting will probably take place in a few days."
He said the meeting would not take place before Arafat's two-day visit to Syria starting Wednesday.
Rudeina said Israel had refused a Palestinian offer for the talks to take place in Egypt.
The assistant director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, Gideon Meir, told AFP that Peres was insisting the talks be held at a border crossing between Israel and Palestinian territory.
Peres said Monday that a meeting between him and Arafat on Tuesday had not been settled yet, Israel Radio reported.
He said that there had been talks on a meeting between the two for Tuesday, but that nothing had been confirmed, according to the radio, cited by Haaretz newspaper.
Peres's remarks contradicted what two European foreign ministers said that the Israeli minister and the Palestinian leader would meet Tuesday night.
Rome's foreign ministry said late Monday that a meeting between Peres and Arafat have both told Italian Foreign Minister Renato Ruggiero they hope to meet Tuesday.
Ruggiero, who spoke to both leaders at an unspecified time on Monday, said the two "had confirmed to him their desire to meet Tuesday somewhere in the Middle East," said the ministry in a statement, cited by AFP.
Also, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique said Monday that Peres and Arafat would meet Tuesday.
"I have just had a conversation with... Peres and he confirmed to me that, unless there are new circumstances and despite the severity of the situation, the meeting will take place tomorrow [Tuesday] night somewhere on the frontier of the [Palestinian] territories and Israel," Pique said in comments carried by Spanish state television.
Peres, meanwhile, told foreign journalists Monday evening that the goal of the meeting was to create greater trust and goodwill between the two sides.
"I do not want to be heard as a threat, but this is an important chance, the goal to achieve a cease-fire so that the 'Mitchell Report train' can leave its first station." - Albawaba.com
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