Arafat Rejects US Offer to Hold Summit in mid-July
Palestinian president Yasser Arafat Wednesday rejected a US offer to host a summit in mid-July aimed at hammering out a framework agreement for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, a Palestinian official said.
But Palestinian International Cooperation Minister, Nabil Shaath, told reporters after a two-hour meeting between Arafat and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that a summit could take place at the end of July.
Arafat said that he "would welcome the decision of US President Clinton about a summit."
Clinton is expected to make an announcement about the much-anticipated summit after Albright returns to Washington Thursday.
Albright held talks with Arafat after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister David Levy, amid clear signs that the demands of the two sides were totally incompatible.
Arafat aide Nabil Abu Rdeineh said that Arafat stressed to Albright the Palestinian "red lines" for a final peace deal with Israel, which include the return of all lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war, including east Jerusalem.
But Levy said earlier Wednesday that Israel would not "surrender" to these demands, while Barak said Israel's own "red lines" included no return to the borders of June 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordanian control and the Gaza Strip from Egypt, and a united Jerusalem.
Senior Palestinian negotiator for final status talks, Ahmed Qorei said that Israel must implement an overdue "third phase" troop withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and release Palestinian prisoners before a summit can be held.
"If there is no international legitimacy and the respecting of UN resolutions and the continued occupation of land captured after 1967 and no solutions to Jerusalem and the settlers, then there is no point in continuing the negotiations," Qorei added – RAMALLAH (AFP)
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