Ashrawi: Pursuit of Summit Talks Positive, but Israel must Compromise
A senior Palestinian official said Thursday the last-minute rescue of the Camp David peace summit was a small sign of hope, but that it was not likely be enough to persuade Israel to change its positions.
"It means that they are still engaged, which says that it is not entirely hopeless, despite the gaps between both sides," Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian spokeswoman for the Camp David summit told AFP.
Ashrawi, however, accused Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak of behaving like an occupier in his negotiations with Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, handing out dictates rather than making compromises.
US President Bill Clinton announced Thursday that Arafat and Barak had decided to pursue their negotiations during his absence in Japan after the White House earlier declared the summit a failure.
Clinton is due to return from the G-8 summit in Japan to the United States on Sunday, but it was not immediately clear when he would go back to Camp David.
While Ashrawi said the extra time was a sign of Clinton's commitment, she said that the fundamental unwillingness of the Israeli side to make concessions would probably forestall any final peace deal.
"The most that Clinton can hope for is to prevent a breakdown and perhaps to signal a continuation through maybe a framework or principles agreement," she said.
Israel and the Palestinians face a self-imposed September 13th deadline for a final peace deal on the most critical issues in their conflict, including control over Jerusalem, the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the borders of a future Palestinian state.
Both sides fear violence could erupt if the Palestinians carry out a pledge to declare independence come September without an agreement.
Ashrawi said Jerusalem was one of the main sticking points, adding that Arafat has been coordinating with Arab and Islamic leaders to make sure that any possible agreement on the Holy City meets their needs.
"This is crucial because the issue of Jerusalem is important to the Arabs, Muslims and Christians throughout the world. Israel cannot continue to maintain exclusive control and sovereignty. It is not a Jewish city, obviously, it is city for three religions," she said.
Israel claims sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector it occupied in 1967, while the Palestinians want it as the capital of a future state - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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