Barak: Next few Weeks will Determine Fate of Peace Process
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Sunday the next few weeks would determine the fate of peace talks with the Palestinians, as the United States pursued efforts to overcome the key stumbling blocks to an accord.
"We will know in several weeks if Yasser Arafat is open to a peace accord or if we are heading towards an impasse," Barak told a weekly cabinet meeting.
"At present we have no indications that the Palestinians have studied our proposals made at Camp David summit, particularly on Jerusalem," he said, according to a statement from his office.
The peace talks at Camp David broke down after two weeks on July 25th over the fate of Jerusalem, the issue at the heart of the decades old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross is currently in the region to try to narrow the gaps before holding a second summit, with the two sides facing a self-imposed September 13 deadline for a final comprehensive accord.
In addition to Jerusalem, which both Israel and the Palestinians demand as their capital, they must find solutions to the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as well as water and security issues.
Turning to Syria, Barak said: "The door is always open to peace negotiations with Syria if the authorities in Damascus are ready for serious dialogue."
The negotiations broke down in January over the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- along with the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.
But Barak added: "We will not take any steps that could be interpreted as a manipulation of the Palestinians." - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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