Clinton: Some Progress Made at Camp David, but Success Uncertain
US President Bill Clinton on Sunday said "some progress" has been made between Israelis and Palestinians at the Camp David peace talks, but that success in reaching a deal was still uncertain.
"There has been some progress, but I can't say I know we will succeed," Clinton said in an interview with the New York Daily News, a transcript of which was released by the White House.
"I'm more optimistic than I was when they got here," he told the paper, referring to the start of the talks last Tuesday when he arrived at the presidential retreat to broker a deal between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.
Clinton said the issues separating the two sides were the most difficult he had ever tried to help resolve, maintaining that neither peace negotiations over Northern Ireland nor the Dayton peace talks over Bosnia were as difficult.
"It's so hard. My heart goes out to them. ... It's the hardest thing that I have ever seen," he said in the statement.
"This is really important," he said. "We might make it. I don't know. God, it's hard. It's like nothing I ever dealt with," he said, saying this weekend's talks were harder than "all the negotiations with the Irish, all the stuff I've done with the Palestinians before this and with the Israelis, the Balkans at Dayton."
Israel and the Palestinians are struggling to reach agreement before a September 13th deadline for a permanent peace accord expires.
Clinton is due, meanwhile, to attend the Group of Eight summit in Okinawa, Japan that begins July 21st, putting pressure on the Middle East delegation to complete an agreement by Wednesday.
Asked in the interview if he still wanted to leave Wednesday for G8 -- from which he returns to the United States on July 23rd, Clinton said "I hope so. I'm going to do my best to finish here."
The president also said he understood the domestic pressures faced by both Barak and Arafat from opponents of the peace process to forge a final agreement to end more than 50 years of conflict.
"What's really troubling is that they know if they make a peace agreement, half of their constituencies will have to be angry at them for a while.
"But I would be totally misleading if I said I had an inkling that a deal is at hand. That's just not true. But we are slogging." -- THURMONT, Maryland (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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