Clinton Suggests to Arafat Possible Meetings in Washington
US President Bill Clinton, in a telephone conversation with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat Tuesday, suggested that Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak might meet separately with him in Washington, the White House said.
The meetings might be possible once progress had been made in implementing the three points of the Sharm el-Sheikh accord, agreed to at the summit in Egypt on October 17, White House spokesman PJ Crowley said.
Clinton had spoken with Arafat by phone for some 30 minutes, and had "focused on encouraging (Arafat) to do all they could to fully implement the agreement" reached at Sharm el-Sheikh, the spokesman said.
If progress were made on "concrete steps to improve security, a formula for a fact-finding mission, and finding a path to return to peace process, then -- as we said in Sharm el-Sheikh --- you open the door to moving back towards the political process." Crowley added.
"In that context, the president raised the possibility of having the chairman (Arafat) and the prime minister (Barak) come separately to Washington," Crowley said.
"But at this point it is only a possibility," he added.
Crowley said that Clinton had not spoken with Barak by telephone Tuesday.
Crowley was briefing reporters after Clinton met earlier in the day with his top national security advisors to discuss the situation in the Middle East.
Clinton himself, speaking at the signing of a US-Jordanian free trade agreement at the White House, urged Israel and the Palestinians to "find a way out of confrontation sooner than later."
The signing ceremony was also attended by King Abdullah of Jordan. Clinton and the king had discussed the situation in the Middle East for an hour before the signing ceremony, Crowley said.
Clinton said during the ceremony, "As hard as that may be, there must be an end to violence, and Israel and the Palestinians must find a way out of confrontation sooner than later," Clinton said.
"In the Middle East we have all learned that time does not heal wounds," Clinton said. With time, "The issues don't change, they just get harder to resolve," he added.
Armed Palestinians and Israeli troops exchanged automatic arms fire late Tuesday in the Palestinian sector of Toulkarem in the West Bank, sources from both sides said. There were no reports of casualties.
Earlier Tuesday, three Palestinians aged 13 to 22 years died as a result of clashes, one having been wounded Saturday. Their deaths raised to 138 the number of people killed in almost four weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians – WASHINGTON (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)