Israeli Source: Peres to Ask Arafat to Stop Violence
Former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres is to meet Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat soon to ask him to halt the deadly violence in the Palestinian territories, an Israeli government official said Wednesday.
"I think Mr. Peres wants to obtain a commitment from the Palestinians to respect the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements for a ceasefire and end the rioting and incitement to violence," Gilad Sher, head of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office, said on public radio.
"The Palestinians asked for this meeting with Mr. Peres and it should take place at any time, today, perhaps in a few hours, or tomorrow, because the prime minister considers that any attempt to restore calm is welcome."
The unsigned Sharm el-Sheikh accord, brokered by US President Bill Clinton in the Egyptian Red Sea resort on October 17, committed both sides to take steps to halt the fighting which has killed more than 150 people, mainly Palestinians, since the end of September.
But it has not been implemented and Barak has declared a "time out" in the peace process.
Sher charged that Arafat controlled what was happening in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, "which are intended to become an independent state, and must stop the shooting and the calls for violence."
Sher said Israel was bound by all agreements it had signed with the Palestinians since the Oslo accords of 1993 and was holding out a hand of peace.
"Our policy is to show restraint, but it is difficult when Israeli civilians are murdered, and we have selected targets to show the Palestinians what might happen if we abandon restraint," Sher added, referring to pre-emptive strikes made Monday night by helicopter gunships.
The meeting between Peres and Arafat would be the first high-level encounter between the two sides since Arafat and Barak attended the Sharm el-Sheikh summit but did not have one-on-one talks.
The two men, along with slain Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, shared the Nobel peace prize after forging the 1993 Olso peace accords.
Meanwhile the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot said Wednesday that despite the violence and the "time out" Barak and Arafat had been in contact with a view to relaunching the peace process under Clinton's auspices.
The daily said Clinton intends to invite Arafat to Washington to coincide with a private visit scheduled for Barak at the invitation of US Jewish organizations.
Barak's acting foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ali is expected to have talks with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in Washington later Wednesday – JERUSALEM (AFP)
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