Palestinians Confirm Arafat-Shahak Meeting
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat held a meeting Saturday night with Israeli cabinet minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, a spokesman for Arafat said Sunday, confirming an earlier report by Israeli army radio.
"Yes, the president met with Lipkin-Shahak," Marwan Kanafani told reporters in Gaza City.
The meeting followed a telephone conversation brokered by Moscow between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Friday aimed at quelling two months of deadly Israeli-Palestinian unrest.
"But the purpose is not just to meet, the purpose is to stop the Israeli aggressions against our people and to withdraw the Israeli forces," Kanafani said.
"Palestinian-Israeli meetings did not stop since Camp David," he added, referring to the US-hosted Middle East peace summit that ended in failure in July.
"The problem is not with the meetings but whether Israel commits itself to agreements or not," Kanafani said.
Lipkin-Shahak, a former army chief and a member of Barak's security cabinet, refused to confirm or deny the meeting in an interview with army radio, but he said: "The Israeli army cannot bring a solution to this crisis alone and we must also use political tools."
Israeli public radio said the former head of the domestic security service Shin Beth, Ami Ayalon, also took part in the Gaza meeting, which it said was organized at Barak's request.
It would be the first meeting at such a high-level since Arafat held talks with former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres on November 1 in a bid to implement a truce agreed in Egypt last month that never took effect on the ground.
But Barak said Sunday there would be no negotiations until an end to the violence that has killed more than 280 people, most of them Palestinians.
"There are currently no negotiations with the Palestinians," he told public radio.
"We are not prepared to be dictated to by terrorism and there will be no reward for violence. Only when the other side understands that, will there be negotiations," he added.
Peres said on Saturday that Arafat was willing to meet him again, but a government source said Barak was opposed – GAZA CITY (AFP)
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