Palestinians Halt Talks with Israelis Over Prisoners
The Palestinians have vowed to halt meetings with Israelis until they receive a response to a request to release a new batch of prisoners, a senior Palestinian negotiator said Thursday. In the meantime, Israel heas readied a plan on Jerusalem to propose at Stockholm talks.
"There will be no more meetings until we receive a response to the prisoners issue. We are waiting for answers from them," senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told AFP.
The two sides had been expected to meet Thursday to discuss Israel's plans to hand over three Arab villages near Jerusalem to full control of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
However, another track of negotiations aimed at reaching a final peace settlement is expected to get underway in Sweden on Thursday.
A meeting between Israel and the Palestinians on the fate of the nearly 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails broke off on Sunday with Erakat saying the talks were in crisis.
The Palestinian territories exploded in violence this week after demonstrations held in solidarity with the prisoners, most of whom are on a hunger strike, degenerated into stone-throwing and gunfights with Israeli soldiers.
At least three Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded. Some 20 Israelis were also hurt.
IRAEL READY WITH PLAN ON JERUSALEM AT SECRET TALKS
Meanwhile, an Israeli team due for final status talks with the Palestinians in Stockholm has taken along a paper that outlines a detailed plan for setting up autonomous Palestinian quarters in Jerusalem within the framework of Israeli sovereignty over the city, according to Ha’aretz Thursday.
The paper said the plan, which the team is to use to guide it in negotiations, has been termed as providing a "intermediate solution" intended to get around the divisive issue of sovereignty over the city. However, the intended duration of this intermediate solution and a final date for settling the issue of Jerusalem has not been stipulated in the plan.
According to the paper, the Palestinian quarters in Jerusalem would get broad municipal responsibilities, as well as symbolic security powers. Under the proposal, two boroughs would be set up - one Jewish and one Arab - with a joint municipality over them to be headed by a Jewish mayor, since a majority of the city's population is Jewish.
The Palestinian quarters and borough would be linked to the Palestinian Authority, said the report.
It added that civilian affairs such as education, health and culture would be administered by the Palestinian quarters, which, along with the Palestinian borough, would be empowered to set taxes and establish their own courts for local affairs. East Jerusalem would also have a Palestinian civil guard, with responsibilities similar to those currently carried out by the Jerusalem civil guard.
Under the proposal, the authority for planning and building would not be handed over to the Palestinians, but a way would be found to have them take part in that aspect of the city's life.
Leadership in the Palestinian quarters would be determined by the the Arab population of East Jerusalem. They would be linked in some fashion to the PA - in precisely what manner remains to be negotiated - so that the PA could provide services to East Jerusalem residents.
The Arab quarters would not include the Old City or other holy sites, which are envisioned as holding a special status and being administered through a joint Jewish-Muslim-Christian religious administration. Religious shrines would remain under the control of the religious group that currently controls each shrine.
Under the plan, the Temple Mount would be defined as a religious site, but the Palestinians would be allowed to fly their flag or a Muslim flag only on the mosques there. Access to worshipers of all religions would be guaranteed at all religious sites, including to Jews wishing to go to the Temple Mount.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, who until a week ago headed the Palestinian team to the talks, said, "Israel has no objections to the Palestinians supervising some civil affairs in the city, including education and culture, but not planning and building." He was sharply critical of this kind of approach, adding: "Israel still looks at the city from their classic viewpoint, which means that they want to rule the land while getting rid of having to deal with the residents – (Several Sources).
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