Shaath: Palestinians Ready to Resume Talks if Israel Ends Siege
Palestinian international cooperation minister Nabil Shaath said Thursday the Palestinians were ready to resume negotiations with Israel if it ends a "siege" of Palestinian areas.
"We are ready to resume the peace process and the negotiations but we want to see a total end to the siege," Shaath told reporters in Cairo.
A resumption of peace talks "requires a halt to the Israeli aggression" and the implementation of agreements made at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit which required Israel to withdraw its troops from Palestinian towns, Shaath said.
A senior Palestinian official told AFP earlier that Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami was making a political "bluff" when he said Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat had proposed resuming peace negotiations.
The official, who asked not to be named, also said negotiations would only resume once Israel has applied the Sharm el-Sheikh accords.
"Negotiations would be destined for failure if they resumed now because Israeli tanks are in the Palestinian territories. It would be impossible," he added.
Ben Ami said Thursday that Arafat had proposed the resumption of negotiations with Israel via the United States.
"US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called me Wednesday night to tell me that he had made this proposition," he told Israeli public radio.
When asked by journalists if he had made the proposition, Arafat simply replied: "It was them (Israel) who froze the negotiations, not us."
Under the unsigned Sharm el-Sehikh agreement forged over a month ago, Israel and the Palestinians were to take concrete measures to stop the fighting.
A fact-finding committee was also to be set up and Washington said it would try to bring the peace process back to life within weeks – CAIRO (AFP)
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