Sharm el-Shiekh Summit Resumes Tuesday, No Progress Reported
The Egyptian-hosted Sharm el-Shiekh summit went into its second day with a meeting between US President Bill Clinton, his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian official said, according to AFP.
Nabil Shaath, a member of Arafat's cabinet, told reporters his leader was leaving to meet Clinton and Mubarak.
The two peacebrokers met one-on-one for about 20 minutes before Arafat was due to arrive, US spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
Avi Pazner, an advisor for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was scheduled to meet Clinton after Arafat, was not overly optimistic on the chances of an accord in the marathon meetings that broke for a few hours' rest for the weary leaders at only 3:45 a.m. (0145 GMT) Tuesday.
"Unless something radical changes in the behavior ofthe Palestinian delegation of Mr. Arafat, I really don't see how we can reach an agreement today," Pazner said.
The day-long meetings between foreign ministers of the five countries taking part in the summit - the United States, Israel, Palestine and Jordan - degenerated into shouting matches Monday and the last session was scrapped for lack of progress.
Clinton then took over for a flurry of talks in hopes of hammering out some sort of deal between Arafat and Barak.
"Time is running out and we'll finish now, this morning," Foreign Minister Amr Moussa of Egypt, the summit hosts, said as he left for the conference center.
"I don't know whether you can say progress, agreement," he said, "but there is an understanding that the situation is so serious... we have to come out of the conference with steps and concrete commitments."
Clinton decided to stay in a bid to put an end to the violence in the Palestinian lands that has erupted on September 28th.
Clinton, after dinner at a golf club in this Red Sea resort with all the summit's participants, delayed a planned midnight departure indefinitely to huddle down with Mubarak and Arafat, said AFP.
The summit finally adjourned in the pre-dawn hours after more than 16 hours of intense negotiations, said AFP.
"We have no schedule but we expect to begin meetings in the morning," White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said, adding that Clinton intended to head back to the summit site around 7:45 a.m. (0545 GMT) after a few hours of rest, according to the agency.
"We worked intensively on the substance of areas of concern, particularly how to change the realities on the ground so that we can begin to build a bridge back to peacemaking," said another spokesman, Jake Siewert.
Both declined to characterize the state of the summit, but they called the talks "hard work" and said much more would be needed.
"Our departure time is indefinite," Crowley said earlier.
Clinton had to leave by noon (1000 GMT) to attend a memorial service in Virginia for sailors killed in last week's suspected terrorist attack on a US naval destroyer in Yemen, but Crowley said he could have a few more hours' leeway, said AFP.
Egyptian officials said a final summit plenary session is due to convene at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT), with Clinton, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Jordan's King Abdullah seeking to iron out remaining differences, said Reuters.
Arafat kept alive hopes of a solution when he returned to the hotel from his meeting with Clinton. "I hope so," he replied with a stern face to a clutch of reporters who asked whether there might be an agreement.
Barak spokesman Gadi Baltiansky said the Israeli side remained committed to finding a way to stem the violence that has left 109 people dead since September 28.
"If necessary, we will work ... until lunchtime tomorrow to try to bridge the gaps," Baltiansky said.
"There is some movement, but they still have to finalize some elements," said another participant in the working dinner, said the European Union's top diplomat Javier Solana.
Crowley described the conversation at the dinner as "animated" but refused to comment on the substance of the remarks by those present: Clinton, Mubarak, Barak, Arafat, Jordan's King Abdullah II, UN chief Kofi Annan and Solana.
Palestinian officials said Israel had rejected their demands for an unconditional withdrawal of Israeli troops to where they were before the violence erupted, and for the lifting of a military closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reported Reuters.
"Without these two conditions there won't be agreement and we cannot sit down and draft an understanding," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told Reuters – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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