US Concerned ‘Peace Process is in Danger of Falling Apart’
By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
The Clinton administration expressed concern that “the peace process is in danger of falling apart,” if the violence continues.
A State Department official told Albawaba.com that the longer the violence goes on, obstacles to peace “become steeper and steeper, and the divisions become harder to overcome.”
The official said the US is willing to consider separate meetings for the leaders if it can help move the process forward. “At this time, we don’t think the trilateral meeting is an option,” he stressed.
“Clearly we need to build the trust between the two sides that we have lost over the last two weeks,” he added. “There is a deep feeling of grievance that both sides feel. This will take time to heal.”
When asked to explain what the US can achieve by bringing Barak and Arafat to Washington, the official said President Clinton will discuss with them the implementation of Sharm Al-Sheikh agreement. He added that Clinton would ask them in particular to take “concrete steps to reduce the violence and consultations on resuming the negotiating process.” In the context of reducing the violence, “we hope that could be done. Meeting with the parties is one option.”
In response to a question on what specific steps both sides still need to take to meet their obligations under Sharm Al-Sheikh agreement, the official said the US has been calling on both sides to end the violence. “Both sides agreed at Sharm to take concrete steps, particularly with respect to security to help reduce the violence. Both sides have made commitments, and both sides need to fulfill these commitments,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Clinton and Jordan's King Abdullah called on the Israelis and Palestinians to talk through their differences and end the latest violence in the region. Their comments came during a ceremony at the White House on Tuesday to sign a free-trade agreement between Jordan and the US.
Clinton called on the Israelis and Palestinians to work together to end the fighting. "For in the Middle East, as we have all learned, time does not heal wounds. It simply rubs more salt into them,” he stated. "As hard as it may be, there must be an end to the violence, and the Israelis and Palestinians must find a way out of confrontation and back to the path of peaceful dialogue, and they must do it sooner rather than later," Clinton said.
In response, King Abdullah promised to continue the work that his father set out to do. "Two years ago to this day, my late father, his majesty King Hussein, stood in this same room and reminded the leaders of the Middle East that it was their responsibility to move beyond violence as a way to resolve political differences," he said.
"There has been enough destruction, enough death, enough waste," the King added. He praised Clinton's efforts to secure peace in the Middle East and said the events of the past few weeks had left "much anger, despair and bitterness" in the region. "There is a need to keep the faith in peace," he said.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)