US President Bill Clinton called Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to discuss ways to speed up peace talks with Israel ahead of Arafat's visit to Washington later this month, a senior Palestinian official said Saturday.
"President Clinton called President Arafat (late Friday) and they had a very important conversation regarding the peace process, particularly after the trip to Washington by (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Barak," senior Arafat aide Nabil Abu Rudeina told the Palestinian news agency (Wafa).
"Clinton stressed to Arafat that he is committed to the peace process and to reaching progress through American efforts," Abu Rudeina said.
In Washington, an Israeli official said Barak agreed to an increased US mediation role in the negotiations, aimed at reaching a final peace accord by September.
BARAK READY TO RECOGNISE A PALESTINIAN STATE
In another development, Barak said he intends to recognize a Palestinian state once the two sides have signed a framework accord at the end of May, Israeli television reported Friday.
It quoted Israeli officials involved in peace talks with the Palestinians as saying Israel would agree to recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state in the territories evacuated by the Israeli army in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The borders of the future state will be defined in the framework accord, the television reported.
Originally the issue of frontiers was expected to wait for the final agreement due in September.
The television said several suggestions about the drawing of the borders were being studied at the round of peace talks held at the Bolling Air Force Base in Washington to draw up the framework deal.
Israeli Regional Cooperation Minister Shimon Peres had suggested that the Palestinian state should cover 80 percent of the Palestinian territories, while Israel would annex the remaining 20 percent.
The television said Barak opposed any interim solution and wanted to settle the border question once and for all. His initial proposal was to give the Palestinians 65 percent, it said.
The television also quoted the Israeli officials as saying Barak was not ready to make any concessions on east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied in 1967, and which the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.
Nor was he ready to give any ground on the question of the return of the 3.5 million Palestinian refugees to their homeland which is now Israel.
The September 13 deadline for a final agreement on permanent status was still in view, Rubin said – (AFP) – Photos AFP Archive.
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