Palestinian leaders insisted Friday that they will declare statehood by September 13th, even as chances to work out a peace agreement by then appear dim, reported The Associated Press.
An announcement of Palestinian independence before negotiators reach an accord could seriously threaten the peace process since Israel has indicated that it might annex parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response. The moves could deteriorate into violence, said the agency.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had committed to make the declaration by the deadline that Israel and the Palestinians had set for the completion of the final status agreement between them.
“The Palestinian leadership asserted that the declaration of a Palestinian, independent state with Jerusalem as its capital will come at the end of the period that had been set with Israel, which is Sept. 13,” the Palestinian cabinet said in a statement after meeting late Friday in Gaza, said the AP.
Officials close to Arafat had suggested in recent weeks that the declaration could be postponed until the end of the year in an apparent attempt not to anger President Clinton who opposes a unilateral announcement.
But the cabinet statement appeared to solidify the Palestinian position in favor of a declaration by the promised time, the agency added.
In its statement, the cabinet warned Israel against any “military acts because they could lead to the collapse of the peace process and threaten the security and stability of the region.”
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said after the cabinet meeting that Arafat had instructed his peace team to “exert maximum efforts even on a daily basis with Israel in order to reach an agreement.”
But another negotiator, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that an agreement could not be worked out by the deadline if Israel did not bend on Jerusalem, according to the AP – Albawaba.com
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