Washington on Friday confirmed that UN Security Council Resolution 242 -- which calls for Israel to withdraw from land it occupied in 1967 -- applies to the Israeli-Palestinian talks, dismissing controversial comments by the Israeli attorney general that it did not, reported AFP.
"The resolutions 242 and 338 have been the cornerstone of the US approach to the Middle East for 30 years," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
Resolution 338, passed in 1973, calls for talks to start "aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East."
In an opinion published in the Israeli media Thursday, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not apply to the Palestinians.
He said that Israel was not required to return the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority because the two areas were under Jordanian and Egyptian control when Israel occupied them, and not the Palestinian group which only formed in 1994.
Boucher was quoted by AFP as saying the 1967 UN resolution is the "framework that we've always worked in and it's the one we believe we should continue to work in."
"It's our view that all negotiations should be based on Resolutions 242 and 338 -- all negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, including the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians," the spokesman added.
The Israeli attorney general's comments triggered a quick retort from Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, who speaking in the West Bank town of Ramallah, said: "The Israeli attempt to omit resolution 242 is just an attempt to destroy the whole peace process."
The new controversy seemed to further widen the gaps between the two sides ahead of a September 13th deadline that have set out for a final peace accord.
UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 are the foundations of the Arab-Israeli peace process based on the idea of exchanging land for peace.
The 1967 resolution was the product of intricate negotiations, with Israel succeeding in avoiding any reference to all the territory it had captured during the war. Instead, the resolution, which was duplicated after the 1973 Mideast war, referred only to "territory," according to The Associated Press.
The agency added some Israeli authorities insist Israel has already complied with the resolutions by relinquishing Sinai to Egypt in a 1967 peace treaty. Sinai amounts to most of the land the Arabs lost in the war.
Meanwhile, US President Bill Clinton was to continue to consult with senior advisors over the next few days to decide whether or not to hold an Israeli-Palestinian peace summit to try to close the remaining gaps.
Main issues remaining include agreement on their borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the future of Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"The president will decide on next steps. He could decide that it's the time for the summit (or) it may be that he and his advisers decide that there's some interim step to be done before the summit," Department spokesman Boucher said.
Clinton was briefed Thursday by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright following her Middle East visit. During the trip, she was able to get Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak to agree to such a summit in July, but Arafat rejected the idea.
On another touchy issue, the State Department again appeared to criticize Arafat for his statements declaring he will establish a state if Israel did not agree to one through negotiations, according to the AP.
Repeatedly, the department has urged the Palestinians and Israel to avoid provocative rhetoric and actions, said the agency. However, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright did not repeat the admonition on publicly on her trip to Israel and the West Bank this week.
But Boucher on Friday said that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians "were based on mutuality, they were not based on unilateral decision-making, and we would be against unilateral declarations."
Boucher added: "We've always urged the parties to help create an environment where it's conducive to an agreement. So we're always looking for the parties to help do that." – (Several Sources)
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