Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres made no apparent progress Saturday night in meetings aimed at ending months of violence, but further talks between the two sides are planned, according to AFP.
Arafat and Peres headed the negotiating teams as Israel and the Palestinians finally returned to the negotiating table, following up the last-minute peace bid by outgoing US President Bill Clinton.
Peres left Gaza City late Saturday after meeting Arafat for two and a half hours, both one-on-one, and also with negotiators from either side, a senior Palestinian official told AFP.
The Palestinian side comprised negotiators Ahmad Qorei and Saeb Erakat, information minister Abed Rabbo, and the head of preventive security in the Gaza Strip, Mohammad Dahlan, said Haaretz newspaper.
The Israeli delegation was made up of Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, former army chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak and Gilad Sher, chief of staff to caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
After the departure of the Israeli delegation, Arafat held further talks with his team of negotiators, an official told the agency.
According to AFP, the two sides decided to continue their talks "in the next few days," Arafat's political advisor Nabil Abu Rudeina said, without specifying whether Arafat and Peres would attend the next meeting.
Abu Rudeina said the talks had been devoted mainly "to the negotiations on the final status" of the Palestinian Territories and "to the importance of reaching an agreement on all matters."
"The delegations will meet again Sunday or Monday," Erakat told journalists, but he too said that "very big differences remain" between the two parties.
A spokesman for the Israeli government in Jerusalem agreed that "a further meeting will be held in the next few days," and added that a date would be set Sunday, according to the agency.
The spokesman said the aim of the discussions was to "consolidate the decline in the violence" and to "reach a positive conclusion before the end of the mandate of Bill Clinton" who leaves office on January 20.
Haaretz newspaper, however, reported that both sides realize that there is no chance of reaching a peace agreement during the remaining week of Clinton's presidential term.
Clinton, according to the paper, said on Friday that he was preparing to pass the baton of his Middle East proposals to President-elect George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, Israeli defense sources told Haaretz that the Palestinian Authority is still not carrying out the promises it made to Israel during meetings in Cairo and at the Erez crossing.
They argue that even though violence on the ground has declined, the PA has not arrested any of the activists on the list of names that Israel submitted to it, according to the daily -- Albawaba.com
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