Ben-Ami Indicates that Israel will not Sign Peace Deal with Palestinians until after Elections

Published January 22nd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Israel's foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami who heads the Israeli team in negotiations with the Palestinians at Egypt's Taba resort, indicated Monday that the "government would not sign a peace agreement before the February 6 elections," even if the sides reached understandings on the issues under discussion, Haaretz newspaper quoted the minister as saying.  

"Anything that encompasses respect for the form and substance of the way a democratic society functions must be honored. If that means signing after (the elections), that is the way it will be," he said.  

The two sides have been meeting in marathon sessions since Sunday to try to overcome deep divisions over such core issues as sovereignty over holy places in Jerusalem and Palestinian demands for a right of return for Palestinian refugees. 

However, Haaretz said that there appeared little chance of a breakthrough ahead of Israel's prime ministerial election two weeks away.  

An Israeli political source close to the talks said that Prime Minister Ehud Barak would not make further concessions to the Palestinians, according to the daily.  

On the Palestinian side, senior negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told journalists that gaps between the two sides aiming to end their decades-old conflict remained wide, according to AFP.  

In a statement following the meeting, Barak's office said they had set up two working committees: one on the issues of borders, Jerusalem and security, and the other on refugees, added the agency.  

"The sides will sit down in order to formulate an agreed solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees, taking into account the Israeli position that there will not be the right of return within the borders of the state," the statement said. 

Away from the diplomatic talks, an Israeli was seriously wounded when a bomb exploded near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, reports said. 

On Sunday, a Palestinian youth was shot dead by Israeli forces near the Mentar crossing (known to Israelis as Karni) -- 



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