Israeli and Palestinian negotiators head to Washington Monday for a fresh round of US mediated peace talks following a series of contacts between the two sides in Gaza strip aimed to pave the way for a resumption of peace efforts.
The peace process was paralyzed 12 weeks ago. Since then violent confrontations between Palestinian protesters and Israeli occupation troops have caused the death of more than 300 people most of them Palestinians.
The BBC said Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami will fly to the United States as part of a final attempt to achieve a Middle East peace deal in the dying days of the Clinton administration.
According to BBC, the Palestinian Authority is expected to send a team of its negotiators to attend similar meetings with US officials in Washington.
Israel radio said US envoy Dennis Ross would lead the talks but that the US secretary of state Madeleine Albright would attend part of the meetings.
Ben Ami told the Israeli army radio that he did not believe in interim agreements- a clear hint that he hopes the latest round of discussions will be aimed primarily at achieving a final status deal with the Palestinians, the Israeli Haaretz said.
“But a closer inspection of where the two sides stand on the substantive issues reveals that there are still considerable gaps, and the Palestinian leadership is highly skeptical about Barak’s real intentions,” Haaretz said.
AFP quoted Palestinian information minister Yasser Abd Rabbu as saying,” we will go to Washington Tuesday to consult with the American administration to explore if there is any possibility of resuming negotiations.”
“ We want to hear if the Israelis have any new position,” he added, but said there was no question of a trilateral summit taking place, AFP said.
Yesterday Palestinian president Yasser Arafat did not rule out a future meeting with the Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
“Why not? replied Arafat when asked about the prospects of a meeting with Barak.
Meanwhile, U.S vice president-elect Dick Cheney criticized the Clinton administration diplomacy.
“There are concerns that the way the Clinton administration operated at least in the last year or so in the Middle East have made it more difficult to reach a settlement,” Cheney told ABC news.
BBC said the incoming vice president hinted that the new republican administration would attempt to regenerate the peace process by shifting the emphasis of any settlement away from the thorny issue of Jerusalem -- (Several Sources)
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