A senior Palestinian negotiator said on Thursday that Washington peace talks with Israel had brought Palestinians closer to a deal that would give them sovereignty over east Jerusalem, reported Al Jazira satellite channel.
Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo was quotes as saying that if the two parties could reach the deal on Saturday.
However, there are details left to be settled before the agreement could be hammered, according to Abed Rabbo, who is heading the Palestinian team for talks in the US capital.
"We are close to achieving recognition of Palestinian sovereignty over Arab east Jerusalem, including the holy sites," Abed Rabbo told Reuters by telephone, adding that "there remain many details we have to discuss, such as the area of Jerusalem and how to link its neighborhoods, as well as the Jewish settlements presence. All these issues are difficult, and require great effort.
Failing to agree on them would obstruct a deal.”
Meanwhile, another Palestinian top negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told reporters in Washington that there are still many obstacles to be overcome before a deal is reached.
Palestinian agriculture minister, Hassan Hikmat ruled out in an interview with Al Jazira that the two sides might settle the conflict even if there was an agreement on Jerusalem.
“The conflict does not have to do only with Jerusalem… it concerns all the Palestinian lands occupied by Israel in 1967,” he said.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiators entered their third day of talks with US as Washington stepped up efforts to bridge gaps in a final bid to secure a peace deal before President Bill Clinton leaves office next month, reported AFP.
Separate talks between the two sides and US Middle East envoy Dennis Ross and his deputy Aaron Miller to be followed by trilateral discussions were to resume in the late morning after the lead negotiators met Wednesday with Clinton at the White House, a State Department official was quoted by the agency as saying.
Meanwhile, AFP reported that Clinton spoke briefly Thursday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to "share their assessment" on how to move the Middle East peace process forward, a White House spokesman said.
"President Mubarak had recently met with (Palestinian leader Yasser) Arafat, and the president wanted to bring him up-to-date on what was going on here and to share their assessment on how to move the process forward," said Jake Siewert.
The two leaders, who spoke for about 10 minutes, discussed "the state of play in the Mideast peace discussions that are going on here at Bolling Air Base" in Washington, he said.
A total of 349 people, mostly Palestinians, have been killed in the 12 weeks of unrest triggered by a late-September visit to a hotly contested holy site in Jerusalem by Israel's hardline Likud party opposition leader and candidate for prime minister, Ariel Sharon – (Several Sources)
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