Third Day of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations in Taba Starts

Published January 23rd, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed Tuesday discussions in the Red Sea resort of Taba on all aspects of a possible peace deal on their third day of talks. 

Members of the four negotiating committees were seen entering talks at the Hilton hotel Taba, said AFP, adding that the first committee, headed by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israel's Gilad Sher, was to discuss the status of Jerusalem. 

Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami and the Palestinian information minister, Yasser Abed Rabbo, meanwhile, were to examine maps for an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian lands. 

The agency added that the third group will concentrate on details such as the time-scale of a withdrawal, how long it will take to dismantle Jewish settlements in the territories and the role of an international force that would be deployed along the River Jordan on the border between a future Palestinian state and neighboring Jordan. 

Palestinian minister for international cooperation, Nabil Shaath, and Israeli justice minister, Yossi Beilin, meanwhile, were heading a committee on the fate of Palestinian refugees forced into exile in 1948. 

Members of the Israeli delegation told Haaretz newspaper that Palestinian negotiators have never been so serious about reaching an agreement.  

"The Palestinians have never seemed so serious and determined," said one senior Israeli source at the talks.  

"It's a pity they only realized [the need] now and not four months ago."  

Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office in Jerusalem said in a statement, quoted by Haaretz, that "the sides will attempt to formulate an agreement on the problem of the Palestinian refugees, taking into account the Israeli position that there will be no right of return to the state of Israel." 

The Jerusalem Post newspaper, meanwhile, reported that Barak had Monday a telephone conversation with new US Secretary of State, Colin Powell. 

Barak's office said that the Israeli leader outlined his red lines regarding an agreement with the Palestinians, while Powell emphasized that he believed it was important that the two sides reached agreement on their own.  

A state department spokesman said that the new administration did not plan to send a special envoy to the talks in Taba, said the Post.  

Meanwhile, violence continued in Palestinian territories.  

Two bombs exploded in separate attacks near the Jewish settlement of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip Monday, severely injuring an Israeli soldier, said press reports. 

Also in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian mourners shouted "death to Israel," called for revenge and fired shots in the air at the funeral of a 15-year-old boy killed the day before by the Israeli army. 

At the same time, Israel said it opened its borders Monday to 16,000 Palestinian laborers from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in an easing of a blockade that has choked the Palestinian economy, Haaretz added -- Albawaba.com 

 

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