US Envoy Conveys to Sharon Palestinian 'Approval' to Hold Security Meetings; PA Official Denies Agreement

Published May 28th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

US Middle East envoy William Burns met late Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s and conveyed to him the Palestinian leadership’s reported approval to proceed with security coordination with the Jewish sate as a step towards ending the spiraling violence in the region, said reports. 

But Palestinian Minister of Planning Nabil Shaath denied in a statement to Radio Palestine that the PA has agreed to go on with such coordination. 

Palestinians were reported to have agreed on Monday to attend US-hosted security talks with Israel, a senior Palestinian official was quoted by Reuters as saying.  

Burns held talks on Monday with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in a second round of shuttle diplomacy meant to end the bloodletting. 

Burns, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, met Arafat at his West Bank headquarters and Sharon later on Monday as part of the Bush administration's new, enhanced peacemaking role. 

The Palestinian official said the Palestinians were waiting for Burns to give them details on the program for the security talks, which the official said could be held in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. The sides last held a security meeting in late April. 

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israeli Channel One television that Israel had suggested at talks with Burns on Sunday that the sides begin immediately to implement the recommendations of a US-led investigation into the violence. 

"As far as we are concerned the meetings between our security forces and their security forces can begin tomorrow (on Tuesday) to begin to implement the first part of the Mitchell report," Peres said, referring to the committee headed by former US Senator George Mitchell, said Reuters. 

 

ARAFAT GIVES BURNS MAPS OF NEW SETTLEMENTS 

 

According to the agency, Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Arafat and Burns discussed the Mitchell report and an Egyptian-Jordanian plan to end the fighting and renew the peace talks. 

Erekat told reporters that Arafat gave Burns a map of 18 new West Bank and Gaza Strip Jewish settlements, which are built on land Israel occupied in the 1967 Middle East war and are illegal under international law. 

"It was agreed that the discussions with the American representative will be continued with the Palestinian delegation to deal with all these issues," Erekat said, without elaborating on when further talks would be held. 

"We view the Israeli violence, the Israeli closure and the siege and the continuation of settlement activity as the highest form of violence," he said. 

The Palestinians want the Mitchell recommendations be implemented as one package, while Israel, backed by the US, set the halt to Palestinian “violence” as a condition before steps to build confidence, a settlement freeze and restart negotiations are taken. 

In the field, the Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) vowed more attacks on the Israeli occupation in a rally they held Monday. 

The two groups claimed responsibility for two car bombs in west Jerusalem Sunday. 

The twin car bombs rocked Jerusalem on Sunday, causing few injuries but rattling the nerves of Israelis still reeling from deadly suicide bombings by Palestinian militants. 

In the Gaza Strip on Monday, the Israeli army said Palestinians tossed hand grenades at forces on the Gaza-Egypt border but that its soldiers did not return fire. 

Palestinian hospital sources said two teenagers were wounded in the legs by tank fire near the Egyptian border. The Israeli army claimed its troops fired light weapons in the air to distance the two from a border zone where they were not allowed to be. 

Arafat was due in Moscow for talks on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.  

Israeli officials told Burns their limited ceasefire announced on May 22 would remain intact for the time being. Palestinians have dismissed the ceasefire as a propaganda ploy.  

The same position was held by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has told Al Ahram daily that the Israeli claim of ceasefire was meant to detract the world attention off its aggressive practices in the territories – Albawaba.com  

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