US Says Time to Agree on Clinton\'s Peace Proposals is \'Now\'

Published January 11th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The United States bluntly told Israel and the Palestinians that the time to agree on President Bill Clinton's peace proposals was "now," as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright acknowledged deep frustration with the stalled negotiations, reported AFP. 

"The time for decision is certainly now," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said after Albright told AFP that a trip to the Middle East by special US envoy Dennis Ross had been postponed indefinitely, according to the agency. 

Albright said Ross was still expected to travel to the region but would wait, pending the outcome of security talks between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at ending months of deadly violence. 

"The security people are meeting, and we want to make sure that that part of the process is working and Dennis will be going, but I can't give you an exact time," Albright said. 

At the meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials at the Bait Hanoun (known to Israelis as Erez) crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, it was announced that joint patrols by the Israeli army and Palestinian police were set to resume shortly in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, reported Haaretz newspaper, quoting Israeli public radio Thursday. 

The meeting was aimed at bringing calm to the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Israel, sources close to the talks said, and the radio described the talks as a "success," quoting the Israeli delegation leader, Transport Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak. 

Set up under the 1993 Oslo agreements, the joint patrols in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had ceased to function after the Palestinian Intifada, said the paper. 

Haaretz noted, meanwhile, that official sources in Washington said that Clinton was not prepared to make a unilateral presidential declaration.  

US sources see this as an unequivocal message to both Israel and the PA, to intensify their efforts to reach a framework agreement.  

"We're looking right now at whether we can see some reduction in the level of violence. It's going to be important," White House spokesman Jake Siewert was quoted by AFP as saying. 

But, he added, "It's very hard to imagine, as we've said before, that we could see any serious negotiation, let alone a conclusion, to some of these discussions with the serious level of violence in the region." 

According to Haaretz, Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is trying to encourage European and Russian pressure on Palestinian President Yasser Arafat to accept Clinton's proposals.  

Ben-Ami met Wednesday with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Asnar, who agreed to make an effort to revive the stumbling peace process. 

The minister, according to Haaretz, will meet Thursday with French President Jacques Chirac and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov -- (Several Sources)  

 

 

 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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