Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Peres Claims PA Ready to "Stop Shooting and Start Talking"
Peres Claims PA Ready to "Stop Shooting and Start Talking"
April 5, 2001
Ignoring the relentless violence and skirting pledges not to negotiate under fire, Israel renewed both political and security contacts with the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday.
Israeli and PA officials are scheduled to hold security talks tonight, reportedly at the Herzliya residence of US Ambassador Martin Indyk, following a meeting in Athens this morning between Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PA ministers Nabil Sha'ath and Saeb Erekat. A senior US State Department official in Washington confirmed that American officials would attend tonight's discussions as mere "observers."
Peres attended the encounter in the Greek capital this morning just hours after Israeli forces responded to Palestinian sniper and mortar attacks with a barrage of precision missile strikes on PA security targets in Gaza. And while the meeting was going on, the IDF and Palestinian terrorists traded more mortar fire in the Gaza Strip. Nonetheless, the two sides went ahead with their highest-level political contacts since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took power last month. The talks were brokered by European Union officials Javier Solana and Miguel Moratinos.
Afterwards, Peres insisted the meeting was still in keeping with Sharon's pledge not to negotiate under fire, describing the session as "an exchange of ideas, not negotiations." Peres insisted, "The facts speak for themselves... either today or tomorrow, security cooperation will resume... This is the first sign of intentions to stop shooting and start talking," Peres told ARMY RADIO.
Peres stated: "We exchanged views on what should happen after this... I heard at length their descriptions of the distress in the territories, they heard at length about the enormous damage caused by violence. We both agreed that incitement must be decreased, because the emotional distance today is even greater than the territorial distance." When pressed by reporters, Peres was adamant, "We said that we would not hold negotiations under fire, but we will certainly talk in order to stop the fire, both operational and verbal."
But Erekat appeared to contradict Peres' insistence that the talks had steered clear of diplomatic issues, saying the discussions had also covered implementing past peace agreements and issues related to settlement expansion.
Solana appealed to both sides "to condemn violence from whatever quarter, to exercise maximum restraint and to renew their security cooperation on a systematic and regular basis."
Back in Jerusalem, Sharon also insisted that no negotiations were conducted with the PA in the Athens meeting, but rather the parties met exclusively to discuss ways to end the violence.
The flurry of renewed contacts came about after Peres made a swing through Europe this week to promote a plan he is developing that calls for a cessation of Palestinian terror in parallel with a continued easing of Israeli restrictions on Palestinians. It also offers resumption of negotiations without preconditions, while demanding an end to incitement and a switch to the "language of peace and compromise." The proposal reportedly provides for a greater EU role in the peace process.
Peres began formulating his plan in response to the joint Egyptian-Jordanian proposal unveiled but not formally presented last week. Peres was reluctant to pursue that "non-paper," and Sharon flatly dismissed it, saying it had not been brought to him in an official manner, and that he refused its call to resume negotiations at the point of the Taba understandings.
Instead, Sharon is demanding "an absolute end to violence" as a prerequisite for renewed talks, and then he is only prepared to negotiate with the Palestinians about an interim agreement.
The PA reportedly has come up with its own proposal for a renewal of peace talks, adopting a shorter version of the Egyptian-Jordanian document. The PA insists resumed talks must focus on a final-status agreement, and be based on Israeli and American ideas that crystallized before and at Taba in late January.
The Palestinians are proposing to first set up a security committee to discuss a detailed timetable for the mutual implementation of the Sharm e-Sheikh understandings, to be followed up by a economic committee and a political committee. The economic committee will discuss steps to lift the closure and release the tax money owed to the PA, while the political committee will discuss resumption of talks on two tracks - outstanding interim withdrawals and final-status negotiations. At the heart of PA demands is that Israel halt all settlement activities, including in eastern Jerusalem.
Meanwhile, PLO chief Yasser Arafat hosted three dovish Israeli MKs in Ramallah this afternoon - Collette Avital of Labor, and Naomi Chazan and Zehava Gal-On of the leftist opposition Meretz. Chazan later reported that Arafat seemed "worried."
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.