WASHINGTON (Apr. 28)
The State Department indicated today that the resumption of the autonomy talks is being held up by a dispute over where negotiations should be held.
“We and the governments of Israel and Egypt have emphasized our determination to move forward,” on the negotiations for “full autonomy” for the Palestinian. Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Department spokesman Dean Fischer said. “Both the calendar and venue for the resumption of talks have been discussed and the discussions continue.”
Fischer’s remarks were in reply to a question about Israeli Premier Menachem Begin’s statement in a radio interview yesterday that if the next session of the talks will not be held in Jerusalem, they will not be held at all. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has refused Begin’s demands that when the talks are held in Israel the site be Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv as previously. Fischer would not comment on a report that the U.S. has suggested that talks resume next month in Washington.
FUTURE OF THE WEST BANK, GAZA
The State Department spokesman also stressed that the future of the West Bank and Gaza Strip will be determined by negotiations as required by the Camp David accords. He said that “continued settlement activity (on the West Bank) is unhelpful to the peace process.” A similar statement was made today by White House deputy press secretary Larry Speakes.
Fischer would not comment directly on the announcement that new settlements would be built on the West Bank. Nor would Speakes comment on reports that Israel considers the Jewish settlements in Judaea and Samaria as permanent.
These were references to Begin’s reiteration Monday of what he called Israel’s “patemal right” to the West Bank, to Isaeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s statement Sunday that “We shall turn to increasing and consolidating our settlements on the Golan Heights, in Judaea and Samaria and the Gaza District,” as well as the announcement that 11 new Nahal settlements are to be established on the West Bank.
Fischer noted that the U.S. was helping Egypt and Israel to establish an elected self-governing authority to provide full autonomy for the people of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. However, he would not give a definition of what the U.S. considers “full autonomy,” noting that “this is what the negotiations are all about.”