WASHINGTON (Jan. 27)
Visiting Palestinian journalist Hanna Seniora said he told Secretary of State George Shultz on Wednesday that the Palestine Liberation Organization is the “sole legitimate representative” of the Palestinians and must be involved in any negotiations for Mideast peace.
Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem newspaper Al Fajr, delivered his comments outside the State Department following a half-hour meeting with Shultz.
Seniora and Fayez Abu Rahme, who heads an association of Palestinian lawyers in the Gaza Strip, also met separately with Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy.
The pair reportedly was denied Israeli permission last week to visit the United States.
Seniora said Shultz “promised that the United States will work hard to bring peace to the region. He is keen on trying to get involved personally in the situation and trying to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Seniora said he called for the convening of an international peace conference including the PLO and “a solution based on respect of the right of self-determination for both parties.”
He said Shultz responded by pointing out the PLO’s record of terrorism and reiterated that the United States will not recognize the PLO unless it agrees to U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which note Israel’s right to secure borders and call for the return of territory for peace.
SAYS ARAFAT WANTS PEACE
Seniora told the news conference that “I believe that (PLO Chairman Yasir) Arafat has endorsed a peaceful way out of the situation. They have said that they agree to negotiations — direct ones — with the State of Israel under an international conference.”
He also asserted that the concept of an international conference “is at the present moment not being discussed and not being endorsed by the Israeli government.”
While Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has endorsed the idea, so long as it does not have the power to impose a solution, Premier Yitzhak Shamir instead calls for direct negotiations between Arab countries and Israel.
Seniora commented on visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s proposed Israeli six-month freeze on new West Bank settlements in return for an end to rioting by Palestinians by saying “it’s meant to make the international conference possible.”
On the status of Jerusalem, Seniora said, “It has to be negotiated also…I agree that Jerusalem should be an open, undivided city, but I would not accept unilateral annexation of Jerusalem.”
The editor continued, saying Israel’s “occupation cannot be permanent” in the territories. He termed the plight of the Palestinian people “unbearable” and said “they are revolting against the practices of the occupation.”
He warned that “neglect of the area means more hatred, violence and deaths.”
Rahme said Shultz did not ask for Palestinians in the territories to exercise restraint.
While it was not clear whether Shultz said Israel should exercise moderation, State Department officials have regularly called for restraint by both sides.
In a hand-delivered letter to Shultz, the Palestinians listed 14 measures for Israel to take to end “the violence and bloodshed,” including:
Abiding by the Geneva Convention of 1949 pertaining to the protection of civilians under military occupation.
Releasing all prisoners arrested during the uprising, and rescinding all proceedings and indictments against them.
Allowing the four Palestinians deported to Lebanon to return.
Withdrawing the Israel Defense Force from population centers in the territories.
Conducting a formal inquiry into “the behavior of soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza.”
Ceasing development of new Jewish settlements and harassments of the Arab population, including “the provocative activities in the Old City of Jerusalem by Ariel Sharon and the ultra-religious settlers of Shuvu Banim and Ateret Kohanim.”
Instituting political freedoms such as municipal elections and Palestinian contact with the PLO.
Rescinding various economic measures that they say discriminate against Palestinians.