U.S. Calls PLO Official’s Statement Constructive, but Not Authoritative

The State Department said Tuesday it did not consider a statement by a Palestine Liberation Organization official advocating direct peace talks with Israel to be an “authoritative statement” of the PLO.

The statement, made by PLO spokesman Bassam Abu Sharif during the recent Arab summit in Algiers, was written in a “constructive tone,” State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said, adding that it also contains “some positive points.”

Five Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, have denounced the statement, and are calling for Sharif to be brought to trial before a Palestinian court, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Oakley did not say which parts of the statement were constructive, but some of the more favorable references to Israel were that “Israel’s objectives are lasting peace and security” and “no one can understand the Jewish people’s centuries of suffering more than the Palestinians.”

Sharif also wrote that the PLO accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, but that it has not said so unconditionally because “neither resolution says anything about the national rights of the Palestinian people.”

Also, Sharif said the PLO is regarded as the representative of the Palestinian people by “every Palestinian questioned by diplomats and newsmen of the international community.”

But Oakley doubted whether the statement represents “official PLO policy.” She warned that “if the PLO is serious about moderating its position so as to make a positive contribution to the peace process, it can do so in an authoritative way.”

She added, “We have yet to see such an authoritative statement.”

U.S. policy is not to speak to the PLO until it accepts the two Security Council resolutions and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

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