TEL AVIV (Aug. 10)
American and Palestinian observers are blaming the Palestine Liberation Organization for the cancellation of a planned meeting in Cairo between U.S. envoy Richard Murphy and a group of Palestinians.
Murphy, who is assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, was in Cairo as part of a diplomatic mission that included meetings earlier in the week in Amman, Beirut and Jerusalem.
He was to meet in Cairo with representatives from the administered territories as part of a U.S. effort to reach out to Palestinians, who say they have been excluded from American peace initiatives in the region.
Sources in the territories who were involved in trying to arrange the meeting attributed the failure to disagreement between the United States and the PLO over escalating PLO demands.
In particular, the United States was said to have balked at three key PLO requests: that the Palestinian delegation be considered under PLO auspices; that the delegation be expanded to include figures identified with leftist organizations; and that a communique to be released at the end of the meeting be issued jointly by the PLO and the United States.
Hanna Siniora, editor of the East Jerusalem daily Al-Fajr, criticized the PLO demands as exaggerated. He told the Hebrew daily Haaretz that the PLO should have taken into account the number of concessions already agreed to by the United States, including an agreement to allow the PLO to choose the participants in the meeting.
PRESSURE FROM LEFTIST FACTIONS
American diplomats in Jerusalem were reportedly angry that the meeting did not take place. They blamed “PLO stubbornness,” according to sources.
The PLO’s shifting list of ground rules also was seen here as pointing to the increasing influence within the organization of such leftist Palestinian factions as George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Nayef Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Observers in the territories familiar with internal PLO affairs told Haaretz that the leftist factions exerted heavy pressure on the less extreme Al Fatah wing, led by PLO chief Yasir Arafat, to torpedo the meeting.
Without their interference, the observers said, pragmatic voices within the PLO seemed clearly interested in a meeting between so-called nationalist Palestinians and U.S. representatives, even if the Palestinians would not be considered PLO representatives.
The United States officially refuses to talk to the PLO until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist and endorses United Nations resolutions calling for a peaceful settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But U.S. mediators in the past have tacitly allowed the PLO to play a role in selecting representatives for negotiations.
The New York Times on Wednesday quoted Arafat as saying that two of his aides had met in Morocco recently with Vernon Walters, the chief U.S. representative to the United Nations. But Walters’ office told the Times that no such meeting had taken place.