U.S. and PLO Target June for Third Round of Talks

The United States and the Palestine Liberation Organization met in Tunis on Tuesday to try to “find concrete steps that would move the peace process forward,” the State Department said Wednesday.

In a statement posted for reporters, the department said the meeting was “in the context of our regular dialogue,” which began last December following PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat’s renunciation of terrorism.

The United States reportedly held the meeting in preparation for a third full round of talks planned for early June. A State Department source said one news report from Tunisia he has seen cites a June 8 date for the next meeting, but could not confirm it as part of U.S. plans.

U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia Robert Pelletreau, the sole U.S. diplomat allowed to talk to the PLO, met. Tuesday with Hakam Balaoui, the PLO’s representative in Tunis.

The Balaoui-Pelletreau informal discussion was not a meeting “in the fuller sense,” the source said, explaining that the formal U.S.-PLO meetings are those between Pelletreau and Yasir Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO’s 15-member executive committee. Pelletreau and Balaoui have met much more frequently.

The source would not attribute the scheduling of the meeting to any particular development in the Middle East, except that it was a “natural” response to recent developments.

Those include Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s formal presentation of his plan for Palestinian elections for autonomy in the administered territories, and last week’s Arab summit in Morocco.

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