WASHINGTON (Dec. 10)
Yasir Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has again publicly rejected the notion that Egypt can represent the Palestinians in talks with the United States and Israel.
“Nobody has the right to speak in our name,” Arafat said in an interview broadcast Sunday on the NBC-TV program “Meet The Press.” The interview with Arafat was taped Saturday in Baghdad, Iraq.
Arafat’s comments appear to contradict the impression in Washington that Egypt had at least tacit approval from the PLO when it informed the United States last week that it accepted Secretary of State James Baker’s five-point proposal for initial talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The State Department would not state this outright, except to say that everyone knows that Egypt is talking to the PLO.
Some analysts have speculated that the PLO is pursuing a double-edged strategy of giving the Egyptians a green light privately while publicly insisting that the PLO must be involved in selecting the Palestinian delegation that will negotiate with Israel.
Having won acceptance by both Egypt and Israel of the five-point plan, Baker is now trying to arrange a meeting in Washington with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid.
The meeting, expected to take place early in the new year, will discuss ways of bringing about the preliminary talks, including the selection of the Palestinian delegation.
MAKING PEACE WITH THE ENEMY
Arafat said that the three foreign ministers are free to discuss the camp David agreements. “But if they are speaking about the Palestinians, the Palestinians have to represent themselves. I have nothing to do with this meeting.”
During the interview, Arafat frequently answered questions by asking questions of his own. He said, for instance, “I would like to ask if there is a Soviet Union-American delegation, can you accept that the Soviet Union government will designate the American delegation?”
“The Palestinians and their leadership have the right to designate their representatives as well as the Israeli government,” he maintained.
Israeli leaders have steadfastly rejected any negotiations with the PLO. But Arafat asked, “With whom are they going to make peace? I am going to make peace with my enemy.”
He said that when the United States agreed to open a dialogue with the PLO in December 1988, Washington accepted “that the PLO represents the Palestinian people.”
Arafat asserted that he wants “peace for all of us, peace for Palestinian children, and for Israeli children” in the “land of peace.”
He also pointed out that the 1988 Palestine National Council resolution declaring a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip call for a confederation with Jordan once that state is established.