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Shamir and Baker Each Reaffirm Commitment to Peace Initiative

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Israeli acting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and Secretary of State James Baker have reaffirmed their commitment to the Israeli peace initiative, including the proposal for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

“I am the father of this plan,” Shamir said in an appearance Sunday on the ABC-TV talk show “This Week with David Brinkley.”

“What I have proposed to the Arab world, not only to the Palestinians, is to sit down and negotiate about all the questions that separate us from them,” he said.

“The moment we will sit down and negotiate, everyone will explain his position. We will try to find out an agreed solution.”

Baker, interviewed Sunday on the CBS-TV program “Face the Nation,” denied that he had given up on the Middle East peace process.

“Until we have a peace process, the potential for continued escalation of violence and killing in the Middle East will continue,” he said.

But the secretary of state said that nothing can be done until a new government is formed in Israel. “We hope very much that a government will emerge that will want to move forward for peace,” he said.

Baker pointed out that although Israel’s former unity government could not agree on his proposal for preliminary Israeli-Palestinian talks on the election plan, “they didn’t say no.”

‘READY TO COOPERATE’

Israel’s unity government collapsed when Labor wanted to accept Baker’s proposal that Arabs from East Jerusalem be part of the Palestinian delegation, while Likud rejected this.

Shamir stressed Sunday that “what is important is the intention of the people that will come to negotiate with us. If their intention is to get peace, to understand our point of view and to be determined to find out an agreed solution, then everything will be OK.”

But the prime minister added that the Palestinians will have to accept the proposed Israeli framework for negotiations to elect people who will represent the Palestinians in negotiations for autonomy.

After a few years of autonomy, “we will start a process of negotiations about the permanent solution of the status of the territories,” Shamir said. He said both sides can offer their own solutions, but the eventual outcome “has to be agreed by both parties.”

Asked about tensions between the United States and Israel, Shamir called for patience on both sides.

“After all, the United States government is not a party to the conflict,” Shamir said “They are mediators. They are ready and willing to help the parties to come to an understanding, and we are ready to cooperate.”

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