TEL AVIV (Apr. 13)
Israel and the United States may be nearing agreement on the question of Palestinian representation in the various working groups on Middle East regional issues scheduled to meet in different capitals next month.
The working groups were established at the multilateral peace conference that convened in Moscow on Jan. 28 and 29. at which Israelis and Arabs were joined by most of the world powers. It was agreed that five working groups would meet in May, after the Passover, Ramadan and Easter holidays.
The Palestinians did not take part in those talks after the United States and Russia refused to seat delegates they had brought from outside the administered territories, in violation of the ground rules set when the peace process was launched in Madrid last fall.
Those rules recognize Israel’s right to refuse to negotiate with Palestinians from Fast Jerusalem or outside the territories. as well as with members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The United States proposed relaxing those rules for the meetings of the working groups Hut Israel objected strongly and threatened to walk out of the talks if the PLO sends delegates to the working groups
The two sides have been trying to work out a compromise at private talks in Washington and Jerusalem over the past few weeks, without notable success
EXCLUDED FROM ARMS CONTROL TALKS
But now, the United States is relaxing its demand to include Palestinians from abroad and Fast Jerusalem in the working groups, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported Monday.
According to the latest U.S. proposals, no Palestinians would participate in the working group on arms control and regional security. due to meet in Washington from May II to 13.
in exchange, the Americans reportedly want Israel to agree to allow Palestinians from the administered territories to participate in the working committees on the environment and water resources
The environmental discussions, to be held in Tokyo during the week of May 18, will focus specifically on the West Bank and the Gulf of Aqaba.
Both Austria and Turkey have bid to host the water resources talks.
The United States has also proposed that Israel agree to include Palestinians from abroad in the working group on refugees, which will meet in Ottawa from May 13 to 15, and the working group on economic cooperation, set to convene in Brussels at about the same time
Those delegates would not be identified with the PLO and would not be residents of Fast Jerusalem, the Americans have promised.
Meanwhile, the bilateral talks Israel is holding with Syria, Lebanon and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation are scheduled to resume in Washington on April 27.