U.S. to Retain Ban on Contacts with Plo, State Department Says

The United States will continue to shun direct contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, despite the fact that Israel is now negotiating directly with the Tunis-based movement.

When asked at the State Department briefing Monday if the United States planned to review its own policy on the PLO in light of the developments in the Middle East, spokesman Mike McCurry replied in the negative.

“Is that policy under review? No. There’s no change in our policy,” McCurry said.

The United States broke off a low-level, 18-month dialogue with the PLO in June 1990, after the group’s executive committee failed to condemn an attempted terrorist attack on Israel staged by one of the PLO’s factions.

McCurry said the United States “didn’t encourage or discourage any contact that Israel may or may not have had with Palestinian representatives” in recent weeks.

On the eve of the resumption here of the Middle East peace negotiations, McCurry welcomed the “substantial progress” made between Israelis and Palestinians that has led many to expect this 11th round of bilateral talks to produce a breakthrough.

“We hope and expect that this progress will now be reflected in the next negotiating round beginning tomorrow and will lead to an early agreement on the draft declaration of principles” that the United States has been brokering between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, McCurry said.

President Clinton also welcomed the progress on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating track.

“I’m very much encouraged by what is happening there and very hopeful,” the president told reporters Monday.

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