JERUSALEM (Oct. 13)
A month after the Israelis and Palestine Liberation Organization signed their historic accord for Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, leaders of the formerly bitter adversaries held meetings to get to the nitty-gritty of the agreement.
Israeli and PLO leaders reached agreement on several immediate procedures to begin implementing the Palestinian self-rule accord signed by both parties Sept. 13 in Washington.
One of the most contentious issues, the border of Jericho and the area over which the Palestinians will have dominion, is on the agenda for a future meeting.
A liaison committee met Wednesday in Cairo, attended by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Environment Minister Yossi Sarid of Israel.
Representing the Palestinians was Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, who played a key role behind the scenes in the secret negotiations held earlier this year in Oslo, Norway, which led to the self-rule agreement.
As the liaison committee opened its session, Peres said it would deal with “principles, not with details.”
Following the meeting, Peres, asked by reporters if the Israeli army would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and Jericho by Dec. 13, as stipulated in the accord, gave an emphatic “yes.”
In fact, he said, “If possible, we shall try to do it earlier.”
As the liaison committee was convening in Cairo, other Israeli and PLO negotiators were meeting in the Sinai border town of Taba to discuss details for implementing the accord.
Meanwhile, discord within the PLO about the agreement was officially dispelled.
At a two-day PLO meeting in Tunis, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat fully took the reigns of negotiations with Israel by placing men loyal to him at the helm of key committees and purging opponents from the PLO.
JOINT ECONOMIC PANEL URGED
In a strong move, Arafat barred from Tunisia several PLO officials who opposed the accord signed with Israel.
A two-day meeting of the PLO Central Council ended Tuesday with a unanimous endorsement of Arafat as executor of the negotiations with Israel.
In Cairo, the liaison committee, which has the task of overseeing all general arrangements for implementing the accord, agreed that it would hold its meetings in Cairo every two to three weeks.
The committee further agreed to establish subcommittees to deal with specific issues as they arise.
In line with this thinking, the liaison committee called for the immediate establishment of an Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation committee.
Finance Minister Avraham Shohat would lead the Israeli team and Abu Alaa, the head of the PLO’s economic department, was likely to represent the Palestinians.
The liaison committee also agreed that the Taba committee was to proceed with its work without interruption.
In Taba, the Israeli delegation was headed by Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, Israel Defense Force deputy chief of staff.
Leading the Palestinian delegation was Nabil Sha’ath, a senior Arafat adviser who is the PLO’s representative in Cairo.
BOUNDARIES OF JERICHO DISCUSSED
Among the major issues discussed at the talks in Taba were the precise borders of the West Bank city of Jericho, which will fall under Palestinian self-rule.
The Palestinians are demanding that their domain extend over the entire Jericho region, while Israel is insisting on limiting the area to Jericho’s city borders.
A member of the Palestinian delegation referred to this as the most troubling problem on the agenda of the Taba talks.
The group was also to discuss how Palestinians will be able to travel between Gaza and Jericho.
The Palestinians want to create a corridor between the two autonomous entities. Israel insists on granting special permits for travel on Israeli roads between the two regions.
A third topic to be discussed will be control of the border points between Jericho and Jordan, and between the Gaza town of Rafah and Egypt.
Fourth, the Taba group will discuss who will control water resources in Jericho and the Gaza Strip.
Fifth, the negotiating teams will agree on the terms and conditions of Israel Defense Force movements in the two areas after the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho.
According to the terms of the self-rule accord, the withdrawal must be completed no later than April 13, 1994.
Issues that cannot be resolved in Taba will be referred to the liaison committee that meets in Cairo.