JERUSALEM (Dec. 2)
The Palestinians are saying that the Cairo talks for implementing the self-rule accord are deadlocked, but Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, on a whirlwind tour of European capitals, is insisting that he will press forward with the peace process.
After a two-day meeting of its leadership in Tunis, the Palestine Liberation Organization issued a statement Thursday calling for the co-sponsors of the peace process, the United States and Russia, to get involved in the negotiations.
The negotiations “have reached an impasse which threatens the credibility of the peace process,” the statement said, adding that the United States and Russia should intervene to “guarantee the implementation of the agreement.”
Despite the PLO’s criticism of the talks’ progress, chief Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath said the negotiations would continue as planned next week.
The issues that have plagued the Cairo talks include control of the border crossings near the Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho, the boundaries of Jericho that will come under Palestinian authority, and guarantees for the security of Israeli settlements in the two regions.
Rabin, who was in Bonn on Thursday, denied rumors that he had secretly agreed with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to postpone the Dec. 13 deadline for starting the implementation of the accord.
“I am not aware of any such agreement,” he said, adding that instead of speculating about a postponement, the two parties should focus their efforts on concluding the negotiations on schedule.
MEANWHILE, DEATH TOLL MOUNTS
The statement marked a departure for Rabin, who earlier in the week had said that the deadline was not “engraved in stone.”
During his stay in Bonn, Rabin met with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
The German leader promised his country’s support for Israel’s request to upgrade its status to associate member of the E.C.
That meeting was one of several Rabin had with members of Common Market nations.
In Brussels, Rabin said the negotiations had reached a delicate stage.
“We are in a very sensitive period where the two parties must have solid nerves to achieve their objectives and overcome the obstacles,” he said.
Rabin was scheduled for a brief stopover in London before returning to Israel on Friday, when he will begin preparing for the visit to the Middle East next week by U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
While the talks in Cairo proceed, the death toll caused by groups opposed to the peace process continues to mount.
On Wednesday, gunmen with the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement opened fire on a car stalled by the side of the road, killing a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher, Shalva Uzana, and critically wounding another occupant of the car, 19-year-old Yitzhak Weinstock.
On Thursday, Weinstock died, causing Jewish settlers to hold demonstrations and set up roadblocks throughout the West Bank.
Earlier this week, demonstrations by Palestinians in Gaza had led to clashes with Israeli police — the most violent since the self-rule accord was signed in Washington in September.
(Contributing to this report were JTA correspondents Gil Sedan in Bonn and Joseph Kopel in Brussels.)