A New Round of Talks in Oslo Fails to Break Impasse over Pact

J–R. Top-level Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization officials met over the weekend in Oslo, Norway, in an attempt to break the impasse that has stalled implementation of the self-rule accord and brought officials here to say a meeting planned for next week between Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat may have to be postponed.

But Rabin told reporters pointedly that the “decision-makers are not in Oslo.”

The prime minister noted that any agreements reached in Oslo would have to be referred for a final decision to Jerusalem and Tunis, site of the PLO headquarters.

The talks in the Norwegian capital, which convened Saturday under a blanket of secrecy, followed similar negotiations held in Paris the day before and appeared to have not borne fruit.

By Sunday evening, after negotiators had completed their second day of talks in Oslo, Israel Television reported there had as yet been “no breakthrough.”

But the negotiators tried to be optimistic by agreeing to meet again within several days for consultations.

The talks were a repeat of the secret negotiations held earlier in the year in Oslo between Israeli and PLO negotiators that led to the Palestinian self-rule accord signed in Washington in September and were led, as before, by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Ahmed Khoury, finance manager of the PLO.

TRYING TO ENSURE A SUCCESSFUL SUMMIT

Despite pessimistic reports, Rabin told reporters Sunday he was “trying through contacts in Oslo and elsewhere” to ensure that another summit meeting between himself and Arafat would end successfully.

A meeting between the two leaders held in Cairo on Dec. 12 — the eve of the deadline for beginning the implementation of the accord –ended without agreement on several key issues, chief among which were the boundaries of PLO rule over the West Bank town of Jericho.

Arafat and Rabin agreed to meet again within 10 days, in hopes that implementation of the pact could begin. But according to Israel Radio, senior Israeli officials have said Rabin and Arafat will not meet this week because the impasse has not yet been broken.

Other Israeli representatives currently in Oslo include Minister of Environment Yossi Sarid, Israel Defense Force chief of staff Amnon Shahak, Foreign Ministry Director-General Uri Savir and the ministry’s legal adviser, Yoel Zinger.

Rabin’s admonition that the decision-makers were not in Oslo was echoed by Hanan Ashrawi, Palestinian spokesperson until last week.

“The serious decision-makers are in Tunis and Jerusalem,” she told Israel Television.

In a separate development Sunday, Israel began releasing scores of the 197 Palestinian deportees who were allowed to return from southern Lebanon at the end of last week and had been held in custody since then. Members of the Islamic fundamentalist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, they were part of a group of 415 Palestinians deported from the territories a year ago following a wave of attacks on Israelis.

In Gaza, their arrival was scheduled for after 9 p.m., when the curfew takes effect.

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