JERUSALEM (Dec. 20)
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will resume their talks in Paris later this week, officials in Jerusalem and Tunis have confirmed.
The negotiating teams completed two days of talks in Oslo on Sunday and returned home for consultations.
Negotiators for the Palestine Liberation Organization have reportedly stated their willingness to limit the size of the West Bank town of Jericho that will fall under their administration, a key sticking point in the negotiations.
The PLO had previously sought an area of 140 square miles around Jericho, but according to press reports, it will now accept an area of 80 square miles.
In a move apparently designed to keep their negotiating options open, both sides have had little official comment about the talks.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who is leading the Israeli negotiating team, told Israel Army Radio on Monday that this was not a time for declarations.
“If we make declarations,” Peres said, “we will be negotiating over the declarations instead of over the issues.”
PALESTINIANS DEMANDING TOO MUCH
But Peres did tell Israel Television that he thinks the Palestinians have been demanding too much.
“Some of (PLO Chairman Yasser) Arafat’s demands go beyond the declaration of principles (that form the basis of the self-rule accord) and we have told him so in the clearest terms,” said Peres.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was quoted by the newspaper Ma’ariv on Monday as saying the Oslo II round, as the weekend’s talks are known in the Israeli media, was neither a failure nor a success.
Earlier this year, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met secretly in Oslo, where they successfully concluded the agreement that was signed in September in Washington.
At the time, Peres met with Abu Alaa, also known as Ahmed Karia, the head of the PLO’s economic division. In the latest round of talks, Alaa served as the top Palestinian negotiator, again going face-to-face with Peres.
The only clearly optimistic note about the progress of the latest Oslo round was sounded by Norwegian State Secretary Jan Egland, who participated in the weekend talks.
Egland told Radio Oslo on Monday that clear progress had been made in the negotiations.
Implementation of the self-rule accord was scheduled to begin on Dec. 13, but was postponed after negotiators became deadlocked over key security matters.
The issues still to be resolved concern the policing of the borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and between Jericho and Jordan, the size of Israeli security forces that will protect Jewish settlements in Gaza and Jericho, and the size of the Jericho district.