PLO Leaders Condemn Israel As Cairo Negotiations Conclude

The leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization this week condemned Israel for delaying the implementation of the Palestinian self-rule accord.

“The trouble that is facing the negotiations is the result of a deliberate and planned policy by the Israeli government to use different excuses since the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian accord to stall carrying it out,” the PLO’s Executive Committee said in a statement issued in Cairo on wednesday.

“The peace process is starting to go ’round in an empty circle and is losing its credibility and ability to continue,” the statement continued.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat convened the Executive Committee for a two-day session in Cairo to address what he termed the “impasse” in negotiations with Israel.

The meeting followed talks in Paris between Arafat and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and coincided with ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in Cairo.

In the statement issued at the conclusion of the PLO session, the committee condemned Israel for failing to withdraw troops from Arab population centers in the West Bank.

The step was called for under the terms of the Declaration of Principles signed in Washington in September 1993, but Israel has delayed the move, citing security concerns in the wake of repeated terrorist attacks against Israelis by Palestinian rejectionists.

The PLO leadership also called the expansion of Israeli settlements in the territories a violation of the self-rule accord. It also called upon release all Palestinians still held in Israeli jails.

The meeting in Cairo took place following an earlier decision by the committee not to suspend talks with Israel.

But the committee said it would seek international help to pressure Israel to fulfill its part of the agreement.

Only nine of the committee’s 18 members attended the meeting. Some members refused to take part because of their opposition to the direction taken in the Israel-PLO negotiations.

Their absence leaves open the possibility that those members of the committee opposing the peace process can declare the committee’s decisions null and void, since Arafat failed to gather the two-thirds quorum required under PLO rules.

During its session this week, the committee also called upon leaders of the Arab world to convene to discuss the state of the peace process.

Israel Radio reported Wednesday that several Arab member states of the United Nations are planning to request that the U.N. Security Council hold a discussion on continued settlement expansion in areas around Jerusalem.

On Sunday, the Israeli Cabinet denied an appeal by the left-wing Meretz bloc of the coalition to stop the expansion of communities around Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators concluded another round of talks in Cairo on Wednesday.

The two sides were unable to bridge their difference on issues relating to the withdrawal of Israeli forces in the West Bank and the holding of Palestinian elections.

Among the topics discussed was a Palestinian suggestion to bring international observers to the West Bank and Gaza Strip to monitor the elections.

Yoel Singer, the Foreign Ministry’s legal adviser who is head of the Israeli negotiating team, said the two sides were still far from reaching an overall agreement on elections.

“I can’t say we are agreed on all the elements of the agreement, but we are moving forward as fast as we can,” he said.

In an effort to keep the momentum of the talks going, the two sides agreed to reconvene in Cairo in two weeks.

Singer said he would meet with Saeb Erekat, the head of the Palestinian delegation, next week in Israel or in the West Bank Jericho enclave.

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