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Israeli-palestinian Talks Shift to Italy As Deadline Approaches

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet in Italy Tuesday to resume their efforts to meet the latest deadline — July 25 — for concluding the second- phase agreement of their peace process.

On Monday, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is scheduled to convene a meeting of top ministers and aides for a consultation before briefing the negotiating team, which is led by Uri Savir, director-general of the Foreign Ministry.

Italy, it now appears, has been the discreet site of several rounds of talks over the past few months between teams led by Savir and by the Palestinian Authority’s minister of economics, Ahmed Karia, also known as Abu Ala’a.

The Israeli media has so far failed to discover the precise site of such past sessions, or of the planned meeting this week.

The Hebrew daily Yediot Achronot said it would take place at “a lavish villa in or near Rome.”

Savir and Karia, who led their respective sides in the secret negotiations in Oslo during 1993 that resulted in the Declaration of Principles signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in September of that year, are said to have an easy working relationship and a warm personal friendship.

Political insiders in Israel say Savir has gradually won the full confidence of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, which was only grudgingly given to him during the Oslo talks.

They say this is a reflection of the close coordination and harmony that has characterized the working relationship between Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres during this period of crucial decision-making, both in the Israel- Palestinian talks and on the Israeli-Syrian track.

Movement on the Israeli-Syrian track, meanwhile, was also expected this week with Monday’s scheduled arrival of Dennis Ross, head of the Clinton administration’s Mideast peace team, for talks in Jerusalem and Damascus.

The American diplomat is hoping to arrange for talks between Israeli and Syrian military in Washington in mid-July as a follow up to talks earlier this month between the two countries’ chiefs of staff.

The next round of talks is expected to be followed by a shuttle between the two capitals by Secretary of State Warren Christopher in late July or early August.

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