PLO Says Jordan Will Avoid Further Pullout From West Bank
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) _ Visiting PLO officials said Jordan agreed to maintain its remaining ties with the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including the granting of Jordanian passports to residents and maintaining open bridges across the Jordan River.
The PLO officials, ending three days of talks with this kingdom’s leadership, repeated a call for an eventual confederation with Jordan in a Palestinian state.
The talks, which ended Sunday, were the first between top PLO and Jordanian officials since King Hussein announced two weeks ago that he was severing legal and administrative ties with the West Bank.
The delegation arrived in Egypt today for talks with President Hosni Mubarak.
A top PLO representative at the talks, Abdullah Horani, said the two sides had ″passed over″ irritation his group felt because it was not consulted before Hussein’s announcement.
Hussein challenged the Palestine Liberation Organization to create a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel during the 1967 Middle East war.
The territories have been plagued by an 8-month-old Palestinian rebellion, during which more than 240 Palestinians and four Israelis have died.
In the days preceding and following his speech, the Jordanian monarch canceled a $1.3 billion West Bank development plan, fired thousands of civil servants there and ended West Bank representation in Jordan’s parliament.
The moves prompted speculation that Hussein might be trying to set up the PLO for failure or pressuring it into admitting it needs Jordan to achieve a Palestinian state.
In a communique issued late Sunday, the PLO delegation praised Hussein’s moves in the West Bank, which he ruled from 1948 to 1967. It said Jordan had agreed to maintain current ties to the West Bank.
Horani told reporters those ties included the granting of Jordanian passports to West Bank residents, maintaining open bridges across the Jordan River, supervision of West Bank schools and economic links. Jordan om serves as a lifeline to the West Bank by handling exports and funneling in money.
A Jordanian statement after the meeting made no direct mention of those links or any agreement relating to them. It said only that the two sides agreed ″that the national unity between both sides is a stronghold″ and pledged continued support for the Palestinian cause.
Jordan has long had uneasy relations with the PLO, and it fought in 1970-71 to expel Palestinian commandos from its territory.
Most of the 850,000 West Bank residents and many of the 650,000 residents of the Gaza Strip hold Jordanian passports, although Gaza was under Egyptian control until 1967.
Hussein’s recent moves have caused anxiety among West Bank residents as well as Jordanians of Palestinian origin, who are in the majority in Jordan. They fear their rights in Jordan might be curtailed.
The PLO statement Sunday said the kingdom ″made clear Jordan’s decision that Jordanians of Palestinian origin are Jordanian citizens and have full rights of citizenship and full duties.″
Also Sunday, a senior PLO leader was quoted as saying the PLO is seriously considering creating a provisional government that would recognize Israel’s right to exist.
The weekly Journal du Dimanche quoted Salah Khalaf, PLO chief Yasser Arafat’s main deputy in the Fatah guerrilla group, as saying: ″My solution for peace is for a Palestinian state, a discussion to establish the borders of this state and mutual recognition of Israel and Palestine.″
Khalaf was quoted as saying, ″We are thinking seriously of creating a Palestinian state with a provisional government, legitimately established, whose political program would be completely different from the PLO’s current charter.″ He gave no details.
The 20-year-old charter calls for replacement of the Jewish state with a ″democratic secular state.″ It has been a roadblock to U.S. and Israeli relations with the PLO.
The Khalaf interview received wide media coverage in Israel, and the daily Hadashot said today that it might herald a significant change in the PLO, which Israel has banned as a terrorist group.
″We can’t ignore what is happening to the PLO today,″ the paper said in an editorial. It said a move by the PLO to set up a government recognizing Israel ″could change the status quo ... The argument that ‘we don’t speak to the PLO’ loses its force when we are talking about an organization which claims it is ready to negotiate on the basis of mutual recognition.″
Khalaf said a decision might be taken by the Palestine National Council at its meeting next month in Algeria.