For Arabs, Peace Conference Brings Pride But Little Hope With AM-Mideast Talks, Bjt
Nov. 02, 1991
NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Many Arabs from Algeria to Bahrain are taking heart that the Middle East is finally getting the full attention of the world. But in bazaars and bus stops, coffee houses and supermarkets, there was little hope Saturday of a breakthrough.
''We are sick of watching it on TV. It is the same old story, rhetoric,'' said Egyptian maid Mohga Abdel-Salam of the Mideast peace talks in Madrid.
Still, live broadcasts of the opening phase of the conference, which ended Friday, underscored the avid public interest in the peace process. And for many, the coverage offered glimpses of an adversary rarely seen so directly.
During the Persian Gulf war, for example, Cable News Network broadcasts in Saudi Arabia were delayed for up to eight hours while they were screened for live reports from Israel and other offensive references.
The speeches that seemed to attract most attention were those of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa and Dr. Haidar Abdul-Shafi, the head of the Palestinian delegation.
''Everyone had to say what they wanted. The main thing for me is that the right of the Palestinians has finally emerged and the world is talking about it now,'' said Irtifaa Al-Khatib, a Palestinian teacher in Abu Dhabi.
''I hold my head in pride when I hear (Palestinian spokeswoman) Hanan Ashrawi at the press conferences defending our cause,'' said Lufti Abu Asab, a garage owner in east Jerusalem.
Just the fact that the talks took place gave many people hope.
''The mutual Palestinian-Israeli recognition is a chance for peace,'' said Abdelkarim Slimani, a 30-year-old office worker in Algeria.
''Maybe it will lead to a normalization of relations between Mediterranean countries, including Israel. From now on there should be a development of mutual trust between Arabs and Israelis to finally allow peace in this part of the world.''
But for all the optimism, there was a dose of pessimism as well.
''Madrid was nothing but a waste of time. I've said so all along and the speeches of the past few days have proved I am right,'' said Nidal Shukri, a Syrian in Damascus. ''If there is no international pressure on Israel to withdraw everything else is a waste of time.''
In Beirut, Lebanese student Saadah Nahleh said he did not think it possible to make peace with Israel. ''One cannot get what he wants from Israel. Only if you give a yard, you get an inch,'' he said.
Many Arabs said they thought the only way forward was for the United States to pressure Israel to give up territory for peace.
But the rejectionists were holding fast to their adamant opposition to the conference.
The official Libyan news agency JANA reported that dozens of members of the Palestinian youth organization went on a 48-hour sit-in and hunger strike in Tripoli to protest the Madrid conference.
In a protest that began Friday in front of the U.N. office in the Libyan capital, the demonstrators condemned ''the plot against the cause of the Palestinian people,'' said JANA, monitored in Rome.