Dutch, PLO Officials Claim Secret Israeli-PLO Talks
THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) _ Israel’s deputy finance minister and a senior PLO official held secret, indirect talks in this city last month with a former Dutch official acting as intermediary, Dutch and PLO officials said today.
Abdullah Hourani, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, held ″indirect and triangular″ talks on June 26 with Yossi Beilin, the deputy finance minister, according to the PLO’s representative in the Netherlands, Afif Safieh.
On Thursday, Beilin said on Israeli Army radio that ″clear and official″ - albeit ″indirect″ peace talks - were under way between the PLO and the Israeli government. He did not give details or say whether he was involved.
The Israel government considers the PLO a terrorist group and bans its citizens from direct contacts with the organization.
Max van der Stoel, who was Dutch foreign minister from 1973-77 and from 1881-82, acted as a go-between for the talks in this diplomatic capital, Safieh told The Associated Press.
A Dutch Foreign Ministry spokesman, Peter van Vliet, confirmed Van der Stoel’s role in the Israeli-PLO contacts but would give no further details.
″We were kept informed by van der Stoel, but this is no initiative of the Foreign Ministry,″ van Vliet said.
Safieh also declined to discuss the substance of the talks.
Van der Stoel was not immediately available for comment.
Amsterdam’s De Volkskrant newspaper quoted van der Stoel as saying, ″I have tried to find out clearly what the bottlenecks are, the differences of opinion, and where there are possibilities for a beginning of understanding.′ ′
According to the newspaper, Beilin and Hourani had planned to issue a joint statement after the daylong talks, but their plan fell through because of mounting tensions in the Israeli government coalition.
Beilin is a member of Israel’s left-of-center Labor Party and a close political ally of Finance Minister Shimon Peres. The finance minister has proposed a Mideast peace conference which would involve Israel, its Arab neighbors, and Palestinian representatives.
Earlier this month, Labor threatened to leave Israel’s coalition government after Premier Yitzhak Shamir of the right-wing Likud bloc bowed to conservative preconditions on his proposal to hold elections in the Israeli- occupied territories. One stipulation was that the 19-month Palestinian uprising must end before voting occurs.
″We hope that this news will not be exploited in the intra-Israeli domestic debate,″ said Safieh, who also claimed that ″Likud, through a variety of channels, has also been communicating with the PLO leadership.″ He refused to give details.
Safieh described van der Stoel’s role in the talks as ″trying to bridge existing gaps between the two parties,″ and he said the three officials had held ″more than one meeting″ during the day.
According to Safieh, Hourani was in the Netherlands for a conference of the World Peace Council, a private peace group. Beilin was reportedly holding unrelated talks at the Finance Ministry.