New Israeli-PLO Talks in Paris; Progress Reported
PARIS (AP) _ PLO and Israeli officials kept quiet about their talks today at a secret site in the French capital, but progress was reported from meetings in Norway over the weekend.
An Israeli newspaper and diplomatic sources in Tunisia, where the PLO has its headquarters, said the two sides were close to a compromise on joint control of border crossings, one of the sticking points in the talks.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Yasser Abed-Rabbo, a senior PLO figure, were due in Paris later today to head their delegations.
A Palestine Liberation Organization spokesman in Paris said the talks were expected to get under way tonight. A French government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the negotiators were prepared to talk through the night in an effort to reach agreement by Wednesday.
In Oslo, Norway, over the weekend, the two sides reportedly narrowed differences on border checkpoints, the extent of an Israeli pullout and security for Jewish settlers.
Those issues prevented an Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho that was to begin Dec. 13 under terms of the peace accord signed in Washington in September.
Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee, said there was ″partial agreement on some of the disputed points″ in Oslo. ″Don’t ask me to specify the points of agreement,″ he told a press club in Rabat, Morocco, on Monday night.
Abbas said the Paris talks would seek ″a median solution to bring Palestinian sovereignty on one hand and the peace of mind and security for Israel on the other.″
Officials at the Israeli Embassy and a PLO office in Paris would say little about the talks, only to confirm that they were to take place.
Abed-Rabbo told The Associated Press in Tunis, Tunisia, that he would head the Palestinian delegation. The French government source said earlier that Abbas was expected to lead it.
Officials refused to say where the talks would be held.
There was no explanation for why the talks were moved from Oslo to Paris. Secret negotiations that brought about the peace accord signed Sept. 13 in Washington also took place in Oslo and Paris.
In Israel, the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth said Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin had agreed to let Palestinian liaison officers work with Israeli troops at border crossings into the planned autonomous areas. Israeli officials declined comment.
″We have thought of some proposals, but we can’t let you know now what they are,″ said Peres’ spokeswoman, Bahira Burdugo. She said the proposals were being considered by Arafat.
In Tunis, PLO and diplomatic sources said Arafat had endorsed a compromise for shared control of border crossings. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Palestinian police would control movement by Palestinians in and out of the zones, but Israeli officials also would have the right to bar entry or exit.
Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, who failed to bridge their differences in a meeting Dec. 12, had pledged to meet again in 10 days. But both sides were reluctant to go ahead with another summit unless success was assured.
The PLO wanted full control of the border crossings to give the autonomous zones the first trappings of statehood. Israel said the PLO was violating an understanding that Israel would remain in charge of external security and foreign relations until later negotiations on the occupied lands’ final status.
Israel feared Palestinian-controlled checkpoints could allow more militants and weapons to slip into the West Bank and Gaza.
Another problem delaying agreement was the size of the Jericho autonomy enclave. Israel supported a 35-square-mile area, while Palestinians wanted 80 square miles.
Israeli officials said Israel was more flexible on the size of the self- rule region than on control of the borders.
A third issue was Israel’s demand for access to Palestinian-controlled areas when chasing guerrilla suspects so as to provide security to Jewish settlements.
Meanwhile, a Syrian newspaper urged Arafat to pull the PLO out of the talks with Israel. Syria has refused to endorse the peace accord.
The official newspaper al-Thawra said Israel’s ″only objective (is) to undermine the whole peace process, to circumvent Arab demands and to evade full withdrawal from the occupied Arab lands.″
Syria lost the strategic Golan Heights to Israel in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and is holding its own peace talks with Israel in an attempt to get the region back.