Arafat pleads with West to rescue deal

The Palestine Liberation Organisation is to ask Britain and its European partners to get involved in a new round of diplomacy to save Middle East peace negotiations from collapse.

Frustrated by Israeli bargaining tactics and threatened by Islamic opponents, the PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, yesterday sent envoys to Europe, the United States, Russia and Japan to ask for help.

The PLO hopes Britain can take a prominent role because John Major is to make an official visit to Israel and Gaza next month, while the Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, is to travel to the Middle East around the same time.

British officials will tell the Prime Minister Mr Arafat faces disaster because he cannot keep order while appearing impotent in the face of relentless Israeli negotiating pressure.

But, there is scepticism in the Foreign Office that international pressure on Israeli may produce more flexibility. "It is a notoriously unreliable instrument" one diplomat said.

Under the self-rule agreement signed in Washington in 1993, Palestinian elections were due to take place in July last year after Israeli troops pulled out of Gaza and the main towns in the West Bank.

But Israeli troops have not redeployed on the West Bank and the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, has said it is impossible to pull back unless Mr Arafat can stop attacks on Israeli targets. The PLO says the lack of progress strengthens militant claims that Mr Arafat has sold out, creating a vicious circle which the PLO chairman cannot break.

"We demanded an accurate and honest commitment to what was agreed upon, unless they think that elections are not important to us, and that the withdrawal from the populated areas and redeployment in the West Bank are not important," Mr Arafat said. "Now they are using the pretext of violent operations against citizens."

Mr Arafat pointed out 238 Palestinians had been killed since the agreement was signed, compared to 112 Israelis.

His latest move came at a fraught session of the PLO's executive committee in Cairo, which decided not to suspend the talks with Israel. But the committee said that after 10 rounds of fruitless talks, the negotiations were in a stalemate.

Mr Arafat's initial intention, true to his old instincts, was to do the rounds of Arab heads of government, although this is unlikely to yield more than empty rhetoric.

But the attempt to arouse international action is a new way to achieve the Palestinian goal of getting foreign help in their negotiations with an opponent who holds all the cards. It should prod the US and Russia to examine their policy as sponsors of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference, which provided the formal negotiating framework.

The PLO said the peace talks were undermined by the continuous building of Israeli settlements, the confiscation of Palestinian land and an Israeli programme to change the demographic character of Jerusalem. Mr Rabin has said new settlements will be limited to projects agreed by the government. But Israel has made clear Palestinian aspirations to Jerusalem are not negotiable.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager

£35000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global provider of call ce...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada