Israel and PLO focus on security problems: Arafat aims to wrap up self-rule agreement in four weeks

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The Independent Online
ISRAEL and the Palestine Liberation Organisation resumed talks yesterday in the Egyptian resort of Taba. They focused on the remaining differences over security arrangements which are delaying a final agreement on limited and partial self-rule on the Israeli occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.

The most difficult and contentious issues were settled in intensive negotiations in Cairo last week, culminating in the signing of a partial agreement on Wednesday night. Israeli officials were encouraged as much by the willingness of the two sides to establish a mechanism for reaching an agreement as by the agreement itself. Though many areas remain outstanding they believe that they are over the worst.

'The Cairo agreement brought us to agreement in certain subjects and of course it makes things easier,' said Major-General Amnon Shahak, the chief Israeli negotiator, yesterday.

'We agree on certain things that we did not agree on in the past and now we have a wider base to go on in the negotiations,' he added.

He said that they had discussed the Palestinian police force in the morning session yesterday, concentrating on its structure, duties and functions. The PLO wants a force of 9,000 whereas the Israelis are accepting only 6,000. In the event the PLO may find it will not be able to pay for as many as it desires.

Many police have been trained in Egypt and Jordan. The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire is in Jerusalem to look at ways of bringing senior Palestinian officers to Britain for courses in accountability to the law, the public and government.

Both Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, and Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, have said that the accord on implementing this first stage of the autonomy stage for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area could take another month. Mr Arafat has said that he would like the agreement wrapped up in less than four weeks. Implementation would then take several months.

Nabil Shaath, the chief PLO negotiator, said that the security agenda included control of sea and air space. Delineation of the Jericho area from which Israel will withdraw has yet to be made. This may have to be finalised at a meeting between Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat.

Israel also hopes that Syria may initiate a secret channel for talks in the same way that the Palestinians did in Oslo as the best way to make progress in the search for an agreement between Syria and Israel. However, the Syrians have stated publicly that there would be no such contacts.

Mr Shaath said that other issues to be discussed at Taba included the transfer of authority from the Israeli military occupation authorities to the new Palestinian authority in respect of Palestinian radio and television, electricity, water and planning for land and the environment.

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