New optimism in Mid-East talks
FOR the first time in weeks, there were signs yesterday on several fronts of progress in the search for a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, although there were more expressions of hope than marks of concrete achievement.
In Israel, the Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, met the visiting Egyptian Foreign Minister, Amr Moussa. Afterwards, when asked about the Palestinian-Israel talks, Mr Rabin told reporters: 'I believe there is an improvement.' However, he warned against excessive hope. 'Allow me to be cautious, not to say that we have succeeded to overcome all the obstacles. They (the Palestine Liberation Organisation) understand that we are determined on the issue of security,' he added.
Much will depend on the outcome of the meeting scheduled between the PLO Chairman, Yasser Arafat, and the Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, in Davos on Sunday. Their principal negotiators - Yoel Singer, the legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Minister, and Abu Ala for the Palestinian side - are due to meet somewhere in Europe on Thursday to prepare for the Peres-Arafat meeting.
The two sides are hoping to resolve differences that held up Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Jericho area on 13 December. The main disagreements centre on border security arrangements and the size of the Jericho enclave. Discussions on these issues at the Egyptian resort at Taba have been suspended pending the Peres-Arafat meeting.
The Palestinian-Israeli talks are only one side of the picture. In Washington, talks resumed after a break of several months on the negotiations between Israel on the one hand and the Arab states - Syria, Jordan and Lebanon - separately on the other.
Agreement on the resumption of the Syrian-Israeli talks was announced after the summit in Geneva between President Bill Clinton and President Hafez al-Assad of Syria on 16 January. It was agreed that the heads of the two negotiating teams should meet and continue to meet to resolve differences. Before the meetings, however, the chief Israeli negotiator with the Syrians, Itamar Rabinovitch, said that Syria had yet to define its concept of peace in any agreement.
For his part, Mr Arafat secured something of a political rehabilitation when he was received by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh yesterday for the first time since their rift in 1990 over PLO support for Iraq during the Gulf crisis. Despite Saudi Arabia's current budgetary constraints, the meeting had considerable symbolic value as King Fahd has in the past been the most munificent of PLO paymasters. Mr Arafat flew to Riyadh after performing the umra, or minor pilgrimage, in Mecca.
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
Earthworms rain down from skies over Norway, puzzling scientists
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...