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                     Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
                        July 6, 1995, V3, #123
All the News the Big Guys Missed

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Oman's Foreign Minister: We Have Contacts With Israel

"The attempt to take a hard line toward Israel is an echo of a policy whose time has passed," said Oman's Foreign Minister, Yusef Bin Alawi Abdullah. "Oman recognizes the existence of Israel and we have contacts with it," Abdullah said. "Some of us do business with [Israel] and cooperate with [Israel]. We shouldn't act like an ostrich."

Israel and Palestinians Differ on Agreement Versions

By Al Pessin (Jerusalem)

Just one day after announcing agreement on major issues related to the expansion of Palestinian autonomy, Israeli and Palestinian officials are offering different versions of exactly what was agreed on, and what the goals are for the new target date of July 25th.

Perhaps the most puzzling phrase used by officials on both sides to describe this compromise is the plan for Israeli troops "to complete an initial withdrawal" from certain West Bank cities before Palestinian elections are held. No one seems to know exactly whether that means a full withdrawal from some of the cities or a partial withdrawal from all of the cities, or some combination.

That, and many other important and difficult issues, have been left to be decided during the three weeks before the new target date. Those issues were not settled in the four months of intensive talks leading up to the old target date of July 1, or in a year of talks before that.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Ahmed Qureia, tried to clarify what has been decided in an interview Wednesday with the Reuter news agency. Qureia said Israel will withdraw completely from four cities in the northern part of the West Bank, and there will be a partial withdrawal and joint security arrangements in two cities near Jerusalem -- Ramallah and Bethlehem -- and also in the town of Hebron in the south.

But Israel says no such details have been agreed to. Government spokesman Uri Dromi says Foreign Minister Shimon Peres agreed only to consider a partial withdrawal from Ramallah and Bethlehem this year, and Hebron will be left until much later in the process. "Practically, what will happen is the forces will be redeployed from those four cities and then there will be elections, and then, very soon after that, Ramallah/Bethlehem. And of course, the big one, the most complicated one, Hebron, will be left to somewhere in '97."

Until now, the Palestinian side has not been willing to accept such an arrangement. Some Israeli officials have also acknowledged there must be enough of a withdrawal to enable the Palestinian elections to be seen as legitimate by Palestinians, and by the world.

There are also other disputes about what was agreed to in Tuesday's meeting between Peres and the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat. The Palestinian Negotiator, Qureia, says there will be joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols on key roads. But, the Israeli spokesman says there will be a joint reaction force to deal with problems, but otherwise security responsibilities will be strictly divided between separate Israeli and Palestinian units.

There is also a plan for Palestinian police to deal with routine matters in small towns and villages where Israeli troops will have overall security responsibility. But no one is sure how that will work, particularly with the Israelis insisting on approving all Palestinian police movements in advance. Neither side says there is an agreement on some other key issues; including the size of the Palestinian Council, voting rules for residents of Jerusalem, the date for elections, and the timing and size of a release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The prisoner issue sparked a hunger strike and a series of violent demonstrations last month. It appears any releases will not begin until next month.

So what has changed besides the target date? Israeli spokesman Dromi has trouble with the question. "I do not have a clear-cut answer to this. All I can tell you is the two parties decided they reiterated their commitment and their willingness to do everything possible to meet the date and to sign an agreement. I think what has changed is the feeling of necessity. I think we understand more about each other and I think equipped with this kind of mutual understanding, and with this serious commitment to reach and meet the target date, I think we can reach an agreement on the 25th."

That sounds remarkably similar to comments officials were making before the July 1 deadline. But they say this time it is different with the decisions made Tuesday to guide them -- even though it is not clear whether Israeli and Palestinian officials have the same understanding of exactly what those decisions were.

A-Shara Says Syria Looking to Reach Agreement on Security Issues

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk a-Shara said Tuesday in Beirut that Syria wishes to quickly achieve a final agreement on security arrangements with Israel. The two sides are not far apart on the issue of early-warning systems, but they did not reach an agreement, a-Shara said.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres expressed satisfaction from a-Shara's statement that Syria wishes to speed up the peace process. "We are willing to move the peace process forward at the required rate in order to achieve peace as soon as possible," Peres said.

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