Arafat meets British leaders

Monday, October 15, 2001

Associated Press WriterLONDON (AP) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat urged Israel to immediately resume negotiations for a peace deal, saying Monday that the crisis over terrorism should not delay a push to revive the peace process.

Arafat made the comments after 90 minutes of talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

U.S. officials have said Washington is drawing up a new initiative for putting the peace process back on track after more than a year of Israeli-Palestinians. Elements of the plan have not been made public yet, but President Bush said Thursday that political talks should lead to creation of a Palestinian state.

The U.S. officials have said the plan could be released in mid-November. Arafat said Monday that efforts to revive talks should not be delayed because of the Sept. 11 terror attacks of the subsequent U.S. campaign against Afghanistan.

"On the contrary, I say it is time to reinvigorate the peace process," Arafat said.

"We are not asking for the moon. We are asking for the United Nations resolutions to be implemented," Arafat said, referring to U.N. decisions in favor of an Israeli withdrawal from lands it occupied in the 1967 Mideast War.

Blair said he was in agreement with establishing a Palestinian state.

"The end we desire ... is a just peace in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side, each in their own state, secure and able to prosper and develop," Blair said.

"That is the only sensible outcome, and we must seize this moment to make progress toward that end."

Arafat, who arrived Sunday, met Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Blair before flying on to Ireland for a meeting with Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

"I call on the Israeli government to immediately rejoin us in the permanent status negotiations immediately so we can reach a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to all issues on the agenda. That is an agreed agenda: Jerusalem, settlements, borders, refugees, security, water," Arafat said.

"It is high time to end the Israeli occupation, to put an end to the conflict between the two sides, to establish a Palestinian independent state with east Jerusalem ... as its capital," he added.

Blair said there was no alternative to reviving the process.

"Whatever we do between now and the restart of the process, at some point it will have to restart, because that is the only way," he said. "And the only question, to my mind, is how much more bloodshed and violence and bitterness do we generate before we do what we know we're going to have to do in order to get this issue settled."

Asked what pressure he could put on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Blair said: "In the end this process can only move forward if people want it to. But what we are trying to do is to create the conditions in which it can move forward."

Sharon has refused to resume any political talks until violence has stopped. The two sides have been holding talks on shoring up a shaky truce in place since Sept. 26. The United States has been trying to quiet the conflict as it puts together an international coaltition against terrorism.

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