Palestinians weigh bigger role in talks

January 27, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PARIS -- With the next round of Middle East peace talks scheduled to start tomorrow in Moscow, the Palestinian leadership is debating whether it will participate in the negotiations or hold out for broader Palestinian representation.

Senior officials at the Tunis headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization said the group's executive committee was meeting in Tunis last night to weigh the merits of Palestinian attendance at the so-called multilateral round of talks, in which more than 30 nations were to be represented. The talks are to focus on such regional issues as arms control, water, refugees and the environment.

Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, approved the participation of Palestinian delegates from the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip in the earlier rounds of talks in Madrid and Washington, accepting a restricted Palestinian role as Israel insisted.

But now some senior PLO officials, dismayed by the lack of progress at the earlier rounds, are arguing that it is time to insist on expanded Palestinian representation in the two days of talks in Moscow.

Israel and the United States appear to insist on the same Palestinian delegation that negotiated with the Israelis in Madrid at the opening session. There the West Bank and Gaza delegates officially had no separate political status and were relegated to a diminished role as part of a joint delegation with Jordan.

Since the largely ceremonial opening sessions in Madrid, Arab

nations bordering Israel and the Palestinians have held two more rounds of bilateral talks with the Israelis in Washington. Little progress has been reported.

Syria and Lebanon are boycotting the Moscow talks, complaining of the lack of progress in Washington.

Meanwhile, Jordan sent a team to Moscow yesterday, Reuters reported.

Foreign Minister Kamel Abu Jaber was joined by a team of ambassadors and experts on military and economic affairs, Palestinian refugees and the environment.

"We don't need an Arab authorization to go to the talks," Mr. Abu Jaber told reporters before leaving Amman. "We have our own independent views and we are going as a Jordanian delegation."

This week's international session, which will include participants from the European Community, China and India, is part of the plan for U.S.- and Soviet-sponsored peace talks that started in October in Madrid.

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