Peres and Arafat attend mediator's funeral in Oslo

January 23, 1994|By New York Times News Service

OSLO, Norway -- Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel and PLO leader Yasser Arafat came together yesterday to mourn the man who helped mediate the Israeli-Palestinian accord but failed in talks later to resolve differences on a plan to introduce Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.

The two men expressed confidence that they could come to an agreement on putting the plan into force when they confer next weekend in Davos, Switzerland, at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, an international gathering of political and business leaders.

Mr. Peres and Mr. Arafat traveled to the Norwegian capital to attend the funeral of Johan Jorgen Holst, the 56-year-old Norwegian foreign minister who helped guide the secret talks that led to the landmark peace agreement between Israel and the PLO last September.

Mr. Holst died Jan. 13 after suffering two strokes.

But the somber occasion did not provide the catalyst for a breakthrough yesterday night.

"We can say that we have over-jumped some bridges," said Mr. Arafat, appearing with Mr. Peres after an hourlong meeting at Norway's official guest house, where they signed their joint declaration of principles on self-rule late last summer.

"But still, we are in need of a time to bridge the rest of the obstacles," he said.

Mr. Arafat described the remaining obstacles as "small differences."

Mr. Peres also predicted that an accord would be reached next weekend. "May we ask your patience for another week's time, and then we shall give you the paper," he said, in a reference to the 150-page document outlining how the declaration will be put into force.

"None of us can say with safety that we shall reach a total agreement," the Israeli foreign minister said. "But I can say that we have the proper climate to do so."

Since Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin sealed the agreement with a handshake on the White House lawn last September, the two sides have struggled to agree on how to put it into practice.

The withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank town of Jericho and the Gaza Strip, originally set for Dec. 13, has not begun because of continued disagreement over two crucial issues: the jurisdictional limits of Jericho and who will control the borders between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and the West Bank and Jordan.

Increasing violence in the Israeli-occupied territories have increased concern about the border security issue.

There are smaller, but symbolically important issues as well, like the placement of Palestinian flags at the borders.

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