Mideast leaders hope to iron out details of accord

January 30, 1994|By New York Times News Service

DAVOS, Switzerland -- A potentially crucial meeting between Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and Shimon Peres, the Israeli foreign minister, began here yesterday with both sides emphasizing that significant issues had to be resolved before they could reach an accord opening the way for a limited Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.

Elaborating on remarks made Friday by an Israeli official, a senior Israeli delegate involved in the talks said that the Palestinians had already agreed that Israel would retain ultimate authority in preventing unwanted individuals from entering Jericho and the Gaza Strip.

But the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that significant differences remained over the size of the district of Jericho being turned over to Palestinian self-rule and over security arrangements for Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

On the issue of border checks, he said the Israelis had agreed to reduce their visibility considerably and to allow Palestinian officials to process virtually all of their compatriots.

That would eliminate the searches of Palestinians entering theoccupied territories that have been required since Israel took the West Bank and Gaza in 1967.

"Ninety-nine percent of the Palestinians coming into the territories from Jordan or Egypt will be admitted and processed without any searches," the official said.

But the senior official said that Israel would have to retain ultimate control of the entry points, through electronic and physical monitoring.

"Once you cross the line from Jericho, you can go on to Tel Aviv," the official argued.

"The issue is whether Israel has the option of searching some suspected person or suspected luggage, and the answer is 'yes.' "

Both Mr. Peres, who arrived at this Alpine resort Friday, and Mr.Arafat, who flew in yesterday by helicopter from Zurich, were far more circumspect. Arriving at the hotel where he will negotiate with the Israelis, Mr. Arafat said only that he hoped an agreement can be reached.

Mr. Peres told reporters after a meeting here with the Egyptian foreign minister, Amr Moussa: "We shall try to sign an agreement. But nobody can promise to do so ahead of time."

The phased withdrawal of Israeli soldiers from the West Bank and Jericho was supposed to have started Dec. 13.

But Israelis and the Palestinians have repeatedly failed to come to agreement on details of the accord, holding up the withdrawal.

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