First Published: 2003-06-02

No joint statement after Aqaba summit

Israeli official says no prior agreement has been reached on text because of fundamental differences.


Middle East Online

Will Aqaba summit be a positive move towards peace?

JERUSALEM - The Middle East peace summit in Jordan will produce no joint statement from Israel and the Palestinians because of basic differences on the way ahead, an Israeli official said Monday.

"There will be no common statement because we have reached no prior agreement on the text, despite the efforts of US diplomacy," the senior official said.

Official Palestinian sources confirmed the two parties had been unable to reach a deal on the planned statement despite mediation by US Middle East envoy William Burns.

The fundamental differences concerned "the recognition by the Palestinians of Israel as a Jewish state, in exchange for full recognition of a Palestinian state," the Israeli official said on condition of anonymity.

"There will be no joint statement, because we did not reach an agreement on the text, despite the sustained effort of the US diplomacy."

He said the main sticking point was the issue of "the Palestinians' recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, in exchange for full recognition of a Palestinian state.

"Given that the Palestinians refuse to accept this formula, it has been decided that there will be separate statements from each of the parties at the end of the summit," the official said.

On Thursday an advisor to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said the two sides would publish a joint statement on the international peace roadmap after they meet in the Jordanian Red Sea resort of Aqaba on Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmud Abbas are to meet with US President George W. Bush.

Israel insists on its demand for the recognition of a Jewish state, in order to counter the "right of return" of 3.7 million Palestinian refugees that would affect the demographic balance and which the Jewish state rejects.

According to Israeli public radio, the Israeli statement will only mention a Palestinian state in reference to "President Bush's vision" on the issue.

In his statement, Sharon is also expected to stress the need for Israel to put an end to its "rule" over the Palestinians, without using the term "occupation".

Sharon shocked Israel last week when he warned against the negative consequences of Israel's "occupation regime".

Following the outcry his comments caused among his right-wing supporters, he revised his words and stressed that the appropriate term was "the disputed territories".

Sharon is also expected Wednesday to announce the dismantling of a number of Jewish settlement outposts set up since he took power in March 2001, but not all of them as requested by the roadmap.

Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Zeev Boim has said no more than 10 of the settlements built on Palestinian land are slated for evacuation, among the more than 60 counted by the Peace Now group.


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