U.S., PLO Officials Hold First Talks on Peace in Middle East
U.S. and PLO officials today met for 90 minutes in an ornate Moorish villa in their first official talks on peace in the Middle East, ending a 13-year U.S. boycott of the Palestinian organization.
“It is our hope that this dialogue, as it develops, will help bring about direct negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive peace,” U.S. Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau told reporters after his meeting with a four-man PLO delegation.
He described the discussions as “practical and characterized, I would say, by seriousness of purpose.”
The first meeting came two days after Washington declared that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat’s recent statements on renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel met conditions for beginning contacts.
Guest Residence Used
It took place in an official Tunisian government guest residence in suburban Carthage, north of Tunis. The PLO was represented by two members of its executive committee, Yasser Abd-Rabbou and Abdullah Hourani. Pelletreau was accompanied by his counselor, Edmund Hull.
Abd-Rabbou called the first session “practical and constructive.”
“We hope this dialogue will bring us closer to an international conference on the Middle East,” he said. “We hope this dialogue will continue and we think it will continue.”
Reporters were allowed to view the opening of the meeting, where the two sides, each seated at a table, faced each other across a space of about 10 feet.
“We are still too far away,” Pelletreau joked as the discussions began.
No Detailed Exchanges
Western diplomatic sources in Tunis, briefing reporters on the condition that they not be more precisely identified, said earlier in the day that there would be no detailed exchanges at the meeting, and that afterward it was likely there would be “a period of assessment.”
The American side had planned to open the meeting with a clear statement of Washington’s attitude toward terrorism, and to say that the United States expected that Arafat’s words would be matched by his actions, a high-ranking diplomatic source said.
The United States expects that the PLO’s renunciation of terrorism will be “prominent and pervasive,” a diplomatic source said, but it also understands that Arafat does not control all Palestinians, or all acts of terrorism.
The sources said Washington would expect the PLO to dissociate itself from any future acts of terrorism.