Yasser Arafat said Thursday that the second formal meeting between U.S. and PLO representatives was encouraging and reflects the desire of both sides to make the dialogue a success.
“We believe the content of the meeting was positive and bore the stamp of seriousness. . . . This is an indication of the interest which we and the U.S. Administration are giving to this dialogue,” he told a news conference here.
To a reporter who asked the smiling chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization whether Wednesday’s meeting was responsible for his good mood, Arafat replied, “Yes, exactly.”
He described the meeting between U.S. Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau Jr. and Yasser Abed-Rabho of the PLO executive committee as “positive and serious” but gave few details of the discussion.
Pelletreau and Abed-Rabho met for 4 1/2 hours at the Tunisian government’s guest house. Afterward, Pelletreau declined to talk about the meeting and referred all inquiries to the State Department.
Arafat, who received a detailed briefing into the early hours of Thursday, played down the differences between the two parties.
“I believe the two sides have the firm will to pursue this dialogue and bring it to a fruitful conclusion,” he said.
Did the Americans ask him to stop the 15-month-old uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip that has taken the lives of about 400 Palestinians?
“No one presented such a request, and no one can ask a people to stop resisting an occupation,” he said.
There was no indication whether a third meeting was scheduled, but the PLO chief’s mood suggested that the dialogue will continue.
“The fact that the agenda was loaded with a lot of subjects to be discussed shows clearly the importance given to it both by the U.S. Administration and the PLO,” he said. “Its importance is even greater if you take into consideration all the Israeli efforts to stop it.”
Asked about Palestinian measures to reduce tension in the Middle East, Arafat said the query should be addressed to the Israelis because “it is they who are causing tension, with the Israeli army and the armed settler groups using force against the Palestinians.”
Arafat was asked about the unexplained delay in organizing an exile Palestinian government and said the Palestine National Council wants to include representatives of Palestinians living inside Palestine, which includes Israel.
“We need to know how the Israelis will react to those who are appointed,” he said. “Will they deport them, or put them in jail, or put them to death?”