Top Palestinian Authority officials confirmed yesterday that Yasser Arafat was briefed about details of the Geneva Accord before it was finalized, and gave a positive nod to the peace proposal after it was completed.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, the former PA minister who headed the group of unofficial Palestinian negotiators, is a very close associate of Arafat's, and there is no chance he would have gone ahead with the talks without the PA chairman's approval, the Palestinian leaders emphasized.
Terms formulated in the Geneva Accord do not contradict well-known positions officially upheld by the PA, the officials claimed.
With respect to the right of return, the full version of the Geneva Accord refers to UN Resolution number 194, which allows refugees to choose between return or compensation - but the Geneva Accord adds that such refugee return is contingent upon Israel's consent. Should the PA officially endorse the Geneva Accord, it would be the first time the Palestinians have effectively relinquished demands for a full right of return for all refugees.
Abed Rabbo declared yesterday that "the Palestinian Authority supports our [Geneva] Accord." He added that the new plan "completes negotiations that were conducted at Taba after the eruption of the intifada, and also fills gaps left by the Road Map plan, which talks about a Palestinian state in 2005, without giving full details about terms of its establishment, and its components."
President Moshe Katsav said yesterday that he supports, in principle, talks held with Palestinians in an effort to attain a peace settlement. Yet Katsav also expressed misgivings about the timing and political consequences of the Geneva initiative. "I do not rule out contacts with the Palestinians," Katsav stated. "But at this difficult moment, it is important not to push the government of Israel into a corner."
The top negotiators responsible for the Geneva Accord began efforts yesterday to recruit international support for the peace initiative, ahead of its anticipated signing in a few weeks, possibly on the November 4 anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The two top negotiators - Yossi Beilin and Abed Rabbo - held meetings in Egypt yesterday to win support for the peace proposal. Beilin's spokesmen relayed that top Egyptian officials promised to promote the peace proposal in the Arab world.
Though two top Labor party politicians, MKs Amram Mitzna and Avraham Burg, were involved in the drafting of the Geneva Accord, Labor responses to the plan yesterday were mixed. Silence maintained by party chairman MK Shimon Peres fueled speculation about the veteran peacemaker's stance on the new plan.
Mazal Mualem, Arnon Regular and Jonathan Lis contributed to this report.
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