February 3, 2002
JERUSALEM -- Against a backdrop of ongoing violence, senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders have quietly held top-level talks in recent days, and Yasser Arafat issued a call Saturday for further discussions.
The meetings, while producing no breakthroughs, mark a shift between the antagonists, who had broken off virtually all contacts in recent weeks as the fighting intensified.
Arafat, speaking in the West Bank city of Ramallah where he has been confined for the past two months, said the two sides were holding talks on both security and political issues. "I have given my directions to continue with these meetings," he said.
Israel says it will not let Arafat leave Ramallah until he arrests more militants, and has stationed several tanks less than 100 yards from his compound.
Arafat still receives delegations at his headquarters and addressed a Palestinian rally in the West Bank city of Nablus by telephone.
"Peace and security will never be achieved in this region by Israel through siege, occupation and settlements, but by the full withdrawal from our lands," he said in comments relayed over a loudspeaker.
In the latest high-level meeting, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qureia and a Palestinian economic adviser late Friday in New York, where Peres is attending the World Economic Forum.
"The frame of our discussion -- the headline of it -- is to achieve the first stage, a cease-fire. That's even the Palestinian position," Peres said Saturday. He said the talks would continue.
"More or less what we understand the Palestinians are ready to do is really to begin by dismantling the different terroristic organizations and establish a single Palestinian Authority," Peres said.
Meanwhile, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the second-largest faction in the Palestine Liberation Organization, announced it was suspending its activities in the PLO over the detention of its leader, Ahmed Saadat. Saadat was arrested for questioning over the October killing of an Israeli cabinet minister.