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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat, Rabin Agree on Next Steps to Self-Rule

PARIS -- PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, fresh from his triumphant return to Gaza and Jericho, agreed Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on a procedure for advancing the next stage of Palestinian self-rule. "A fresh impulse was given to peace by Israelis and Palestinians," Arafat told reporters after the two men met for the first time since May. "The meeting was positive, fruitful. "We agreed on some major issues and some other issues will require more discussions," he said. Rabin told a separate news conference that the first phase of last year's historic Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement -- the transfer of power to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Jericho -- had been completed successfully. He said they agreed to create three committees to discuss outstanding issues on the Gaza-Jericho accord, an early transfer of civilian administration to the Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank, and convening a conference with Egypt and Jordan on the fate of Palestinian refugees. The talks lasted nearly two hours and Rabin said they would meet again later in Paris for a second session. But he cautioned: "One has to be patient. You cannot solve a conflict of 100 years in one month, two months or six months." Rabin, Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres were in Paris to receive UNESCO's Felix Houphouet Boigny peace prize for their September 1993 accord on mutual recognition, which ended decades of enmity. They are also scheduled to meet French leaders and Turkey's prime minister before leaving Thursday. Looking dazed after his whirlwind five-day tour of Gaza and Jericho and a night-time drive to Cairo for the flight to Paris, Arafat said he had pleaded with Rabin to free Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, jailed founder of the militant Islamic movement Hamas. Arafat said: "We were students together in Cairo. He is paralyzed and there are humanitarian as well as political grounds to release him. I will continue to demand his release along with the other prisoners." Rabin made no mention of Yassin but Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin, speaking on Israel Television, said Israel would stand firm on its terms for his release, insisting he must sign a pledge renouncing violence and supporting the peace process. Israel has linked the release of nearly 6,000 Palestinian prisoners it is still holding to Hamas' renunciation of "terror." Rabin said Israel and the PLO would issue invitations soon for a meeting of foreign ministers with Egypt and Jordan on the refugee problem. Neither leader mentioned the issue of withdrawing Israeli troops from West Bank urban areas, although both sides had said in advance it would play a major part in the talks. Israel and the PLO agreed last year to negotiate in three stages and tackle easier issues first. Limited self-rule in Gaza and the West Bank enclave of Jericho was the first stage, finalized in May and crowned by Arafat's homecoming this week. PLO officials want to press on with the second stage, quickly spreading self-rule to the rest of the West Bank to maintain the momentum and win over skeptical Palestinians. Final status negotiations on the toughest issues -- Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in occupied Arab land and the question of a Palestinian state, will start by mid-1996 at the latest. The PLO wants Israel to remove troops from urban areas in the West Bank soon. Israel has stressed the link in last year's accord between the redeployment and free Palestinian elections. Arafat said the Palestinians wanted to hold elections "as fast as possible on our land, in Gaza and the West bank including Jerusalem." He set no date but said the former U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, would help supervise polls.