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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arafat, Jospin Discuss PLO-Israeli Impasse

PARIS -- Palestinian President Yasser Arafat arrived in Paris on Monday for talks with French President Jacques Chirac and new Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin aimed at ending an impasse in the Middle East peace process.


Arafat arrived in the French capital and was whisked immediately to the Elysee presidential palace for a luncheon with Chirac.


Chirac walked out of the palace despite a light rain to greet Arafat as his car pulled up. The two men shook hands and embraced before entering the Elysee for their talks.


"The Europeans have asked France to play a leading role in breaking the impasse in the peace process and to co-ordinate with the United States to return to play a role in solving the crisis," a senior PLO official said in Jerusalem prior to Arafat's departure.


Arafat, president of the West Bank and Gaza areas transferred to Palestinian rule under a peace deal with Israel, was scheduled to hold talks later in the afternoon with Jospin and Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine.


French officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Arafat and Jospin would sign an agreement on financial aid for Arafat's Palestinian Authority following their meeting.


Arafat's session with France's new leftist prime minister was to be their first since Jospin took office earlier this month.


A Jospin aide described the meeting as "a working visit" but gave no details.


An alliance of Socialists, Communists and Greens was swept into power in France in a June 1 parliamentary election, obliging the conservative Chirac to share power with Jospin's leftist government.


The two men have vowed to speak with a single voice in managing French affairs, but after a month of power-sharing their first hints at differences have begun to emerge.


Formal PLO-Israeli peace moves came to a halt in March after Israel broke ground for a new Jewish settlement in disputed east Jerusalem.


A U.S. peace envoy failed in April to restart the talks.