Speaking notes for Meeting with PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat in
Tunis, 20 July 1993.
- Initial Points
- Ms. Juul and Mr. Larsen went to Israel as my special envoys and
had meetings with Mr. Peres and his closest advisors 17-18
July. I was concerned about the leaks which occurred a week ago
and the strong Israeli reaction to them. They confirmed their
strong concern to my envoys and said that it must not happen
again. At the same time they expressed appreciation for the
elegant way in which you deflected the last leakage. My envoys
conveyed my assessment that the PLO was serious about concluding
negotiations through the “Norwegian Channel”, that you wanted a
breakthrough, and that you had a realistic assessment of the
situation and the need for compromise.
- The Israelis made it clear that they want to conclude an
agreement in the Norwegian channel. In fact they emphasized that
this channel is the strongly preferred channel. Realism is
necessary to achieve success. The negotiations cannot be allowed
to drag on. If they do, another channel will take over. The
advantage of the Norwegian channel is that it provides direct
negotiations between Israel and the PLO. An agreement which is
brokered by a third party will be more controversial than a
direct agreement. The PLO can achieve a better agreement now
than in the foreseeable future. Many say it is now or never. If
it is to be now, a realistic approach is needed. It seems
realistic to go for an agreement now.
- The Israeli team is ready to go to Oslo for another round of
talks next weekend, i.e. 24-26 July. We are ready to arrange for
such a meeting and hope that your team is willing to participate
as well. The Israelis have indicated that in their view it is
both possible and desirable to conclude the negotiations about
the DOP at such a meeting. Mr. Peres consulted Prime Minister
Rabin in detail and assured my envoys that he spoke on behalf of
him as well.
- The Israelis understand yours position about Jericho and it is
our clear impression that they are ready to show flexibility and
will to compromise. It will be difficult to agree, but with a
realistic approach on both sides agreement is possible on the
- The Israelis are clearly very concerned about security and they
know that acts of terrorism and prosecution of the intifada
could undermine public support in Israel for the agreement. They
are willing to cooperate so as to enable you to establish police
authority with your fighters. Modalities and numbers you have to
discuss. Any reassurance you can give them on the security issue
is clearly very important.
- It is clear also that Jerusalem as an issue contains many red
lights for a first phase agreement. It is our view that it
should be able to leave some issues open without prejudice to the
final settlement and to include some constructive ambiguity in
the first phase DOP.
- The Israelis understand and agree that any settlement process
must comprise a substantial economic package and they are
willing to contribute to its construction.
- To sum up: It is our sincere and considered view that the
Israelis are serious. We base that on several discussions
lately, including this last mission. It is their view that an
agreement is within reach and that the Norwegian channel is
strongly preferred and till now only productive channel.
- Follow-up points.
- The negotiation process is in itself a confidence building
exercise. We have seen how it works through the Norwegian
channel. What is important is to transform conflictual issues to
common challenges. The PLO and Israel need each other. Both
sides know that no agreement is possible without the active
participation of the other. Both parties have their special
sensitivities. Negotiations have now matured to the point that
those sensitivities are viewed as common challenges. What is
impossible toady will ble possible tomorrow, provided
confidence-building succeeds. Implementation of the first phase
will change the parameters for a final settlement for both
- Norway’s role is of facilitation, not meditation. We have no
special interest or global considerations propelling us to seek
particular solutions. We believe that the most sustainable
agreement is one which is reached through direct negotiations
between the principal parties, i.e. Israel and the PLO.
- Reaching a negotiated agreement will require leadership,
willingness to break consensus in order to make possible that
which is necessary. You yourself have a very important role to
play here – a role only you can play in attaching legitimacy to
the agreement among the Palestinian people.
- In any long-standing conflict symbols are particularly
important. They can also be significant obstacles. The parties
must pay attention to verbal symbols and the need for verbal
reassurance. “Corridor” is probably an unfortunate way to
denote the links between Gaza and Jericho. Why not use terms
like “free passage” or “guaranteed access”. Similarly, although
Arafat himself, has made several statements burying the PLO
charter, reassuring reiteration would be very important in
connection with concluding and announcing a first phase
agreement. We should expect the process of negotiations to
change outlooks, expectations and interpretation.