US Secretary of State General Colin Powell met Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in his besieged compound in Ramallah on Sunday. A senior advisor to Arafat said the Palestinians pledged to curb violence against Israelis, but only if the Israel ends its invasion of the West Bank.
Powell then asked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for a complete pullback. Sharon responded with a proposal for a US-led international peace conference between Israel and Arab states, but without Arafat.
The Bush administration had demanded that Arafat issue a public statement denouncing suicide bombings before any meeting with Powell. Arafat complied on Saturday when he condemned both state and individual terrorism. He said: “We strongly condemn all the attacks targeting civilians from both sides, and especially the attack that took place against Israeli citizens yesterday in Jerusalem. We also condemn very strongly the massacre that was committed by the Israeli occupation troops against our refugees in Jenin and against our people in Ramallah, Nablus and Tulkarm and also the brutal aggression against the church in Bethlehem.”
Meanwhile, Hamas is vowing to continue suicide bombings as long as Israel continues its occupation of Palestinian territories. A spokesman said that the meeting between Arafat and General Powell “means nothing to us … and (raises) not a glimmer of hope.”
As Powell arrived at Yasser Arafat’s compound this weekend, he was greeted by protests from the International Solidarity Movement activists camped out inside the compound.
- Neta Golan, Israeli peace activist who is inside Yasser Arafat’s compound.