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The BBC's David Shukman in Ramallah
"There is fighting talk from both sides"
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The BBC's Mike Donkin
"It's unclear, though, what new ideas either might offer when their constituencies at home demand no compromise"
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Wednesday, 25 October, 2000, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Mid-East talks to ease tension
Child with poster of Al-Aqsa Mosque
Protests continue as talks try to reduce the violence
Palestinians and Israelis have been holding new talks to try to ease tensions and end almost a month of violence.

Palestinian officials said that one of their senior military officers met an Israeli general in the Gaza Strip.

The issues don't change... they get harder to resolve

Bill Clinton
And Israeli radio reported that Prime Minister Ehud Barak had sent special envoy Yossi Ginnosaur to see Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

An official in Mr Barak's office said Israel was considering removing its forces from the outskirts of Palestinian towns if things remained calm.

"If it continues to be calm, and by the way, since last night there's a feeling things have calmed down on the Palestinian side... we will do our part and withdraw our forces," Gilead Sher said.

Bill Clinton
Clinton appears to be trying to convene new high-level talks
There have been no serious new incidents in the West Bank and Gaza so far on Wednesday.

There were minor clashes in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip that left about 10 people injured by rubber bullets. There were also exchanges of fire between Israeli troops and Palestinians in Bethlehem and the nearby village of Beit Sahur.

The fresh talks come after President Clinton raised the possibility of further diplomatic attempts to halt the violence.

He said that meetings in Washington would only take place if there is progress towards implementing agreements reached at the summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh last week.

The Sharm el-Sheikh summit failed to halt the violence of the last month, in which 130 people have been killed, all but eight of them Arabs.

Turkey critical

Turkey, Israel's closest ally in the Middle East has now criticised the country for using excessive force against Palestinians.
President Sezer
Turkish President Sezer accused Israel of excessive force

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, in a speech in Istanbul, said the level of violence was unacceptable and he accused Israeli forces of causing great loss of life.

A BBC correspondent in the region said Turkey is seen as the voice of reason by Israel with some influence over Mr Arafat.

But Mr Sezer's remarks seem moderate in comparison with the views of ordinary Turks, who have been outraged by Israel's response to the Palestinian uprising.

Presidential plea

Mr Clinton raised the "possibility" of new meetings at the White House in a telephone conversation with Mr Arafat.

He has urged the Palestinian leader to honour the Sharm el-Sheikh accord.

Ramallah protests
A Palestinian protester throws back an Israeli tear gas canister
P J Crowley, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the meetings would only take place if progress is made on the three areas of the accord, namely "concrete steps to improve security, a formula for a fact-finding mission, and finding a path to return to the peace process".

"At this point it's only a possibility," Mr Crowley said.

Speaking at the signing of a US-Jordanian free trade agreement at the White House, President Clinton said: "As hard as that may be, there must be an end to violence, and Israel and the Palestinians must find a way out of confrontation sooner than later.

"The issues don't change... they get harder to resolve," Mr Clinton said.

Wider involvement

A Palestinian official said that Palestinians did not believe the US should continue to be the sole power player in the peace process.

Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Ahmed Korei said that European Union, China, Russia and the United Nations should take part in any future talks with Israel.

Palestinians have long demanded UN and EU participation, believing that they are more supportive of the Arabs.

And both Israel and the Palestinians have encouraged Moscow to become more involved.

The Soviet Union was a co-sponsor of the peace process but after 1991 Russia's influence in the region faded.

Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov made a series of visits to the region this month, but Russia's exclusion from the Sharm el-Sheikh summit was widely seen as a snub.

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See also:

22 Oct 00 | Middle East
Hezbollah: Keep up the fight
25 Oct 00 | Middle East
Hamas and Fatah join forces
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