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Saeb Erekaet, Palestinian Chief Negotiator
Saeb Erekaet, Palestinian Chief Negotiator

BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW:

SAEB EREKAT PALESTINIAN CHIEF NEGOTIATOR

OCTOBER 21ST, 2001

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST:
Now it seems like years ago but it was only this week that Yasser Arafat came to Downing Street and met with Tony Blair, then the talk was of speeding up the Middle East peace process and even of pushing Israel to accept a Palestinian State. Mr Sharon even said he would accept his definition of a Palestinian State. But this week's assassination of an Israeli Cabinet Minister changed all that and things have gone from bad to worse ever since and I'm joined on the phone now by the Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat who was with Yasser Arafat here this week. Tanks on the streets mean that it's not possible for him to get to the studio, to our usual studio but he was able to get to a phone, Mr Erekat, Saeb, good morning.

SAEB EREKAT:
Good morning David.

DAVID FROST:
Let me just ask with this week's events, the murder of the Cabinet Minister, do you know, do you know who did it?

SAEB EREKAT:
Not yet we, we cannot define the killers but you will recall David that Palestinians condemned this action, we don't believe in political assassinations, we have been urging the Israeli government as a matter of fact for the past year to stop assassinating Palestinians, as a matter of fact President Arafat was delivering the press conference with Mr Blair in London, Israeli assassinated two Palestinian leaders, one in Nablus and one in Qalqilya and we said to the Israelis that if those killers are found in our area we will bring them to justice in accordance with the agreement signed with you.

DAVID FROST:
Does that mean, if you find the killers, does that mean you will bring them to justice yourself or that you will hand them over to Israel?

SAEB EREKAT:
No we'll bring them to justice ourself, there is nothing on the agreement between us and the Israelis that compels us to extradite or them to extradite somebody for us, each one, the agreement specifies, will try those who break the law in their own courts because in Palestinian areas we have full legal jurisdiction and we, we, that's what the agreement specified with Israel. So actually the matter that Sharon is saying that they must hand them over, he wants to insinuate to the world that, you know, like bin Laden story and that Palestinians, since they don't hand him over - like the Taliban thus he is paving the way and, to, to, to have the world accept the military solution and the end game of his which is, now pursuing and that is to destroy the Palestinian authority and to destroy the peace process.

DAVID FROST:
Is there, is there in that situation, are you saying that in that situation that it is possible that at the end of the expiry of seven days or whatever, it is actually possible that Mr Sharon will declare all out war against, against you?

SAEB EREKAT:
He already did David, he already did. Yesterday we had 14 Palestinians killed including at least 3 ladies and two babies, boys, and we have seen the tanks, the Israeli tanks enter now into eight towns namely in the North, Ramallah, Qalqilya, Tulkarm and Jenin in the centre and then the Christian towns of Bethlehem and Beit Jala and last night Sharon's army hit Bethlehem the Holy City, with missiles actually, destroying buildings, killing families there. I think it began and that's why we were in touch with the British Prime Minister yesterday, we were in touch with the American Administration urging them to do something to step up their efforts in order to stop Sharon's end game which is using the pretext of the assassination of Ministers in order to achieve the vetoing of the peace process and the destruction of the Palestinian authority.

DAVID FROST:
So maybe a moment of optimism when you were in London on, on Monday but today your feeling is one of despair?

SAEB EREKAT:
David let me tell you I'm feeling despair now but I would say something else now, I would say that as long as the sun shines there is no people on earth who need peace more than Palestinians and Israelis and we really urge the Israeli government to join us in the negotiations unconditional, this is the only path that can save the lives of Palestinians and Israelis. The language of tanks, missiles, guns siege that Sharon is using now will only add to the horrific situation. Bullets will breed bullets, violence will breed violence, assassination will breed assassination and the Israeli government must come back to the negotiating table and must do whatever it takes to end the Israeli occupation because that's the shortest way to peace, security and stability for all in this region including Palestinians and Israelis.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much indeed Saeb and we hope next time that we'll be able to see you as well.

SAEB EREKAT:
Thank you.

DAVID FROST:
Thank you very much indeed.

END


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