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BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: SAEB EREKAT CHIEF NEGOTIATIOR FOR PLO MARCH 10th, 2002
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DAVID FROST: Well from a lighthearted celebration back to the subject we heard in the news earlier on, the level of violence in the Middle East. It's really plunged to new depths over the last few days as we've seen. On Friday Israel saw its bloodiest day yet since the Intifadah began 17 months ago and last night another bomb we heard, 11 Israelis died bringing the total Israeli dead to 330. More than 1,000 Palestinians have lost their lives, three times as many in the conflict, this recent conflict so far. Peace initiatives proposed by Saudi Arabia could be a possible way forward but for now the prospect of a resolution appear very slim. In just a moment I'll be talking to Ariel Sharon's representative here in Britain, the Israeli Ambassador Dr Zvi Shtauber, but first I'm joined from Ramallah by Yasser Arafat's Chief Negotiator, Saeb Erekat. Good morning. Tell us first of all do you see any grounds for hope, any grounds for possible peace, anything that could come out of the Saudi proposal? Hello can you hear me?
SAEB EREKAT: Yes I can.
DAVID FROST: Oh great, well what I was saying there was do you see any hope, do you see the Saudi proposal, do you see any hope of peace as the Chief Negotiator this morning?
SAEB EREKAT: Well I think the Saudi ideas are the most significant ideas that happen in the last 54 years and actually if they acknowledge the problem and it offers a solution this Israeli occupation cannot be maintained, cannot be sustained and any actions by Mr Sharon to sustain this occupation or try to maintain it, is trying to sustain and maintain abnormality. There are killing fields out there, the symptoms are very, very clear, Mr Sharon must stop communicating with the Palestinians through the language of the F-15s, the F-16s, the killing fields, the intimidation the closure under siege. Palestinians are crying for their freedom to establish their Palestinian State next to the State of Israel and to live side by side in peace. Israel is the last country on earth that still possess the occupying power and this must end. I wonder how many more unfortunate deaths on the Israeli side and deaths in the Palestinian side will happen in order to convince Mr Sharon and the Israeli government that our problems cannot be solved through military solutions. It needs a political solution and I believe the Saudi ideas came at the right time and they are the most significant on offer that came from the Arab world. An offer for full normalisation for Israel, for the Israelis it is saying there is an alternative, for the Arab countries are willing to organise you, to live in peace with you, to have full normalisation with you in exchange for your termination of the Israeli occupation, for the withdrawal of the territories occupied in 1967.
DAVID FROST: Sorry let me just come in to follow up on that for one moment if I may. Obviously you rightly put from your point of view what, what Sharon ought to be doing, and that, and that's valid absolutely. But at the same time of course what the Israelis keep saying to Chairman Arafat and to you is that why can't you control the terrorists in your country, is in fact or in your land or in your space, but is in fact Chairman Arafat still in control, I mean it seems as though he can't do anything about them?
SAEB EREKAT: Well that's the point David, the point David is the Israeli government in their own hand is saying that President Arafat is irrelevant and on the other hand they're holding him accountable. They have to make up their minds, either relevant and accountable or irrelevant and not accountable because what the Sharon government is doing is really eroding the ability of the Palestinian authority to function. Three hours ago the head, the main headquarters of President Arafat was hit with 25 Israeli missiles. None of President Arafat's security personnel can move from a place to another. I don't think there is one single security building that's still standing, they all have been bombarded by the Israeli Army and Navy and Air Force and this siege and the closure of that continues so on the one hand we're urging them for intervention of a third party and that's why we welcome the immediate coming back of General Anthony Zhani of the United States, but trust levels between us and the Israelis is non-existent, that's why we need a third party and we hope this time we can move directly to implement, maintain it and make sure we are ending this Israeli occupation. This situation can no longer be sustained. Nobody should tolerate the Israeli occupation and we've don't want more deaths of Palestinians and Israelis. David I know of one way to save lives of Israelis and Palestinians and that is resuming a meaningful peace process to end the Israeli occupation.
DAVID FROST: Right, thank you very much indeed. We thank you very much for joining us again this morning and making your way, and to finding your way to the cameras and so on, thank you very much.
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