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|Monday, June 05, 2000, updated at 10:09(GMT+8)|
Barak Orders Israeli Negotiators Not to Discuss JerusalemIsraeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday ordered Israeli negotiators not to discuss the status of Jerusalem with their Palestinian counterparts in any talks for the time being.
"Prime Minister Barak stated that he has instructed the negotiating teams not to hold any discussions on Jerusalem at this stage," a statement issued after Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting said.
"According to the Camp David and Oslo accords, the Palestinians will be able to raise the issue in the discussions on the permanent settlement," the statement added.
The future of Jerusalem, as well as the return of Palestinian refugees, the status of Jewish settlements, water, border and security, are major topics on the negotiation table between the two sides.
Israel claims Jerusalem as its "eternal and undivided capital", while the Palestinians want at least East Jerusalem to be the capital for its future independent state.
Israeli media earlier reported that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had reached a series of agreements regarding Jerusalem and refugees after nine rounds of so-called "back-channel" talks in Stockholm, capital of Sweden.
However, Barak denied these speculations categorically on Sunday's cabinet meeting by saying "the negotiations on substantive issues are still at an early stage."
"In any case, reports that Israel has offered the Palestinians 92 percent of the West Bank territories, that Israel is prepared to either evacuate the rest or leave 50,000 settlers under Palestinian control, or that Israel has agreed to the return of 300,000 Palestinian refugees, have no basis in reality," Barak noted.
Barak also accused the Palestinian leaders of intentionally " foot-dragging" the peace process.
The first reason for the "foot-dragging", according to the cabinet statement, is that the Palestinians want to divert opinion from the severe clashes last month between Israeli policemen and the Palestinian demonstrators who were urging Israel to release Palestinian security prisoners.
The clashes, including the crossfire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian security forces, killed at least nine Palestinians and wounded a thousand others.
Barak stated that although the Palestinian National Authority has detained several suspects who opened fire, it has not taken all necessary measures to ensure that such events do not recur.
The second reason for the Palestinian "foot-dragging" measures, is that the Palestinians want to consider the possibility of proceeding directly to the final-phase withdrawal without going through a framework agreement on final-status issues, the statement claimed.
According to understandings reached between Barak, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, Israel should carry out the final-stage withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June.
However, the two sides failed to seal a framework agreement in mid-May prior to the planned withdrawal. Israel ascribed the delay of the final-stage pullout to the stagnant talks with the Palestinians on a final-status framework agreement.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat and his Israeli counterpart Oded Eran began their another talks on interim issues, such as the final-stage Israeli pullback from the territories and the release of Palestinian prisoners, on Sunday afternoon.
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