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Thursday, August 10, 2000, updated at 10:45(GMT+8)

Negotiations, Not Outside Pressure, Will Lead to Mideast Agreement

Outside pressure will not help settle the thorny issues that remain unresolved between Palestine and Israel. It will only harm the Middle East Peace process.

The joint statement by Palestine, Israel and the United States during the Second Camp David Summit last month was a light at the end of the tunnel. We have every reason to believe that the summit has reached its goal and a logical result.

After seven years of effort, minor problems, such as the establishment of a self-governing Palestinian administration and the decision as to where this administration was to have affect, have been basically solved. However, thorny issues, such as the fate of Jerusalem, the repatriation of Palestinian refugees and the future of Jewish settlers, managed to flummox the summit and remain to be solved in the future.

The plethora of refugees that has resulted in the conflict between the two countries has had a direct effect on the nations that they border.

The fate of Jerusalem concerns the Muslim, Jewish and Christian worlds.

The drawn-out summit put pressure on the two sides to run against time to seek solutions to finally lead the Middle East peace process out of deadlock.

The leaders of the two sides, who underwent a great deal of pressure from inside and outside, were in a difficult situation. It was unrealistic to expect them to make such important decisions within only two weeks.

We should realize that during the summit, the two leaders had to consider whether an agreement would be approved by their governments or whether their concessions would be accepted by their neighbours.

After the summit, mutual blame was inevitable because the two sides are still split over some issues. The international media and community should not exaggerate the issues and put more pressure on the two sides. Too much outside pressure will only deter the two sides from making further concession in future negotiations. Ultimate failure would not only be a disaster for the two leaders, but also for the entire world.

As September 13 approaches, the question as to whether Palestine will declare statehood without an agreement with Israel has roused concern throughout the world.

Undoubtedly, according to international practice, Palestinians have the right to have a country of their own. They have already established their own legislature and administration and have won worldwide recognition.

Palestinians still have the chance to gain more land and pursue their interests through negotiation. Violence is not needed.

The author is an associate professor with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

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Outside pressure will not help settle the thorny issues that remain unresolved between Palestine and Israel. It will only harm the Middle East Peace process.

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