The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Vernon Walters, urged Israel Wednesday to recognize the need to withdraw from the territories it occupies and to accommodate legitimate Palestinian political rights.
The comment came in a speech by Walters that never explicitly mentioned the Palestine Liberation Organization or its chairman, Yasser Arafat.On Tuesday, Arafat appealed for negotiations with Israel's leaders in a speech before the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva.
Earlier Wednesday, the Israeli delegate said the PLO remains committed to the elimination of the Jewish state and can never be its negotiating partner.
Walters said there is "no substitute for direct negotiations" between the parties in the Middle East conflict and did not rule out the PLO as participant. Palestinians, he said, "will have to commit themselves to negotiations with Israel."
Apparently responding to Arafat's call for an international Middle East peace conference, Walters said such a meeting "may be useful insofar as it helps launch and support direct negotiations" but cannot substitute for them. "We must tell them (the parties involved) that we are tired of this conflict and tired of their unwillingness to make fair compromises," he said.
Wednesday, Israel's U.N. ambassador, Johanan Bein, said "vague phraseology" of the PLO's declaration of statehood "cannot hide the PLO's commitment to the common denominator that unites all its factions: the path of rejection, violence and terror."
Therefore, Bein said, the "PLO can never be a negotiating partner" with Israel. Several members of the PLO delegation walked out during Bein's speech.
Bein also made no reference to Arafat's speech, in which the PLO leader appealed for direct, U.N.-supervised talks with Israel and presented a three-stage "peace initiative."
Arafat asked Israel and other nations "to come here, under the sponsorship of the United Nations, so that together we can forge that peace."
Arafat's peace initiative called for starting with "a serious effort" under U.N. guidance to set up an international Middle East peace conference.
He proposed that "occupied Palestinian land" be placed under U.N. supervision, with an international force deployed to protect the Palestinians and oversee withdrawal of Israeli troops. He did not specify whether he was referring only to the West Bank and Gaza, occupied by Israel in 1967.
But Arafat upset some when he paid tribute to the yearlong Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. At least 323 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have died in the revolt.
Soviet Deputy Foreign Minister Vladimir Petrovsky said Arafat's speech "opens a window of new opportunities" to resolve the Middle East conflict.