The Russian Federation has been called to contribute towards a new peace initiative in the Middle East.
UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larson has confirmed that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has invited the Russian Federation, UNO, EU and USA quartet to meet him on Thursday and to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of the US Council of Foreign Affairs report, of August 1999.
Arafat in this way keeps the initiative moving, after Ariel Sharon was forced to fly home early, in the aftermath of Tuesday’s suicide bombing near Tel Aviv, but having already presented to George Bush documents attempting to link Yasser Arafat to terrorist attacks against Israel, within a policy to sideline the Palestine Authority President from any peace process.
Sharon had made it clear in a speech that he delivered in the USA on Monday, to the Anti-Slander League, that Israel has its own agenda in the Middle East, which can differ very greatly from that of its paymaster, the USA, if needs be: “We have had many friends in the United States for many years. But when we are speaking of our lives, when we are speaking of our security, first and foremost we have to count on ourselves”, he declared.
Sharon wants a deep change in Palestinian Authority policy before he launches any serious peace initiative, namely the removal of Yasser Arafat as the interlocutor and structural changes in Palestine Authority organisation, meaning that a new administration will not depend upon the will of one man.
Until this is achieved, he sets aside any firm date for a political agenda. In so doing, Ariel Sharon, blinded by his own arrogance, loses the initiative at a time when Hamas, through the suicide bombing, opened a gaping hole in the credibility of Arafat’s leadership. Especially so, when the Washington administration continues to believe that Arafat is the man to do business with.
White House spokesperson Ari Fleischer stated on Tuesday, “Arafat is the representative of the Palestinian people, as this people made clear”. He added that “President Bush believes that it is better that both sides begin conversations than waging war against each other”.
Disappointed as Bush may be with Arafat, Arafat still calls the shots within the Palestine Authority, despite warnings from Hamas and other radicals, queuing up to scupper any negotiations and to see the region descend into unprecedented violence. It is here that Arafat can make a difference and it is precisely here that Sharon has allowed himself to be check-mated.
The great survivor, Arafat, will continue to lead his people in the near future, in negotiations with an Israeli leader with vision and humility, such as Shimon Peres.
Timothy BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.Ru
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969