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Matthew Chance discusses political pressures on Mideast peace
CNN Correspondent Matthew Chance is covering the Israeli-Palestinian violence along with efforts by other nations to help forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.
Q: What is the next step in the Mideast peace process?
CHANCE: It's very uncertain at the moment. Both sides seem to have become entrenched in their positions: The Israelis saying they want to see the Palestinians accept the peace proposals by U.S. President Bill Clinton, and the Palestinians saying they still need more time and clarification of that plan before they're willing to sign on to it. There are renewed diplomatic efforts under way Monday to try to break the impasse. European Union international policy chief Javier Solana is in Jerusalem to meet separately with the Palestinian and Israeli leadership -- with the backing of the U.S. -- to try to bring the two sides together.
Q: Which is the more important deadline at this point: January 20, when U.S. President Bill Clinton leaves office, or the early February date for new elections for Israeli prime minister?
CHANCE: In many ways, from the Palestinian and Israeli perspective at least, January 20 is perhaps the least important deadline. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak has a prime ministerial election on February 6, and he badly needs to go to the Israeli public with some kind of peace plan that they can vote on. Without it, his chances of re-election may be very slim. The Palestinians have made it clear that they will not be rushed into signing an agreement because of either American or Israeli political concerns and it is the substance of a peace agreement with Israel that the Palestinians are most interested in.
Q: Does Solana wield much influence in the region and is he likely to persuade Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Barak to accept the U.S. Mideast peace proposal?
CHANCE: Over recent decades European powers have not wielded the same kind of influence in the region as the U.S. Solana is seen as a serious representative of the European Union, and the Palestinian leadership, at least, have expressed their desire to have European involvement in the ongoing peace process. Additionally, Solana arrived in the region with the backing of the U.S. to try to bring both sides closer together on the U.S. peace proposal. Plus, with the mounting tension on the ground -- the killings and the confrontations -- it's very difficult to see at this stage how an agreement and compromise can be reached.
Mideast peace process limps along, shadowed by violence
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