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Barak's Absence Derails Palestinian-Israeli Peace Talks

Aired October 5, 2000 - 2:17 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now, the Middle East, amid continuing violence there, the U.S. government has closed its embassies and consulates across the region until Sunday or Monday. The closings come as the latest fighting between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers took the life of a Palestinian in the Gaza Strip. Meantime, peace talks in Paris and Cairo produced no breakthrough.

We have more on the ups and downs of the peace process from CNN's Jerrold Kessel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three leaders at a meeting planned for four. In calling for the battling Israelis and Palestinians to meet with him in the idyllic surroundings of this Red Sea resort, Egypt's president Mubarak had been hoping to consolidate an accord to end the week-long hostilities so as to provide a new spur to the dormant Palestinian-Israeli peace process. Although the Israeli flag was there, the absence of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak made that impossible, much to Egyptian dismay.

AMR MOUSSA, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: And Egypt is open for all those who want to help peace. If anybody doesn't want to participate, he is free to do that.

KESSEL: Egyptian officials described Prime Minister Barak's departure from Paris, euphemistically, as most unwise, underscoring their fears that the battles could well escalate.

MOUSSA: Who is responsible for the violence? After all of those people who have died or been killed on the Palestinian side, this was an excessive use of force and, in fact, the forces of occupation, aggressive against people occupied and trying to react to a provocation, a very serious provocation by a former minister who is Sharon.

KESSEL: Yasser Arafat and his delegation departed after their brief talks here. The Palestinians and the Israelis have accepted a U.S.-run security committee to assess the violence. But the Palestinians blame the failure on Israel's refusal to accept, in addition, an international political inquiry. A healing commission, the Palestinian's call it on why the week-long turmoil erupted and how it escalated. Madeleine Albright, who'd reportedly sided with Israel in opposing a full-scale international inquiry could only say no one can afford to look backward.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: It is impossible to follow through and have useful discussions with this kind of an atmosphere. Violence has to stop and confrontation has to stop. And I think we just need to move forward. We need to think about the future.

KESSEL (on camera): During the often torturous ups and downs of Palestinian-Israeli peace making, this Sinai resort has gained the reputation as the place where peace hurdles are overcome, not created. Now, after this failure here, when asked: What next? Egyptian and U.S. officials could only shrug, and say: We will keep on trying.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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