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CNN Today

Talks in Taba Put on Hold

Aired January 23, 2001 - 4:20 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Marathon peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Egypt are on hold following the killings of two Israeli civilians. An Israeli official tells CNN this latest violence occurred near Tulkarem in the West Bank. The Palestinian authority issued a statement condemning those killings. CNN's Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna now, with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE HANNA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The talks in Taba put on hold. Earlier signs of positive developments reported and the killing of two Israelis in the West Bank, leading to a suspension of negotiations. The killing of an Israeli teenager last week suspended the series of talks that resulted in the Taba meeting. No contacts between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators took place until the teenager was buried. It's not clear, in the wake of Tuesday's killings, when or whether the Taba negotiations will resume.

The killings and the suspension could impact on Prime Minister Ehud Barak's chances of being re-elected. Observers believe that an agreement reached at Taba, could have a major impact on Israeli public opinion, which the latest polls show is firmly behind the opposition Likud Party candidate Ariel Sharon.

GADI WOLFSFELD, HEBREW UNIVERSITY OF JERUSALEM: It's really depending on how convinced the Israeli public is, that this is something real, and not something done in order to change the results of the election.

HANNA: Both parties, in the negotiations, insist concessions need be made if the agreement is to be reached, and in the campaign speech, the prime minister indicated new thinking on one of the most contentious issues, the status of Jerusalem.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): We have to find a way that the practical day-to-day administration will be a shared administration in the old city of the holy sites. This has no connection with our sovereignty; no one will touch or take away our sovereignty over the Western Wall, or the Jewish Quarter or the Malavadas (ph).

HANNA: To the opposition, Likud Party, this sounds as though other parts of Jerusalem are a matter for negotiation. ARIEL SHARON, LIKUD LEADER: I will guard Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, capital of the Jews, and the temple mount as the heart of the Jewish people.

HANNA: There was no indication that there had been any progress on the question of Jerusalem in the Taba talks. However, sources on both sides reported positive developments in other areas of negotiations.

(on camera): If Ehud Barak allows a resumption of negotiations, he will face accusations of his critics of giving into Palestinian violence. If the prime minister calls off the talks, he loses what is likely to be his last chance of reaching an agreement that could save him at the polls. Mike Hanna, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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