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Christopher pleased with Netanyahu, Arafat meeting

September 7, 1996
Web posted at: 3:00 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT)


LONDON (CNN) -- On the eve of a meeting in London with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher called on Israel to ease the closure of its borders to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

icon Assessing the outcome of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's first meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Christopher said he hoped it would provide momentum for a peace process that has been sharply curtailed since the right-wing Israeli leader took office. (408K AIFF or WAV sound)

"I'd like to see a substantial easing of the closure," he told reporters. "I think that's something that's quite likely, now that they're meeting and talking together, and the Israelis can get a greater appreciation of the difficulties of the closure."

Christopher also said he hoped Netanyahu would develop the kind of "comfortable" relationship with Arafat shared by his predecessors Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres.

Arafat and Netanyahu

Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with Christopher and President Clinton in Washington on Monday.

On other issues, Christopher said that Turkey has "genuine reasons" to establish a protection zone across a narrow strip of northern Iraq. There is adequate reason, he said, for Turkey to fear possible attacks from Kurdish Workers' Party guerrillas, who want to carve an independent state out of southeastern Turkey.

"We understand their reasons for doing so, and we've been reassured the situation will only be temporary and their forces will not be stationed there," he said.

The secretary, however, stopped short of approving Turkey's move to mass troops along its border with Iraq.

West Bank

Christopher also said he was "disappointed" in Russia's condemnation of the U.S. missile attacks on Iraqi defense and communication sites last week, saying that apparently the Russians "don't understand as we do that the only language that Saddam understands is the language of force."

"I think they regard (Saddam's conduct) as being reckless and dangerous," he said. "I was disappointed they didn't understand the necessity of taking forceful action."

CNN Correspondent Steve Hurst and Reuters contributed to this report.


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