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World - Middle East

Oslo accords expire without Palestinian state

May 4, 1999
Web posted at: 9:25 p.m. EDT (0125 GMT)


In this story:

17 injured in clashes

U.S. calls for rebuilding of trust

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Chanting "Statehood is our right," Palestinian protesters clashed with Israeli soldiers Tuesday as the expiration of the Oslo peace accords passed without the declaration of a Palestinian state.

Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat had pledged for months that May 4 would be a "sacred date" for Palestinians, but, under heavy international pressure, he decided to postpone a declaration until after next month's Israeli elections.

Arafat defended the move, arguing that much of the world now accepts that the Palestinians have the right to a state.

"Whether they (Israel) like it or not, our state is already established," Arafat said Tuesday after returning from a trip to North Africa and Europe.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fighting for re-election on May 17, took credit for the decision.

"Arafat for a full year has been promising to declare such a state, threatening to do so ... We have been telling him not to do so, and he wisely backed off," Netanyahu said.

17 injured in clashes

Some Palestinians were clearly disappointed in the delay. Hundreds of protesters gathered in the West Bank town of Hebron, including dozens of masked men firing rifles in the air.

Some marchers in Hebron broke away and hurled rocks and petrol bombs at Israeli soldiers, who fired with rubber-coated steel bullets. At least 14 protesters were injured.

Three Palestinians were slightly wounded during a similar clash in the town of Beituniya. Protests in other parts of the West Bank and Gaza were for the most part peaceful.

In East Jerusalem, hundreds of people gathered at Palestine Liberation Organization headquarters. Arafat has pledged to make Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state.

Just a few hundred yards away, dozens of hard-line Israelis celebrated the lack of a declaration.

"Oslo is dead," said Avraham Chaimson, one of the organizers.

U.S. calls for rebuilding of trust

Tuesday marked the end of the five-year period established under the 1993 accord in which Israel and the Palestinian were to reach a "final status" agreement.

Both sides are deadlocked over the implementation of last October's Wye River agreement in which Israel promised to cede 13.1 percent of the West Bank in exchange for heightened Palestinian efforts to control terrorism.

Each side accuses the other of failing to live up to its commitments under the U.S.-brokered agreement.

On Tuesday, the United States called on Israel and the Palestinians to rebuild a "a relationship of trust."

U.S. President Bill Clinton had urged Arafat to postpone statehood, but has expressed a U.S. commitment to work toward an agreement in one year.

"Good-faith negotiations are the only realistic path to peace," State Department spokesman James Rubin said Tuesday.

"Unilateral steps or declarations won't bring peace," he said.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

RELATED STORIES:
Arafat signals a delay in declaring Palestinian statehood
April 27, 1999
Arafat welcomes Clinton offer on peace 'within one year'
April 26, 1999
Palestinians seek U.S. deadline for talks with Israel
April 25, 1999
EU supports Palestinian statehood
March 26, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Palestinian National Authority Official Website
The Mideast Peace Process
Office of the Israeli Prime Minister
Middle East Peace Institute
Arabic Media Internet Network - (Arabic and English site)
The Charter of the Hamas
Fateh Organization Website
Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America - Israel
Israel News
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