The Israeli Palestinian Track: Recent Developments

Farah Naaz, Associate Fellow, IDSA

 

Following several months of Palestinian Israeli stalemate and outside passivity, the US administration was jolted into action by two terrorist bombings in Israel in summer 1997. During a visit to the region in autumn 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was able to persuade the two sides to resume negotiations. However, the parties themselves failed to move forward on the outstanding issues: the opening of a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank; the opening of air and sea ports in Gaza; the release of Palestine prisoners held in Israeli custody; Palestinian security measures and the dismantling of what Israel termed the terrorist infrastructure; the transfer to Israel of terrorist suspects; the completion of the process of amending the Palestinian National Charter; and the size of the further Israeli redeployments.1

Given this lack of progress, the US administration decided on even higher level intervention in the process and made an announcement to meet Arafat and Netanyahu on January 20 and 22 in Washington. During his meetings, Clinton failed to convince the Israeli leader to place additional territories under the control of the Palestinian authority. According to newspaper reports, Clinton had pressed for a pullback from at least an additional 10 per cent of the West Bank which Israel did not accept.2 On the contrary, it offered a withdrawal from less than ten percent of the West Bank, in three phases over several months. In other words, it wanted to carry out only one withdrawal from the West Bank matched by reciprocal Palestinian actions against terrorism, before final status negotiations on a permanent settlement were held.3 Those talks were to determine the final borders to which Israel would withdraw. Arafat, on the other hand insisted on three withdrawals, as Israel had agreed to in earlier accords and that each one was to be credible.4 He, however, agreed to an American proposal that the two other withdrawals (agreed to in the 1993 and 1995 Oslo Accords) take place after talks on a final settlement between the Palestinians and Israelis began.

To achieve a breakthrough in the peace process, the Clinton administration sent its special envoy, Mr. Dennis Ross to the region in late March with the 'US proposal'. Ross during his visit pressed the Israeli Prime Minister to stop the settlement expansion and also insisted that Arafat step up the PNA's anti-terror network. He called on Israel to withdraw from 13.1 per cent of the West Bank during the second of the three slated interim stage pullbacks from the occupied Palestinian territory, over a period of three months, in exchange for specific Palestinian security measures.5 The plan also urged the construction of a Palestinian industrial park, the opening of an airport in Gaza and a safe passage linking the West Bank and Gaza. While Arafat agreed to the US plan, Netanyahu refused to accept it. Not too surprised with the outcome Ross returned empty handed.

Netanyahu and Arafat met during the London talks which had broken down 13 months earlier, after Israel began building a new Jewish settlement at Har Homa. These talks were based on the series of bilateral meetings between Madeleine Albright, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the two West Asian leaders and focussed on the US brokered compromise on the extent of the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank in accordance with the Oslo Agreement. The talks failed to make much headway. Soon after the London talks the US proposed the holding of the Washington Middle East summit. These talks too failed, the reason being the same.6

Later, Netanyahu made an offer, agreeing to the US demands for a staged withdrawal from another 13 per cent of the West Bank on the condition that the Palestinians give up a further pullback scheduled for later in the year. This was rejected by the Palestinians who had agreed to the 13 per cent pullback on the condition that Israel carry out the further redeployment later that year. Israel was tight-lipped about any progress. Putting the responsibility on the Palestinians the Israeli Government demanded full reciprocity from them and insisted that no pull back was possible unless Arafat met a long list of Israeli security demands.

It was only towards the end of summer that a sense of urgency was injected into the process. There were several reason for this. One was the growing spectre of May 4, 1999, the end of the interim period. Arafat had for some time been indicating that he would make a unilateral declaration of statehood on that date. In the absence of real progress on the Interim Agreement, this threat looked likely. A second reason had to do with the changing calculus of domestic politics. Despite his narrow parliamentary majority. Netanyahu had resisted the urgings of those of his coalition partners who had pushed for more flexibility. But in August an opposition motion to dissolve the Knesset passed its first reading. This forced Netanyahu to confront the unpleasant prospect of running for re-election without any real achievements on the peace plank of his peace and security platform.

As a result, American bridging proposals began to fall on more receptive ears. In a new development, the Israeli side proposed to turn 3 per cent of the 13 per cent land which the US initiative called for transferring to the PNA) into a nature reserve. According to this proposal Israel would retain responsibility for the security of this area, while the Palestinians would be prevented from building or living on it.7

Clinton resolved to exploit the opportunity that had presented itself, and to move ahead, Arafat had little reason to hesitate. He had already endorsed basic American ideas, though not without some misgivings, and stood to gain either from a successful outcome of what looked to be largely an American Israeli negotiation, or from the political fallout if those negotiations failed. Netanyahu had more reason to be apprehensive, but it was difficult for him not to respond to the invitation.

As a result, the summit was held in October at Wye Plantation in the US. There was virtually no progress during the first few days of meetings, and only intensive, around-the-clock involvement by the President himself as well as Jordan's influence ultimately led to the signing of an agreement—the Wye River Memorandum on October 23, 1998.8

The main issue of Wye River Memorandum were:

— Further Redeployments, (Phase one, two and three),

— Security: the two sides agreed to take all measures necessary in order to prevent acts of terrorism, crime and hostilities directed against each other.

— Interim committees and economic issues: To enhance their relationship and reactivate all standing committees, renew negotiations on safe passage.

— Permanent status negotiations: The two sides will immediately resume permanent status negotiations on an accelerated basis and will make a determined effort to achieve the mutual goal of reaching an agreement by May 4, 1999.

— Unilateral actions: Recognising the necessity to create a positive environment for the negotiations, neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in accordance with the Interim Agreement.

According to this agreement, Israel agreed to transfer 13 per cent from area C (1 per cent to area A and 12 per cent to area B). Equally significant was the commitment to transfer 14.2 per cent from area B to area A, bringing the total area of the West Bank under full Palestinian civil and internal security control to just under 20 per cent. Israel also agreed to accelerate the negotiations about implementation of agreements on the Gaza air and sea ports, the Gaza industrial estate, the southern route of the Safe passage, and various economic measures. But these commitments were firmly tied to a 12 week period, divided into three phases, during which the Palestinians were obliged to complete the process of amending the Charter, prevent hostile incitement, reduce the size of Palestinian police force to agreed limits and especially carry out a variety of security measures. These included presenting a detailed workplan for the registration of weapons, the confiscation of prohibited weapons, the arrest and prosecution of suspected terrorists, and the rearrest of those already convicted, who had managed to escape or otherwise avoid the completion of their prison terms.9

The Wye River Memorandum made no reference to those issues that had complicated pre-Wye progress and lent urgency to the negotiations themselves: the size of the third redeployment and the question of a unilateral; Palestinian declaration in May 1999. The memorandum did however lay out the path for resumed implementation of the Interim Agreement.

In an important departure, the agreement provided for a more intensive and intrusive American role than ever before in the continuing implementation of the process. It stipulated that the US would essentially act as monitor and arbiter on the security issues.

The agreement drew criticism from both the Israeli right and Palestinian rejectionists. Nevertheless it was initially accepted by the general public on both sides. Netanyahu, for the time was able to overcome opposition both in the cabinet and in the Knesset. The Palestinian leadership was able to argue that this was the best deal under the circumstances and also the close relations with the US and the personal bond that had developed between Arafat and Clinton at Wye were gains of strategic proportions.

As a result, the first phase of the redeployment was carried out on schedule on November 20, when Israel transferred 2 per cent of area C to area B and 7.1 per cent of area B to area A; the airport at Dahaniyya in Gaza was officially opened four days later. During the same period, the PA cracked down vigorously on the infrastructure of Hamas and made preparations to convene the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and other bodies in Gaza in order to rescind the offensive clauses of the Charter.

This sense of optimism quickly dissipated. The catalyst for the breakdown was the inclusion of common criminals in the first group of Palestinian prisoners released by Israel in early December. The prisoner issue had not been directly addressed in the agreement, but there was a separate understanding that Israel would release 750 prisoners in three phases. When it became apparent that the understanding was not confined to what the Palestinians called political prisoners (and what Israel called terrorists with blood on their hands), widespread disturbances erupted throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

Although the Israeli government insisted that it remained committed to Wye and would resume implementation as soon as the Palestinians fulfilled their obligations, it was clear that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement was essentially on hold. Routine contacts were maintained during the first part of 1999, especially between the security organs of the two parties, but there was little prospect of renewed political momentum, and none at all of productive permanent status negotiations, until after the Israeli elections.

Ever since Netanyahu came to power, the difficulties in the Middle East peace process increased. Due to his hardline approach Netanyahu wanted to concede as little land as possible to the Palestinians, to assure Israel's security. When Netanyahu assumed office he pledged to continue implementing some of the previously signed agreements but at the same time attached some conditions to them. On the withdrawal of troops from Hebron, Israel insisted on revising the relevant articles in the interim agreement. As a result, Hebron agreement was signed and the two sides finally agreed that the Israeli troops would be withdrawn in three phases, March 1997, before the end of December 1997 and before the end of August 1998. But differences still remained between the two sides regarding the withdrawal area. Israel wanted to retain the right to use Israeli troops and security forces to deal with the threat of terrorism in all the areas thus violating the Interim Agreement.10

On several key issues, the administrative charter of the new Israeli government totally repudiated the consensus reached between the Peres government and the Palestinians. First, it opposed the setting up of a Palestine state on the West Bank, second, it insisted that Jerusalem would be under the perpetual sovereignty of Israel, third, the Jewish settlements involved Israel's national defence and should be strengthened, expanded and developed. The Netanyahu government rescinded the decision of the Peres government on the cessation of constructing new settlements and in February 1997, decided to construct 6500 sets of flats in the Har Homa area and fourth, it rejected any right by the Arabs to reclaim any part of the Israeli land on the West Bank.11 In other words, Israel completely deprived the Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homeland.

The Palestinians blamed the Israelis for the lack of progress in the peace process. It was this impatience that drove Arafat to threaten a new intifadah (uprising). "We want a Palestinian peace that will lead to a state with Jerusalem as its capital and not the peace of Benjamin Netanyahu",12 and later drove him to say that he would declare an independent Palestinian state.

The signing of this agreement had repercussions in Israeli politics. As soon as Netanyahu signed these agreements he was threatened from within his coalition, especially by the National Religious party, that the government would be brought down if he handed over more territories to the Palestinians.13

The Israeli right, galvanised by the virtual isolation of several Jewish settlements following the first phase of the redeployment, began to organise parliamentary and extra-parliamentary opposition to Wye's continued implementation, On December 16, Netanyahu (citing other alleged Palestinian violations, especially continuing threats to declare statehood the following May) announced a suspension of further redeployments until the Palestinians complied fully with their obligations. But this came too late to save his government and on December 21, those who condemned Wye joined with those who condemned the failure to implement it and passed a bill dissolving the Knesset, forcing new elections. These were eventually scheduled for May 17, 1999.14

The elections became a campaign of hate between the left and the right. Netanyahu attacked from all sides and was regarded as "an angel of destruction" by Yitzhak Shamir, the former Prime Minister, "a person who was leading Israel to disaster' by Ehud Barak; and was accused of "capitulation to the Palestinians" by the ex-minister, Ze'ev Benjamin Begin, the son of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin.15 Netanyahu was known to have increased the divisions in Israeli society. During his time, Askenazim were pitted against Sephardim, the secular against the religious and so on.

Netanyahu fought the elections on the basis of defending the state of Israel with Jerusalem as its indivisible capital. During his campaign, he claimed that he was best suited to negotiate the final status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and argued that the Wye Accord proved that he could make peace and that "it is better to have the right winger bargain over the final pact than a leftist who will make a sucker deal."16

Netanyahu was also against withdrawing from Lebanon, in order to guard the northern border. He was also against returning the Golan Heights to Syria, as it was regarded as a strategically important area and essential to Israeli security. Regarding the Palestinians he was against the unilateral declaration of the Palestinian state and was also not ready to carry forward the negotiations on the pretext of Palestinian violence.

During the campaign Ehud Barak guaranteed the security of Israel and the struggle against terrorism. He stood for the formation of the Palestinian state and said that there would be a physical separation between Israel and the Palestinians in order to forge neighbourly relations and mutual respect. He considered the Iranian and the Iraqi nuclear bomb as more dangerous than the Palestinians.17 Modelling himself after former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assasinated in 1995, Barak promised to secure peace with the Palestinians based on four security red lines. In a speech after the elections, he stressed, "We will move quickly towards separation from the Palestinians within four security red lines: a united Jerusalem under our sovereignty as the capital of Israel forever; under no circumstances will we return to the 1967 borders; no foreign army west of the Jordan river; and most of the settlers in Judaea and Samaria (West bank and Gaza) will be the settlement blocks under our sovereignty…any permanent agreement will be put to national referendum."18

Barak's victory over Netanyahy was hailed amongst those who had been longing for a lasting peace in the region. By August 1999, Barak was all set to revive the peace process. At first Barak wanted to joint the third phase of Wye II with the final settlements. He also discussed the ways of merging the implementation of Wye agreement with the permanent settlement with the Palestinian official Mahmud Abbas. That however did not work out.

In order to implement the Wye River accord, on September 4, 1999, the Israeli's and the Palestinians signed Sharm el-Sheikh agreement. According to this, a framework agreement outlining the permanent status principles will be reached by February 2000, and the permanent status agreement will be drafted within a year. (September 2000).19

According to this agreement the government of the State of Israel and the PLO committed themselves to full and mutual implementation of the interim agreement and all other agreements concluded between them since September 1993 and all outstanding commitments emanating from those agreements.

The main features of Sharm el-Sheikh Agreement were:

1 Regarding Permanent Status negotiations, in the context of the implementation of the prior agreements, the two sides will resume the permanent status negotiations in an accelerated manner and will make a determined effort to achieve their mutual goal of reaching a permanent status agreement based on the agreed agenda i.e. the specific issues reserved for the permanent status negotiators and other issues of common interest; the two sides reaffirmed that the negotiations on the permanent status will lead to the implementation of the Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338; the two sides will make a determined effort to conclude a framework agreement on all permanent status issues in five months from the resumption of the permanent status negotiations; the two sides will conclude a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues within one year from the resumption of the permanent status negotiations, and that PSN will resume after the implementation of the first stage of release of prisoners and the second stage of the First and Second further Redeployments and not later than September 13, 1999.

2. The second issue related to Phase one and Phase two of the Further Redeployments.

3. The third feature related to the release of prisoners. The two sides decided to establish a joint committee that shall follow up on matters related to release of Palestinian prisoners.

4. The fourth feature related to the activities of various committees i.e. the third further redeployment committee, monitoring and steering committee, interim committees etc.

5. Two safe passages between West Bank and Gaza Strip. The operation of the southern route of the 'safe passage' started on October 1, 1999. The safe passage protocol applied to the southern route of the safe passage shall apply to the northern route of the safe passage with relevant agreed modifications.

6. The two sides have agreed on the following principles to facilitate and enable the construction works of the Gaza sea port.

7. Shuhada road and Hashbahe market in Hebron will be opened in October and November 1999 respectively.

8. Security: The two sides will, in accordance with the prior agreements, act to ensure the immediate, efficient and effective handling of any incident involving a threat or act of terrorism, violence and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis. To this end they will cooperate in the exchange of information and coordinate policies and activities.

9. The two sides call upon the international donor community to enhance its commitment and financial support to the Palestinian economic development and the Israeli Palestinian peace process.

10. Recognising the necessity to create a positive environment for the negotiations.

As the Israelis and the Palestinians set out on the road to a final peace, both the sides defiantly laid down their own terms. Israel was adamant that it would come to the permanent status discussions guided by four security red lines spelt out by Barak.

The Palestinian side too outlined a list of demands sharply at odds with the Israeli position. They inspired to live within the borders of an independent Palestinian state on the 'June 4, 1997 boundaries', with holy Jerusalem as its capital. They also demanded full cessation of all Israeli settlement activities.

On September 13, the Permanent Status Talks were launched at Erez checkpoint. Addressing the ceremony David Levy reiterated that Israel would come to the permanent status discussions guided by four basic principles already spelt out by Barak.20

The main positive aspect of the Wye River II agreement was that it ended the transitional stage and opened the way for starting the final status negotiations, which was a very important stage for the Palestinian people.

Yasir Abd Rabbuh, head of the Palestinian side to the final status talks, stressed three key issues, at the starting point of the final status talks and whose implementation would be a measure of the extent of success that can be achieved. The first was the implementation of the UN Resolutions 242 and 338, adding that the most important aspect of these two resolutions was their focus on international laws and norms rejecting the occupation of land by force. The second issue was the right to self-determination and the third issue pertained to the rights of the Palestinian refugees.21

The agenda of the first final status session dealt with security arrangements, military location, borders, ties with Israel, ties and cooperation with neighbouring countries, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees and displaced people, water, environment, economic ties, joint ventures cooperation and a host of other issues.22 During the first meeting of the permanent status arrangement the controversial points on which both the sides held completely divergent views, were discussed. For example, on Resolution 242, each side had different interpretations. The Palestinians spoke of complete Israeli withdrawal to the June 4, 1967 borders while the Israelis hold that Resolution 242 did not apply to the West Bank and Gaza. On the refugee issue the Palestinians spoke of the refugees right to return to their land, while Israel holds that the refugees should be absorbed in their current places of residence through massive economic assistance that will guarantee a respectable life to all refugees. This was rejected by the Palestinians. On Jerusalem, as expected, the Israelis did not budge from their position. Similarly on settlements issue both the sides adamantly stuck to their stands. The settlements were found to be the primary problem preventing the negotiations from making progress. Finally, in order to implement the interim talks, the Palestinians claimed that Israel had not yet fulfilled 34 commitments under the interim agreements, first and foremost, the third further redeployment and a solution of the problem of the 1967 displaced persons.23

During the second round of Permanent Status Talks, the two sides issued a joint statement, stressing the Oslo Agreements DOP clause saying that the negotiations will lead to a permanent arrangement based on UN Resolutions 242 and 338. The Joint Statement/Communique also stated that the negotiations would also lead to the implementation of these two resolutions. Even while accepting Resolution 242, Israel kept refusing to interpret it in the way that Palestinians did. The communique failed to resolve the controversy, as Israel still adhered to its position that Resolution 242 did not apply to all West Bank territories.24 The subsequent round of talks did not show any substantial progress. The differences on various issues remained.

Regarding settlements, the expansion of settlements on the part of Israel continued. The prime minister's office said that an agreement had been reached with settler leader under which 12 illegal settlers outposts in Judaea and Samaria, and the West Bank would be dismantled voluntarily. As part of a deal to appease the settlers on the eve of the final status talks, Barak announced that 'Itamar' settlement near Nablus to be expanded to ten times its size. All this was rejected by the Palestinians as illegitimate. Dr. Urayqat, head of the negotiations Higher Steering and Supervision Committee, said that the Palestinians demanded removal of all settlements that were built during the era of the former government. (Netanyahu's government.)25

Israel sought to keep the Jewish settlements in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza under its control under a future peace deal with the Palestinians. They wanted the final borders to be drawn up to take into account its security demands. Barak had always made clear that he wanted to keep blocs of Jewish settlements, but it was the first time the position had been presented officially to the Palestinians during the final status talks which got under way in November.

Regarding Resolution 242 and 338, Barak holds that these resolutions might apply to Egypt and Syria but not to Judaea and Samaria. Egypt and Syria had a recognised border with Israel but Judaea and Samaria were under Jordan's control when it occupied the area in 1948. Resolution 242 does not apply to the Palestinian cause.26

Barak and Arafat failed to reach an agreement on the withdrawal schedule on the second stage of the Further Redeployment, in accordance with the Sharm el Sheikh agreement, due to the dispute over the maps of the second Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

It was determined in the Sharm-el Sheikh agreement that the safe passage between the Gaza Strip and Hebron area would be opened on October 3.27 This however was obstructed due to the differences at talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Israelis demand to arrest any Palestinian who used the safe passage and who would be wanted by the occupation authorities for security charges was completely rejected by the Palestinians. Later, however, the two sides reached an agreement on safe passage, bridging all points of disagreement and by late October, the southern safe passage which linked Gaza to the West Bank was opened to travellers. The talks are under way, to open the northern safe passage as soon as possible.

Very slow progress was seen on the release of the Palestinian prisoners.

There were reports in early January that Barak was contemplating a concession in respect of the Palestinian demand that they should have East Jerusalem as the capital of their state. According to these reports Israelis were readying to transfer the village of Abu Dis on the fringes of Jerusalem. Given its location its link up with East Jerusalem would have been natural and the Palestinians would have been able to claim that Al-Quds (the Arab name for Jerusalem) had indeed become their capital. But at the same time Barak informed Arafat that this transfer could not take place in the immediate future.28 In other words Israel wanted to expand the municipal borders of Jerusalem in order to satisfy the aspirations of the Palestinians for their presence in Jerusalem. This was however rejected by the Palestinians who held that the Jerusalem question could not be solved through forcing other areas to be part of Jerusalem.

Israel began a long delayed handover of a further 5 per cent of the West Bank to Palestinian rule by the first week of January. The handover mandated by the September interim peace deal was to have taken place seven week ago on November 15 but was delayed by a row between Israeli and Palestinian negotiations over what areas should be included.29

The Palestinians complained that Israeli troop withdrawals had fallen short of the agreed upon percentages because Israel had omitted consolidated chunks of the West bank territory in making the calculation (about 5 per cent the sides remained at odds over the areas to be included in the 6.1 per cent withdrawal from the WB, scheduled for January 20, according to the Sharm el Sheikh agreement. The Palestinians want the last heavily populated agreement areas (still not in their hands) returned in the agreement. Those areas are suburbs of Jeruslaem and the Israelis worry that returning such areas would allow the Palestinians to stake a claim in the disputed city as the parties go into final status talks.

The major crisis hit the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations following Barak's announcement that Israel was totally revoking all previous agreements, specified dates and redeployment stages. The crisis arose from Israel's retreat from signed agreements, including the implementation of the 6.1 per cent of the third Further Redeployment. Israel was attempting to merge the third stage of redeployment with the final status negotiations, to wriggle out of meeting the deadline of February 13, originally set for reaching a framework agreement which the PNA rejects.30

Negotiations and meetings are meaningless if they are not implemented. Considering the circumstances it is difficult to be optimistic about meeting the deadline set for reaching an agreement. The present circumstances do not give positive indications and it is still unpredictable when the real solution would see the light of day. It is likely that Israeli and Palestinian officials would sign some sort of agreement but it is unlikely that the agreement would be signed on the specific date. Considering the recent deadlock, it would be overly optimistic to think that the agreement would bring the two sides much closer to a permanent settlement of their dispute.

 

NOTES

1. Strategic Survey, 1998-1999, (London: Oxford University Press, 1998).

2. Hindu, January 23, 1998.

3. Hindu, January 24, 1998.

4. Ibid.

5. Facts on File, vol. 58, no. 2992, April 9, 1998, p. 229.

6. Farah Naaz, "The United States and the Israeli Palestinian Talks", Strategic Analysis, vol. 22, no. 9, December 1998, p. 1361.

7. Summary of World Broadcasts (SWB) ME 3314, August 25, 1998, p. 16.

8. Strategic Survey, 1998-1999, n. 1, p. 155-156.

9. Ibid., pp. 156-157.

10. Xu Xinhui, A Tentative Analysis of the Middle East Peace Process, Foreign Affairs Journal, no. 44, June 1997, p. 24.

11. Ibid., pp. 24-25.

12. Hindu, January 20, 1998.

13. Summary of World Broadcasts/Middle East/3404, December 8, 1998, p. 11.

14. Strategic Survey, n. 1, pp. 157-158.

15. Lisa Beyer, "Men Who Would Be", Time, vol. 153, no. 1, January 1, 1999, p. 32.

16. Ibid., pp. 32-33.

17. SWB/ME/3433, January 15, 1999, p. 10.

18. SWB/ME/3538, May 19, 1999, p. 3.

19. SWB/ME/3632, September 6, 1999, p. 1 and SWB/ME/3640, September 15, 1999, p. 1.

20. SWB/ME/3640, September 15, 1999, p. 1.

21. SWB/ME/3688, November 10, 1999, p. 1.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., p. 2.

24. SWB/ME/3691, November 13, 1999, p. 3.

25. SWB/ME/3687, November 9, 1999, p. 3.

26. Ibid.

27. SWB/ME/3655, October 2, 1999, p. 9.

28. Hindu, January 26, 2000.

29. Khaleej Times, January 6, 2000.

30. SWB/ME/3757, February 7, 2000, p. 8.