Highlights of President Arafat’s Visit to the U.S.

  • The Peace Process: While in New York, on Saturday evening, President Arafat met with U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright to discuss the deadlock of the Middle East peace process. They then met again on Sunday in the early afternoon, which lead to a trilateral meeting of President Arafat, Secretary Albright and Prime Minister Netanyahu. That meeting, in turn, led to a Monday morning trilateral meeting in Washington at the White House, where President Clinton received the two sides. As a result of those meetings, it was agreed that the Secretary will visit the region on the 6th or 7th of October, leaving behind Ambassador Dennis Ross and his team until mid-month, when both President Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu are scheduled to come to the U.S. for a meeting with the President, which could last for a few days.

The Palestinian side welcomed the readiness of the administration to get involved at a higher level in the efforts to save the peace process and bring it back on track, and also welcomed the positive positions expressed by U.S. officials, especially by the President. As for substance, however, no agreement was reached with the Israeli side, except for Mr. Netanyahu’s agreement for withdrawal from 13% of the West Bank. Even on this issue, the Israeli side has not yet accepted that the 3% natural reserve should be Area B and they have not expressed readiness to accept the 14.2% transfer from Area B to Area A, in addition to the upcoming third redeployment. Other issues, such as the outstanding issues of the transitional period, have also not been agreed upon.

President Arafat did meet again with President Clinton on Tuesday, 29 September 1998. That meeting focused on bilateral issues and was a fruitful meeting according to a source with the Palestinian delegation.

  • Bilateral Meetings, Church Groups, Jewish Leaders and the Secretary-General: Upon President Arafat’s arrival in New York on Saturday, 26 September 1998, he immediately undertook a series of bilateral meetings and other events. One of his first scheduled events was a gathering hosted by the National Council of Churches in New York City. There, President Arafat met with the General Secretary of the Council, Dr. Joan Campbell, and several Bishops and prominent church leaders from the New York area. They discussed various issues of relevance with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem, highlighting the importance of the consistent support of church groups for Middle East peace and justice. That day, he also met with various Foreign Ministers who were in New York attending the General Debate of the U.N. General Assembly, and met as well with the European Union’s Special Middle East Peace Envoy, Ambassador Moratinos.

The following day, President Arafat met with Cardinal John O’Connor. They discussed the Middle East peace process, as well as the upcoming historic celebration of Bethlehem 2000 in Palestine in commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the onset of a new millennium. Also on Sunday, President Arafat addressed an event hosted by the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, conducted bilateral meetings, attended a reception in his honor for the U.N. diplomatic corps, U.N. officials and other dignitaries at the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the U.N., and had dinner with a number of prominent American Jewish leaders.

Upon his return to New York Monday afternoon from a morning trip to Washington, and following his address to the General Assembly, President Arafat met with the Secretary-General of the U.N., H.E. Mr. Kofi Annan. The two discussed the situation in the Middle East and the work done by the U.N. on Palestinian issues, including that of the U.N. Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories and of the United Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as well as the continuing important role of the U.N. with regard to the question of Palestine.