Jerusalem visit is in doubt

 

MR Dick Spring's proposed visit to Jerusalem was still in doubt last night after he met the Israeli Foreign Minister, Mr David Levy, at Iveagh House.

Mr Levy invited the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs to visit Israel. He assured him and journalists that the Palestinians and specifically the President of the National Authority, Mr Yasser Arafat - are now prepared to accept a visit by the EU Troika which would not include Orient House.

Mr Spring visited Orient House, the unofficial Palestinian headquarters in East Jerusalem in June 1995. That provoked a major dispute within the then Labour government. Its Likud successor is even more adamantly opposed to what is seen as tacit partial recognition of Palestinian claims of rights to the city.

Diplomatic sources said last night, however, that the signals from Palestinian representatives suggested they did not accept Mr Levy's interpretation.

Mr Levy said that Mr Arafat had given a clear and unambiguous promise to respect the clause in the peace accords that the Palestinians would not base any political institutions in the city.

Mr Spring said that he would be consulting the Palestinian Authority on the issues raised, and reporting to the informal meeting of foreign ministers this weekend in Tralee.

He also said he had expressed the concerns of the EU to Mr Levy over what is seen as the stalling of the peace process and the decision of the Israeli authorities to sanction new settlement-building on the West Bank.

Mr Levy will today meet the Taoiseach, Mr Bruton.