Abu Mazen poised to take up PNA post
By Karen Farrell
Declaration of Principles chief architect Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will finally assume his role as head of the Palestinian Negotiations Supervisory Committee, according to an announcement by the PLO Executive Committee on March 18. The move was requested by committee members during meetings President Arafat held on March 17 and 18 in Tunis.
The Negotiations Supervisory Committee was slated to become publicly active in the fall of 1993, but never came to fruition due to internal disagreement about its organisation. During the interim, Arafat has undertaken supervising the negotiations himself.
The committee was appointed to oversee peace negotiations to ensure compliance with any agreements reached.
The committee's subsequent idleness was for the most part due to Abu Mazen's decision not to accept his appointment. At the time, he indicated concern that Arafat would exert too much power over committee affairs.
Numerous PNA [Palestinian National Authority] sources emphasised that Abu Mazen is merely assuming a position he had been appointed to more than a year ago, and that PNA minister of planning Nabeel Shaath will remain the chief negotiator.
Shaath himself was harshly criticised during the Tunis meetings for the way he is dealing with the Israelis. Shaath commented following these meetings that he will present a harder line to Israeli negotiators.
PLO officials in Tunis said Abu Mazen has not formally accepted this appointment. He remains hesitant about coming to Gaza because of lingering doubts that Arafat will give him decision-making power.
The decision to have Abu Mazen assume his duties coincided with a PLO Executive Committee policy announcement that the PLO would no longer accept Israel's strategy of procrastination during negotiations, especially on redeployment and elections.
Abu Mazen himself noted that the next round of negotiations will be intensive and will discuss all issues regarding the second phase of the interim period. He pointed out that holding elections is directly linked with the redeployment of the Israeli army out of West Bank population centres, which is now over a year overdue.
[From the Jerusalem Times.]