Arafat, In South Africa, Says Mideast 'Logjam' Must Be Broken

By Nicole Itano | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Pretoria ( - Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat has endorsed an Egyptian-Jordanian proposal for a peace deal with Israel, expressing hope that the negotiations could resume where they left off, before the outbreak of violence last September.

Addressing a gathering of the Non-Aligned Movement here Thursday, Arafat said: "The language of violence and bombardment will not serve the interests of the Palestinian or Israeli people."

Arafat, who visited South Africa to attend a meeting of NAM's "Committee on Palestine," said he would accept the terms of an understanding reached in Egypt last October, which include a denunciation of violence by both sides.

Just hours before Arafat met NAM members in South Africa, President Bush held talks with Israeli met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the White House to encourage a resumption of peace talks.

Israel has ruled out resuming talks from where they left off last year, when former Prime Minster Ehud Barak offered greater concessions to the PA than any of his predecessors had. The Sharon government says that apart from agreements contained in previously signed accords, everything else remains subject to negotiation.

Arafat said he was encouraged by recent meetings between Peres and the leaders of Egypt and Jordan.

The situation in the Middle East was grave and the peace process needed to move faster, the PA chairman said. He claimed that more than 24,000 Palestinians had been killed or injured during the uprising of the past seven months. The number of dead stands at around 400.

Arafat said it was necessary to "break the logjam," but he reiterated his view on the justice of Palestinian claims. The PA demands that Israel withdraw from all territory it occupied in 1967.

Arafat also met with former President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg. After that meeting, Mandela, who called Arafat an old friend, told reporters that he would not become involved in the negotiation of a peace settlement in the Middle East.

Mandela in 1999 proposed a peace deal including Arab recognition of Israel, Israel's relinquishing of disputed territory, and an international commission to settle thorny issues like the future of Jerusalem. The plan was largely ignored.

Representatives from Algeria, Bangladesh, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Jordan, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, Singapore, Tunisia, Zambia and Zimbabwe were present at the NAM meeting.