Jerusalem, (CNSNews.com) - President Bill Clinton is reportedly pressing Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Barak to swiftly implement the Wye peace agreement.
The prime minister's office confirmed to CNSNews.com that Barak did receive a note from Clinton, however, they would not reveal its contents and Barak did not mention the letter at the weekly cabinet meeting yesterday. However, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Tel Aviv would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the correspondence to CNSNews.com.
Israeli newspapers Monday claimed that Barak received a letter from Clinton during the past few days urging a swift execution of the Wye River Memorandum, which he helped to broker.
At yesterday's cabinet meeting, Barak emphasized Israel's commitment to implementing the Wye accords if no agreement can be reached with the Palestinians on combining further redeployments with the final status talks of the Oslo Accords.
Barak is keen to combine at least the third and final IDF withdrawal, which would leave some Israeli settlements surrounded by Palestinian territory and unprotected. However, Barak has instructed the IDF to prepare for the second Wye redeployment - the first since last November's IDF withdrawal - to transfer territory on October 1 concurrently with the completion of Palestinian commitments.
Although the Palestinians are not eager for any more delays, the prime minister said that there is still a possibility of a postponement of part of the third stage redeployment.
Regarding the second redeployment, an IDF spokesman told CNSNews.com that the IDF does not yet know the exact area of a second withdrawal, but said it will be from the central region. The government will determine the extent of the pullback.
In the Wye River memorandum, Israel agreed to a 13% withdrawal in three successive redeployments. After the first withdrawal last year, then then-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu refused to implement further Wye conditions, claiming that the Palestinians were not fulfilling their part of the deal.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, headed by Gilad Sher and Dr. Saeb Erekat, met last night on the Palestinian side of the Erez checkpoint in the Gaza Strip. The sub-committee on the issue of prisoners also met "to compare each side's database."
According to the prime minister's media advisor, "the meeting was businesslike; all relevant issues were discussed, including the timetable and implementation of the Wye Memorandum, and the negotiations on the framework for the final status agreement."
The delegations are due to hold a second round of talks on Tuesday, pre-empting the forecast summit between Barak and Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Meanwhile, Israel is due to begin receiving high-level visitors from the US this week, the first since Barak took office two months ago. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton will meet with his counterpart, Lt. General Shaul Mofaz, as well as with Barak later this week.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who postponed her visit to the region in order to give Israeli and Palestinian negotiators a chance to work together without the help of a third party, is due to visit the region in early September.