THURMONT, Md. -- In a wild diplomatic roller-coaster ride, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak agreed to return to the bargaining table at Camp David, reviving tumultuous peace talks that had been declared a failure only a short time earlier.
With the fate of Jerusalem the main hangup, the Mideast summit entered a 10th day Thursday minus President Clinton, who was traveling to Japan -- after a day's delay -- for a weekend summit of leading industrialized nations.
"The gaps remain substantial, but there has been progress," Clinton said of the marathon effort to end 52 years of conflict. "And we must all be prepared to go the extra mile."
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was taking the reins of the talks Thursday, as she did a week earlier during a daylong absence by Clinton. She was starting the day with a meeting with the U.S. team, a State Department official said.
Bleary-eyed and haggard from days of sometimes round-the-clock negotiations at the secluded presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, Clinton himself delivered the dramatic news that the parties would push on with their peace effort after all.
"Nobody wanted to quit, nobody wanted to give up," the president hoarsely told reporters at a hastily convened news conference held after midnight in the small-town elementary school that has served as the summit press center. Only a short time earlier, the White House had tersely declared that the summit had ended with no accord.
However, Clinton, who had shuttled back and forth between the two leaders for nine straight days trying to try to bridge the gaps between them -- sometimes working the entire night through -- cautioned that "there should be no illusion about the difficult task ahead."
The decision by Arafat and Barak to restart the talks came as delegation bags were packed and everyone was ready to go.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.