Israel and the PLO agreed Thursday to return to the negotiating table, ending the most serious crisis to shake the peace process since the Sept. 13 autonomy accord was signed.
Israel backed down from its claim that the PLO had reneged on an agreement made in Cairo, Egypt, on a solution to key sticking points, while the PLO gave a written pledge that future agreements would not be subject to change.A joint communique said talks would be based on "understandings" reached in Cairo on an approach to solving the key obstacles: control of border crossings and the size of the autonomy enclave around Jericho in the West Bank.
Bitter feelings lingered on both sides.
Standing on the Allenby bridge linking the West Bank with Jordan, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said the talks would resume next week, but warned that if the Palestinians backed off their promises, "we will not feel we are committed to what we said on certain issues."
Saeb Erekat, a top Palestinian negotiator, said Rabin's current position would not lead to real autonomy for the Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip and Jericho but only a reshuffling of the Israeli occupation.
"If he expects the Palestinians to be part of this reorganization, he is mistaken," Erekat said.
The PLO demands a presence on the international border crossings and does not want Israel to be the only one that determines who will come and go from the autonomy enclaves. Israel insists it must have final say to prevent an influx of weapons and a flood of refugees.
The two sides also are at odds on the size of the autonomy zone around Jericho. Israel is offering about 36 square miles, but the PLO wants more.
The PLO-Israel communique said talks would resume in the Red Sea resort of Taba, Egypt. Israel army radio said the talks would resume Monday, and a statement issued by the PLO's headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, said it would be "within days." A PLO official said it might be as early as Sunday.
The resumption of the talks between the two delegations, one headed by PLO diplomat Nabil Shaath and the other by Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, was not likely to produce a quick settlement.
Rabin's spokesman, Oded Ben-Ami, said Wednesday night it might take "weeks and weeks" to iron out all the problems.
Before the current crisis erupted in late December, expectations focused on a quick resolution and a summit between PLO chairman Yasser Arafat and Rabin. That in turn was expected to result in the start of an Israeli pullout, which had been scheduled to begin Dec. 13.
"There will be no summit between Arafat and Rabin until all issues are solved," said Jibril Rjoub, an Arafat aide in Tunis.