The new Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation met for the first time in the Syrian capital, Damascus, over the weekend (14/15 May).
MV Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad and Palestine Liberation Organisation leader, Yasser Arafat seated and talking, Damascus, Syria.
MV Arafat and PLO members seated round conference table
MV Arafat and others seated
MV PAN FROM speaker TO PLO members
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Background: The new Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation met for the first time in the Syrian capital, Damascus, over the weekend (14/15 May).
The Palestinians' parliament-in-exile, the Palestine National Council, at its session in Cairo in March authorised the PLO executive committee and the PNC bureau to choose the new Central Council and in the process to enlarge its membership from 42 to 55. The fields for which the six permanent committees will be responsible are: foreign affairs, military affairs and security, press and information, affairs of the "occupied homeland", social affairs, and labour and financial affairs. President Carter indicated for the first time on Friday (13 May) that the PLO could be ready to recognise the right of Israel to exist and thus remove a major obstacle to the reconvening of the Geneva peace conference. Mr Carter said Israel might also respond by conceding the right of the Palestinians to a homeland in the Middle East. However, in its public utterances at any rate, the PLO has not altered its position. On Tuesday (10 May) it denied that it was ready to recognise Israel's existence. In a communique issued in Geneva it said: "Such questions are premature to the present state of negotiations."
SYNOPSIS: Before the first session on Saturday (14 May), PLO leader Yasser Arafat and other members of the Council met Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad, who last week (9 May) had talks on the Middle East in Geneva with United States President Jimmy Carter.
President Assad had reviewed the Palestine problem and the latest developments in the region with Mr Arafat before he left. Yasser Arafat chaired this first meeting of the PLO Central Council, the formation of which was agreed on at the beginning of this month. The members were expected to define the main lines of a plan of action for the coming weeks.
The new Central Council is expected to assume great importance as an interim legislative body during the Middle East peacemaking efforts that lie ahead. The 55-member Council decided after a further two sessions on Sunday (15 May) to create six permanent committees with the task of supervising the work of the various departments of the PLO, covering fields such as foreign, military and social affairs.