Wednesday, October 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Israel, Palestine agree to end violence

SHARM EL-SHEIKH (Egypt), Oct 17 (AP) — Israel and the Palestinians today agreed to “immediate concrete measures” to end violence in the West Bank and Gaza, US President Bill Clinton announced at the end of an emergency West Asia summit.

Mr Barak and Mr Arafat signed no ceasefire agreement and made no statement themselves at the end of two days of talks brokered by Mr Clinton, with US Secretary-General Kofi Annan and other leaders.

But US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, in a CNN interview, said she expects an immediate ceasefire as a result of the agreement.

Mr Clinton said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat agreed to publicly call for an end to the violence that has killed more than 100 persons in two weeks.

“We have made important commitments here today against a backdrop of tragedy and crisis,” Mr Clinton said. But, he added, “we should have no illusions about the difficulties that await us”.

“Both sides have agreed to issue public statements unequivocally calling for an end of violence,” Mr Clinton said. “They also agreed to take immediate concrete measures to end the current confrontation, eliminate points of friction, ensure an end to violence and incitement, maintain calm and prevent reoccurrence of recent events.”

Mr Barak, however, said the test of the agreement will be in its implementation.

“The coming days will tell whether we still have a partner,” he said, referring to the Israeli-Palestinian “partnership” in seeking peace.

“If we do find the violence declining, that will be an excellent thing. If it doesn’t, then we will know what to do,” Mr Barak said.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who opened the summit pointedly blaming Israel for the recent violence, said the outcome “may not meet the expectations of our people.” It takes a step, however, towards resuming permanent peace efforts “after the region is stabilized,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Annan said Mr Barak and Mr Arafat have stepped back from the abyss and renewed their commitment to resolving their differences by peaceful means.

He said the summit achieved significant agreement on security, renewing the peace process and on fact-finding.

“It has not been easy. Feelings run high on both sides. Mutual mistrust is deep,” Mr Annan said, cautioning both sides against further use of violent language.

The closing session came against a backdrop of more violence in Gaza, as hundreds of Palestinian settlers threw stones and firebombs at an Israeli border crossing, drawing return fire that injured 10 demonstrators.

The leaders worked late into the morning hours and were up early again, with Mr Clinton shuttling back and forth between Mr Arafat and Mr Barak to work out the final wording of his statement.

The Barak-Arafat meeting started in an atmosphere of high tension and mistrust.

The leaders met over a late dinner, followed by post-midnight talks among US President Bill Clinton, Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Afterward, Clinton was to see Barak. The President extended his stay today, rather than departing late yesterday.

The main hangup was Arafat’s insistence on an international fact-finding commission to assess the causes of the violence, an Israeli official said. Israel says it will only accept a panel led by the USA, its closest ally.

Mr Barak, meanwhile, insisted on a halt to Palestinian attacks on Israeli soldiers and civilians and the re-arrest of extremists from the Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements who were released this past week. He has called for the Palestinian media to stop its calls for further attacks against Israel.

Mr Clinton implored both sides “to move beyond blame” after more than two weeks of armed clashes on the West Bank and Gaza that have left about 100 persons dead, most of them Palestinians. It has been the worst Israeli-Palestinian violence since 1993, when the Oslo peace accords launched the now-shattered peace process.

“We cannot afford to fail,” Mr Clinton warned. US officials left open the possibility that Mr Clinton could extend his stay until today, rather than departing late yesterday. “Things have been intense,” Mr Clinton’s spokesman said.

Fighting flared anew less than an hour after the summit opened. Israeli soldiers opened fire at Palestinian gunmen and rock-throwers. A Palestinian police officer was killed and dozens of civilians were wounded by Israeli fire.

Surrounded by tight security, the leaders met at a two-story golf clubhouse at this Red Sea resort, famous for its coral reefs and scuba diving. They gathered around a horseshoe-shaped table, Mr Arafat and Mr Barak sitting away from other leaders and far apart from each other.

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