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>JN Oct. 18, 2000, Vol. 8, No. 179

Palestinians, Israelis Agree to Stop Fighting

By David Gollust (VOA-Sharm el-Sheikh)

The emergency Middle East summit in Egypt has ended with an agreement by Israel and the Palestinians to seek an immediate end to their nearly three weeks of violence and to seek a way back to negotiations on a final peace agreement. The understandings were brokered by President Clinton, in two days of almost non-stop mediation.

The summit took place in an atmosphere of gloom over the fighting, the worst between the sides in several years, and it appeared at times the meeting might break down in failure.

But the understandings announced by Clinton were surprisingly broad and raised hope, at least, that the conflict has not entirely swept away chances for a final-status Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.

Clinton said the parties had agreed to make unequivocal public statements calling for an end to the violence, to take immediate concrete steps to eliminate points of friction and incitement:

"To accomplish this, both sides will act immediately to return the situation to that which existed prior to the current crisis in areas such as restoring law and order, redeployment of forces, eliminating points of friction, enhancing security cooperation and ending the closure and opening the Gaza airport. The United States will facilitate security cooperation between the parties as needed."

Perhaps the most serious point of contention at the summit was Israel's flat rejection of the Palestinian demand for an international inquiry into the causes of the latest outbreak. Israel had said it was willing to accept a less-formal U.S. chaired examination of the issue, and there were elements to satisfy both sides in the approach announced by the president.

The United States will develop with the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in consultation with the U.N. secretary-general, a committee of fact-finding on the events of the past several weeks and how to prevent their recurrence. The committee's report will be shared by the president with the secretary-general and the parties prior to publication.

Clinton said the United States will consult with the parties within two weeks on ways of getting the parties back to peace negotiations, which were totally derailed by the violence. A senior U.S. official said Israeli and Palestinian envoys would come to Washington to initiate that discussion.
The summit agreements did not come in the form of a document signed or initialled by the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, but rather understandings between the United States and both sides. Despite the lack of signed accord, the senior American official said the understanding are very specific and that each side knows what the other has promised.

Clinton left Egypt immediately after the announcement heading back to the United States to keep a promise to attend a memorial event in Virginia for those killed in last week's terrorist attack on a Navy ship in Yemen.


Clashes Continue Despite Cease Fire

VOA Staff Report

On the outskirts of Jerusalem, an Israeli policeman was critically injured during a gun battle when shots were fired from a Palestinian town into a Jewish neighborhood. Israeli soldiers on tanks positioned nearby responded with machine gun fire. Earlier, Jewish settlers shot and killed a Palestinian man near the West Bank town of Nablus. Protesters also clashed with police in Bethlehem after the funeral of a Palestinian teenager killed on Monday.

The latest violence came on the same day Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed at a summit in Egypt to take measures designed to end nearly three weeks of deadly clashes.

The violence Tuesday underscored the difficulty the leaders face as they begin efforts to bring down tensions boiling over between both sides.

After returning from the summit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Israel will do what it can to end the violence.

"We will do our best to live up to the spirit of these statements, namely to try very seriously to put an end to this violence in coordination with our neighbors, the Palestinians."

Barak says completing the agreement will determine whether Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat is a partner for peace. The prime minister says he still plans to form a "national unity government" with political parties that have opposed concessions to the Palestinians during previous peace negotiations.

Upon his return to Gaza City, Arafat said the most important thing is the sincere and precise implementation of the commitment to end the violence.

Thousands of Palestinian protesters have been marching in support of continuing the intifada, or uprising, against Israeli soldiers. Leaders of the militant Hamas group vowed to continue the fighting.


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