Mideast Leaders Pledge to End Violence, 2/8/05
Mideast Leaders Pledge to End Violence, 2/8/05
Nov 13 2005, 07:27 PM
Joined: 12-November 05
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Mideast Leaders Pledge to End Violence
February 8, 2005
By LARA SUKHTIAN, Associated Press Writer
Photo: In this picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, and Palestinian Authority President
Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, shake hands at the Red Sea resort of Sharm
el-Sheik, Egypt, Tuesday Feb 8, 2005. (AP Photo/Avi Ohayon/Government Press
SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian
leader Mahmoud Abbas declared Tuesday that their people would stop all
military or violent activity, pledging to break the four-year cycle of
bloodshed and get peace talks back on track.
With the flags of their countries whipping in the wind, Sharon and Abbas met
face-to-face at a Mideast summit Tuesday. Afterward, Abbas said: "We have
agreed on halting all violent actions against Palestinians and Israelis
wherever they are."
Sharon made a similar pledge.
"Today, in my meeting with chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians
will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and, at the
same time, Israel will cease all its military activity against all
Palestinians everywhere," he said.
Abbas said he expected the cease-fire pledges to pave the way for resumption
of talks on so-called "final status" issues such as borders, refugees and
Jerusalem's status, all within the context of the Mideast "road map" to
peace. Sharon said he also expected the deal Tuesday to set the stage for
the implementation of the "road map."
During the summit, Sharon also invited Abbas to visit him at his ranch in
southern Israel and Abbas accepted, according to a senior Israeli Foreign
Ministry official, Gideon Meir.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath said that meeting would take place
Sharon said he would like the next meeting between the two leaders to be in
the West Bank town of Ramallah, said his adviser, Raanan Gissin.
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a key parliamentary committee narrowly approved a
bill that would allow Sharon to carry out his planned pullout from the Gaza
Strip and part of the West Bank in the summer. The vote passed 10-9 on a
subject that has split Sharon's party and angered his main constituency —
settlers and their supporters.
Abbas said it was time for the Palestinian people to regain their freedom.
"A new opportunity for peace is born today in the city of peace. Let's
pledge to protect it," Abbas said, referring to the nickname of Sharm
el-Sheik earned through past peace summits.
And Sharon, in what he said was a direct address to the Palestinian people,
said: "I assure you that we have a genuine intention to respect your rights
to live independently and in dignity. I have already said that Israel has no
desire to continue to govern over you and control your fate."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who summoned the two leaders and has been
a key mediator, said both sides showed a serious desire to "work together
truly and sincerely."
"The challenges today are large and deep, but the mission is not impossible.
If the road is long, we today took the first step," Mubarak said.
"The Palestinian and Israeli peoples equally deserve a secure life for the
coming generations to enjoy, based on justice, international principles and
good neighborliness," the Egyptian president added in a speech he said he
was delivering on behalf of himself and Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt and Jordan will
return their ambassadors to Israel after a four-year absence, possibly
Egypt and Jordan lowered their diplomatic representation in Israel in late
2000 in protest at what they saw as Israel's excessive use of force against
Palestinians in the fighting that began in September that year. While Egypt
withdrew its ambassador from Tel Aviv, Jordan decided not to send the
ambassador it had newly appointed.
Mubarak also said there was fresh hope for the Syrian-Lebanese peace track.
Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations have been frozen since 2000.
"Our goal is lasting peace in the Middle East, therefore, our movement will
be followed by other moves to revive both the Syrian and Lebanese tracks,"
Meir said that "there was a great atmosphere in the talks ... smiles and
An invitation to both sides to meet separately with President Bush at the
White House this spring added momentum on the eve of the summit.
Gissin said that as part of Israel's halting of military operations, it
would stop its controversial targeted killing operations against wanted
Palestinians, as long as the Palestinians kept militants under control.
Gissin noted Israeli flags, flying outside the summit convention center
alongside the flags of Arab countries, calling it a sign of more hopeful
"But there's one thing that must be made very clear ... there will be no
flexibility whatsoever, no compromise whatsoever on fighting terrorism," he
A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip struck a cautionary note, saying the
radical Islamic group, which has been responsible for hundreds of attacks
against Israelis in the past four years, would evaluate the summit before
committing itself to halting its campaign of violence.
"We agreed before with Mahmoud Abbas that if he succeeds to achieve our
national goals, he should come back to the Palestinian factions to discuss
the issue, and after that we will decide our stand," Mahmoud Zahar said.
The cease-fire was the clearest indication yet of momentum following Yasser
Arafat's death, the election of Abbas and a signal from the White House that
it plans a renewed push for peace.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking Tuesday during a visit to
Rome, said there seems to be a will for peace in the Middle East, but warned
a long road was ahead.
Rice also urged the new Palestinian leadership to move resolutely to control
violence against Israel by its own people. She acknowledged the limits of
the Palestinian security forces, but said "there are places where they can
She said when the Palestinian forces arrest someone, they should hold him,
when they see a bombmaking facility they should destroy it and when they see
smuggling they should stop it.
In the hours before the summit began, the Israeli military said Palestinians
opened fire on an Israeli military vehicle moving along the security fence
surrounding the Gush Katif bloc of Jewish settlements in southern Gaza. No
injuries or damage were reported. Israeli troops also arrested two Hamas
members near the West Bank town of Jenin, the army said, adding that this
arrest, like others in the past 10 days, was carried out with the specific
approval of the army chief, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon.
Israelis also briefly sealed off the West Bank town of Nablus, preventing
Palestinians from leaving.
Sharon's visit angered some Egyptians, and university students led by
Islamic student groups demonstrated peacefully on their campuses Monday and
Tuesday. At Cairo University, about 350 students burned Israeli and American
flags and shouted against Sharon. One banner read: "Receiving Sharon is a
shame on Egypt."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the agreement also included the
establishment of joint committees — one to determine criteria for the
release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and the other to
oversee the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities on
the West Bank.
The senior Israeli official said that after Sharon's declaration of an end
to military operations, the two sides would go back to operating as they did
before the 2000 outbreak of fighting: In Palestinian-controlled areas,
including most of Gaza and eventually most West Bank towns, the Israelis
would coordinate with Palestinian security forces if they wanted to arrest
It was not clear what rules would apply in the towns that for now continue
to be under Israeli security control — Jenin and Nablus.
Significant steps have been taken since Arafat's death to reconcile Israel's
primary concern of security with Arabs' main objective of getting the "road
map" on the fast track.
Abbas has deployed police to keep the peace in Gaza, ordered arrests of some
operatives and appears to have won pledges from militants to halt attacks on
On the Israeli side, the government is pledging to free 900 of the about
8,000 Palestinian prisoners it has in custody and gradually pull out of five
Palestinian towns on the West Bank.
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