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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Reach Cease-Fire Agreement


Palestinians and Israelis announced Tuesday an agreement to end more than four years of bloodshed that have resulted in thousands of deaths. The announcement is seen as a major confidence building move that could pave the way for more substantive peace negotiations.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas announced an agreement Tuesday to end all hostilities associated with the Palestinian Intifada that began in September 2000.

Meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea Resort of Sharm el-Sheikh for a one-day summit hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Abbas pledged that all acts of violence against Israel would end immediately. Mr. Sharon promised that Israeli military operations would end in all Palestinian locations.

Mr. Abbas called the agreement a new opportunity for both the Palestinians and Israelis to renew their hope for peace. His words were translated by an interpreter provided by the Palestinians.

"What we have announced today, in addition to being the implementation of the first article of the road map that was established by the quartet, it is also a basic step an important step that provides a new opportunity for restoring the peace process and its momentum so that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples restore hope and confidence in the possibility for achieving peacem,” said Mr Abbas.

Mr. Sharon urged Israelis and Palestinians not to allow this opportunity for peace to slip away. Over the past four years, ten cease-fire agreements have been reached. All of them failed to last. Tuesday, Mr. Sharon called on both sides to wipe out acts of terror. His words were translated through an interpreter provided by Israel.

"We must all work unceasingly and indefatigably to break down the terrorist mechanism once and for all,” said Mr. Sharon. “It is only by away with violence that we will be able to give hope to peace. We must not allow this opportunity to slip from our fingers, this hope this opportunity for a genuine new start."

Mr. Sharon said deeds, not words, would move the peace process forward. After the summit, a spokesman for the Palestinian faction Hamas said it was not bound by the cease-fire agreement.

In closing his remarks, Mr. Sharon said Palestinians and Israelis will have to give up some of their dreams in order to achieve a two state solution, with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace.

The summit also produced an agreement by Israel to form committees to deal with the issues of Palestinian prisoners, the redeployment of Israeli troops and Palestinian fugitives. Israel had already announced plans to free 900 of 8000 Palestinian prisoners, pull back its troops and end assassinations of Palestinian fugitives.

Even so, Mr. Abbas noted that many unresolved issues remain, including the release of Palestinian prisoners, the separation fence being built by Israel and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in Gaza and the West Bank. Mr. Sharon said Tuesday he remains committed to the withdrawal of all settlements in Gaza.

The summit occurred following weeks of intense negotiations between both sides. President Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, who also attended the summit, reportedly played significant roles in bringing the two sides together. At the conclusion of the summit, it was announced that Egypt and Jordan would return their embassy staff to Israel. Both countries had recalled their ambassadors in protest over Israeli military operations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

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