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Israel, Palestinians to Resume Full Security Cooperation - 2001-09-26

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed on a series of confidence-building measures designed to strengthen a cease-fire and end a year of violence.

After a long-awaited meeting between Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the Gaza International Airport, both sides announced an agreement to resume "full security cooperation."

They also agreed to exert "maximum efforts" to enforce a cease-fire, and hold another meeting in about a week.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat read a joint statement to reporters following the talks. "In accordance with the parties' commitments, they will carry out all their security obligations emanating from previous agreements and the government of Israel will begin to lift closures and re-deploy its forces," he said.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to implementing the recommendations of an international commission led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell. Those recommendations include a cooling-off period, followed by a series of confidence-building measures and a return to peace negotiations.

The meeting came after intense diplomatic pressure from the United States and other countries. Top U.S. officials have been on the telephone with Israeli and Palestinian leaders repeatedly in recent days, urging them to hold truce talks.

Calm in the Middle East is seen as critical to American efforts to build an anti-terror coalition that includes Arab and Islamic countries after the attacks in New York and Washington.

The talks began hours after an attack on an Israeli army base in southern Gaza in which several soldiers were wounded. The Israeli army said a bomb exploded in a tunnel dug next to the army post.

Following the attack, a firefight erupted between gunmen and Israeli soldiers. One Palestinian teenager was killed.

The new violence underscored how fragile this new agreement will be. Previous ceasefires, including one brokered last June by the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, George Tenet, have collapsed quickly.