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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Israel expects immediate results from the Palestinians"
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Ghassan Khatib, Palestinian Analyst
"I don't think this ceasefire will hold"
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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 04:28 GMT 05:28 UK
Work starts on Middle East truce
Palestinian gunmen
Eight months of violence have left about 600 dead
The Palestinians have agreed to US proposals for a lasting ceasefire with the Israelis.

American and Palestinian officials announced the breakthrough following a meeting between Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and CIA Director George Tenet in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

CIA chief George Tenet with Yasser Arafat in Ramallah
Tenet and Arafat: Talks described as "last ditch effort"
The US plan aims stabilise the current ceasefire, which is under increasing pressure, and then to create measures to restore confidence between the Palestinians and Israelis, and eventually lead to a resumption of formal peace negotiations.

The precise terms under which the Palestinians accepted the US plan are unclear.

Is it the role of Mr Arafat to be the policeman, to protect the Israeli Government in Tel Aviv or Haifa? It is nonsense actually

Hamas spokesman
The main sticking points for the Palestinians were Mr Tenet's call for the detention of members of militant organisations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the creation of buffer zones between Israeli and Palestinian forces.

According to reports, Palestinian officials agreed to arrest militants, but were not happy to establish buffer zones in the occupied territories to keep the two sides apart.

Israel had earlier accepted the proposals, drawn up by Mr Tenet to cement a ceasefire and end eight months of violence that have seen the deaths of about 600 people.

Immediate implementation

A US State Department official said Israel and the Palestinians had agreed on a "work plan" to end violence and return to the status quo before the Palestinian intifada (uprising) broke out last September.

Palestinians demonstrate outside the talks venue
Mr Arafat may have trouble selling the deal to his people
"Steps will be taken immediately to implement the work plan," said the official.

He added that Mr Tenet, who had originally intended to return to Washington on Tuesday, would remain in the region until at least Wednesday for possible further talks.

The BBC correspondent in Jerusalem says that although both sides have accepted the US plan, each has serious reservations.

Arafat's difficulty

Mr Arafat in particular will have serious difficulties selling the deal to his people.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are very popular amongst Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Any move against these groups by Mr Arafat's forces might undermine his position completely.

Ariel Sharon
Sharon: "I can't say I am enthusiastic"
Muhammad Zahar, a spokesman for Hamas told the BBC: "Is it the role of Mr Arafat to be the policeman, to protect the Israeli Government in Tel Aviv or Haifa? It is nonsense actually."

A spokesman for Mr Arafat, Marwan Kanafani, explained the political difficulty in arresting Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.

Mr Kanafani told the BBC: "If there was an agreement or a promise that there will be an end to this Israeli occupation and aggression, the Palestinian Authority could start talking to the people about laying down their arms. But as it stands now there is no way that we can punish the people that defended their country."

Mr Kanafani repeated the Palestinian call that the ceasefire be based on proposals by an international committee led by former US Senator George Mitchell.

The Mitchell report called for an end to violence followed by a cooling-off period and confidence-building moves, including a freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza.

Moving forward

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, making a speech to business people on Tuesday evening, said: "I decided to accept the programme laid out by Mr Tenet and see if it will lead to a reduction in hostilities.

"I can't say I am enthusiastic about the plan, but on the whole we can work and move forward."

The announcement of the agreement came a few hours after the Israeli army said a Greek Orthodox monk had been killed by Palestinian gunfire in the West Bank on a road leading to the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.

The man, an Israeli national, is said to have been driving his car when firing came from another car on the road.

The US-led peace drive has attracted international support. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to visit the region along with Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief.

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Middle East
Kofi Annan pushes for Mid-East peace
12 Jun 01 | Middle East
Hardliners disapprove of ceasefire plan
06 Jun 01 | Middle East
CIA back centre stage in Mid-East
06 Jun 01 | Middle East
Viewpoint: Gazans fear for the future
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