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Saturday, September 4, 1999 Published at 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK


World: Middle East

Leaders hail Mideast deal

Arafat: Israel and Palestinians to work "hand-in-hand" for peace

Israel and the Palestinians are preparing to sign a long-awaited agreement reviving the stalled Wye River land-for-security accord.


[ image:  ]
The deal - which paves the way for permanent peace negotiations - was sealed on Friday after eight months of deadlock.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat described the agreement as the "peace of the brave".

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak spoke of a "new era of confidence and partnership".

Middle East
The two men are expected to be joined by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the signing ceremony in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Israel said the signing ceremony would take place on Saturday night, after the end of the Jewish Sabbath.

Mrs Albright - who met both sides on Friday - said they had "seized a historic opportunity to tackle the issues that will define their peace for generations to come".

She said the Israelis and the Palestinians had begun to establish the trust and confidence they would need to reach a permanent peace.


The BBC's Hilary Andersson: "At last, a deal"
The deal marks the formal resumption of the Middle East peace process and paves the way for talks on a final peace settlement - so-called "final status negotiations".

Those talks will cover deeply contentious issues such as water, refugees, Jewish settlements and the future of Jerusalem.

Breakthrough

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators had been negotiating for several weeks over changes to the land-for-security accord, which was agreed nearly a year ago at the Wye River resort in the US.

Click here to see an interactive guide of the main issues

The Israeli Government of Binyamin Netanyahu suspended implementation of that deal in December 1998.

The latest talks over how to revive it had been held up by disagreements on how to proceed towards final status talks and on the exact number of Palestinian prisoners to be released.


The BBC's Richard Miron: "Both sides seem set to gain from the new deal"
But the breakthrough came on Friday when Israeli officials announced that the Palestinians had accepted an Israeli offer to release 350 Palestinians held for anti-Israeli activities. The Palestinians had initially demanded freedom for 400 detainees.

Chief negotiator Gilead Sher said Israel would:

  • Transfer 7% of the West Bank to self-rule and release 200 Palestinian prisoners within 10 days
  • Free a second group of 150 Palestinian prisoners on 8 October
  • Stage two further troop redeployments on 15 November and 20 January, 2000

Mr Sher said the deal also set a one-year deadline for negotiating a final peace treaty, with a preliminary "framework agreement" scheduled for February 2000.

The agreement also provides for the opening of safe passage routes across Israel that will allow Palestinians to travel between the West Bank and Gaza. In addition, it allows for the construction of a seaport in Gaza.


After Wye - issues at a glance


Click here to return





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