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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 23:55 GMT
Diplomats hail Gaza border deal
A Palestinian policeman at a gate at the Rafah border crossing in Gaza
International envoys had said it was urgent that crossings be opened
Israeli, Palestinian and EU officials have welcomed a deal to reopen Gaza's border with Israel and Egypt.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brokered the deal which sees the Rafah border due to open on 25 November.

European foreign policy envoy Javier Solana has nominated a senior Italian military policeman to head a European monitoring presence at Rafah.

Opening the border is seen as key for Gaza's economy and Palestinian exports, including short-lived foodstuffs.

Last minute deal

Ms Rice had extended her Middle East visit to help nail down the agreement.

It will allow Palestinians to travel in bus convoys between Gaza and the West Bank starting in a month, and in lorry convoys a month after that.

Its other provisions include:

Map showing Gaza border crossings and planned port

  • Beginning construction of a sea port for Gaza, and further discussions about an airport

  • Allowing the urgent export from Gaza of all the agricultural produce of the 2005 harvest

  • The reduction of obstacles to movement in the West Bank, which Israel still controls.

Video surveillance

The deal also includes video surveillance of the Rafah crossing to Egypt by a joint EU-Palestinian team.

Israel will have access to the video via the Europeans, but will not have veto power over individuals moving through Rafah, as it had wanted.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz told Israel Radio that Israel was satisfied by an agreement to provide live video footage of the Rafah border.

In a joint statement, Mr Solana and UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Israelis and Palestinians to abide by the deal, which they called a "major breakthrough".

Local joy

Palestinian minister Mohammed Dahlan said the agreement would satisfy most people in Gaza.

"At least for now, travellers are not going to see any more Israelis. No Israeli is going to control their lives," he said.

United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan praised the agreement for offering Palestinians freedom of movement and greater economic opportunity, his spokesman said.

An Egyptian government spokesman said the deal allayed fears that Gaza would become a "big prison" after Israel's withdrawal.

Two crossings

Ms Rice said the agreement "shows that progress continues", adding that it would change the lives of people on both sides for the better.

The Bush administration has pressured Israel into making concessions which will prove disastrous
Mark, USA

Announcing the deal in a joint appearance with international envoys Mr Solana and James Wolfensohn, she urged Israel to allow Palestinians to start rebuilding the airport in Gaza.

Ms Rice had spent the night shuttling back and forth between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators. She said she got only two hours' sleep.

Ms Rice's visit to the region was her fourth this year, and her first since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

At the end of her trip, she announced that Maj Gen Keith Dayton would be the new US security envoy to the region, replacing William Ward.

She had been due to fly to Pusan in South Korea for an Asian regional conference, but delayed her departure in order take part in the negotiations.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas delivered a harsh criticism of Israel shortly after she left.

In a speech marking the Palestinian declaration of independence in 1988, he accused Israel of wanting to push the Palestinians into civil war.

Condoleezza Rice explains the agreement

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