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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 November 2007, 11:38 GMT
Key excerpts: Mid-East conference
The main participants have been setting out their positions at the opening of a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. Below is a selection of key quotes from the speeches.

ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN JOINT STATEMENT

We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and non-violence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis. In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements.

We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008. For this purpose, a steering committee, led jointly by the head of the delegation of each party, will meet continuously, as agreed. The steering committee will develop a joint work plan and establish and oversee the work of negotiations teams to address all issues, to be headed by one lead representative from each party. The first session of the steering committee will be held on 12 December 2007.

President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will continue to meet on a bi-weekly basis to follow up the negotiations in order to offer all necessary assistance for their advancement.

The parties also commit to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, issued by the Quartet on 30 April 2003 - this is called the road map - and agree to form an American, Palestinian and Israeli mechanism, led by the United States, to follow up on the implementation of the road map.

The parties further commit to continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map until they reach a peace treaty. The United States will monitor and judge the fulfilment of the commitment of both sides of the road map. Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to the implementation of the road map, as judged by the United States.

US PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH

(The Palestinians) must show the world they understand that while the borders of a Palestinian state are important, the nature of a Palestinian state is just as important. They must demonstrate that a Palestinian state will create opportunity for all its citizens, and govern justly, and dismantle the infrastructure of terror...

(The Israelis) must show the world that they are ready to begin to bring an end to the occupation that began in 1967, through a negotiated settlement. This settlement will establish Palestine as a Palestinian homeland, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people. Israel must demonstrate its support for the creation of a prosperous and successful Palestinian state by removing unauthorized outposts, ending settlement expansion, and finding other ways for the Palestinian Authority to exercise its responsibilities without compromising Israel's security...

All Arab states should show their strong support for the government of President Abbas - and provide needed assistance to the Palestinian Authority. Arab states should also reach out to Israel, work toward the normalization of relations, and demonstrate in both word and deed that they believe that Israel and its people have a permanent home in the Middle East...

President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert, I pledge to devote my effort during my time as president to do all I can to help you achieve this ambitious goal. I give you my personal commitment to support your work with the resources and resolve of the American government.

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS

This conference symbolizes the crystallisation of the entire world's will in its march towards achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in our region and in bringing long-anticipated justice to our country where oppression, wars, occupation and violence have prevailed in the previous decades.

The Arab and Islamic presence demonstrates the Arab Peace Initiative was never a move without a definite goal but rather a courageous strategic choice aimed at changing the nature of relations in the region and beginning anew. This historic Arab and Islamic shift and quest for a regional peace should now be a similar willingness to engage by all as it will lead to ending the occupation in all the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights and parts of Lebanon and as it will also lead to resolving all the other permanent status issues.

Chief among these is the plight of Palestinian refugees which must be addressed holistically - that is, in its political, human, and individual dimensions in accordance with United Nations General Assembly resolution 194, as emphasised in the Arab Peace Initiative, and with the participation of sister Arab countries who have borne the heavy burden of hosting the refugees for decades...

This window of opportunity might never open again and if it does, it might never claim the same consensus or momentum...

We must support such negotiations with tangible and direct steps on the ground, which will be taken as proof of having embarked on an irreversible track towards a negotiated, comprehensive and full peace. Such steps must involve freezing all settlement activities including "natural growth", reopening institutions in Jerusalem, removing settlement outposts, removing checkpoints, releasing prisoners and facilitating the mission of the Palestinian Authority in restoring law and order...

It is also my duty to say that the destiny of Jerusalem is a key issue in any peace treaty we reach. We want East Jerusalem to be our capital - a capital where we will have open relations with West Jerusalem and where we will guarantee for believers of all religions the freedom to practise their rituals and to have access to the holy sites without discrimination and in accordance with international humanitarian law...

In spite of our differences over some of the most difficult issues in the conflict, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has shown a desire for peace that I felt during our bilateral meetings... I would also like to speak to the citizens of Israel on this exceptional occasion to tell them: Our neighbours on this small piece of land, neither you nor we are begging for peace from one another. Peace is a common interest of yours and ours...

To Palestinian mothers who are awaiting the return of their jailed sons; to the children who are dreaming of a new life and a prosperous and more peaceful future; to our brave prisoners and to all of my sons and daughters wherever you are: Have faith in tomorrow and the future because an independent Palestine is coming...

To my people and family in the Gaza Strip: You are in my heart and the hours of darkness will vanish before your determination does and our determination to the unity of our people in the West Bank and Gaza as a unified and unbreakable geographic and political entity will overcome. Your suffering will end. Justice and peace will prevail.

ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER EHUD OLMERT

We want peace. We demand an end to terror, an end to incitement and to hatred. We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations...

We no longer and you no longer have the privilege of adhering to dreams which are disconnected from the sufferings of our peoples, the hardships that they experience daily, and the burden of living under ongoing uncertainty, which offers no hope of change or of a better future...

We are prepared to make a painful compromise, rife with risks, in order to realize these aspirations.

I came here today not in order to settle historical accounts between us and you about what caused the confrontations and the hatred, and what for many years has prevented a compromise, a settlement of peace.

Many Palestinians have been living for decades in camps, disconnected from the environment in which they grew up, wallowing in poverty, in neglect, alienation, bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of humiliation.

I know that this pain and this humiliation are the deepest foundations which fomented the ethos of hatred toward us. We are not indifferent to this suffering. We are not oblivious to the tragedies that you have experienced.

I believe that, in the course of negotiations between us, we will find the right way, as part of an international effort, in which we will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will be established in the territories agreed upon between us.

Israel will be part of an international mechanism that will assist in finding a solution to this problem.

The negotiations between us will not take place here in Annapolis but rather in our home and in your home. These negotiations will be bilateral, direct, ongoing, and continuous, in an effort to complete the process in the course of 2008. The negotiations will address all of the issues which we have thus far avoided dealing with.

We will do this directly, openly and courageously. We will not avoid any subject. We will deal with all the core issues. I am convinced that the reality that emerged in our region in 1967 will change significantly. This will be an extremely difficult process for many of us, but it is nevertheless inevitable. I know this. Many of my people know this. We are prepared for it...

When the negotiations are concluded, I believe that we shall be able to arrive at an agreement that will fulfil the vision expressed by President Bush: two states for two peoples, a peace-seeking Palestinian state, a viable, strong, democratic and terror-free state for the Palestinian people; and the state of Israel, Jewish and democratic, living in security and free from the threat of terrorism, the national home of the Jewish people.


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