Page last updated at 08:48 GMT, Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Mechanics of new ME peace talks

By Martin Patience
BBC News, Jerusalem

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli PM Ehud Olmert
The leaders have committed to meeting every other week

At the Annapolis conference held in the US in November, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to launch new peace negotiations aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The two sides agreed to "make every effort" to conclude an agreement by the end of 2008.

An agreement would mean the establishment of a Palestinian state and a resolution to the final status issues - borders, Jerusalem, settlements, Palestinian refugees and water.

The process starts with the first meeting of the steering committee on Wednesday 12 December.

Hamas, the militant group that runs the Gaza Strip, is still excluded from the talks - it was not involved at Annapolis and refuses to recognise Israel.

And both sides admit that many of the details on how the process will function have still to be worked out.

The broad outline of the process is:


For the first time since 2000 there will be direct negotiations between the two sides aimed at reaching a final agreement. The process is designed to work on three levels:

Israeli PM and Palestinian Authority president :
The two leaders will continue to meet every other week to follow up the negotiations in order to offer all necessary assistance for their advancement.

Steering Committee:
The Israeli team is headed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Palestinian team by the former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.

Technical Committees:
Each of the final status issues gets its own committee of experts from both sides.


Alongside the negotiations, the two sides have agreed to implement the first phase of a previous agreement known as the Road Map which they signed in 2002. Neither side has met its commitments under this.

Israel, for example, is required to freeze all settlement expansion and remove all illegal outposts from the West Bank.

The Palestinians are required to dismantle the infrastructure of the militant groups and their capabilities.

The United States has appointed Gen James Jones as Special Envoy for Middle East Security.

He will adjudicate on whether either side has fulfilled their obligations according to the Road Map.


While not directly part of the Annapolis process, the Middle East quartet - the US, EU, Russia and the UN who sponsored the Road Map - have appointed former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair as their special envoy to the Middle East.

Mr Blair's brief includes Palestinian governance, economics and security rather than the wider conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Last month, Mr Blair announced his support for four major projects, including a sewage treatment plant in Gaza, an industrial park in Jericho and an industrial zone in Hebron.

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