Egypt hosts signing of revised Wye memorandum
Regional, Politics, 9/6/1999
Ending months of deadlocked negotiations over how to implement the deal reached last October at Maryland's Wye River Plantation, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak signed on Saturday a new agreement to carry out the Wye River accord and that at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
The signing ceremony was held under the sponsorship of President Mubarak and in presence of King Abdullah of Jordan and US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. President Mubarak addressed the ceremony and affirmed Egypt's desire to see just and comprehensive peace prevail in the region. He praised the Palestinian-Israeli agreement as a remarkable development along the road of peacemaking.
"After all these days of backbreaking negotiations, it fills me with great pleasure to declare that an agreement could finally be reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis on the implementation of Wye River accord" he said.
The President hoped that this success could be built on, and that further progress could be achieved.
Arafat said after signing, "We assert, as we always promised, that we respect and implement our commitments," adding that the Palestinians would "make every effort to move fast toward the final-status negotiations to implement UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 on the basis of (land-for-peace) to build our independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and to solve the refugees problem."
After signing the agreement Barak addressed the congregation, emphasizing that Israel is fully committed to the implementation of Wye River Memorandum and moving from the latter to the final status negotiations, Barak pledged to pursue peace on all fronts in the Middle East. "We must rise to the occasion and for the sake of our mothers and fathers, children and grandchildren turn this vision of a comprehensive peace into a lasting reality," he added.
Barak also said Israel and the Palestinians had a historic opportunity to "shape a better future," and called on Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to put all past differences aside in the search for peace. The Israeli Prime Minister said the deal offered Israel and the Palestinians the chance to put a century of conflict to rest. He paid tribute to the late Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin, who launched the Oslo peace process with Arafat in 1993.
In a speech at the signing ceremony, Albright said the agreement "provides a long-awaited boost both to the substance and spirit of the search for Middle East peace." She welcomed Israeli and Palestinian willingness to do most of the negotiating without mediators, building trust and confidence after years of bitterness.
In her address Albright said: "For the first time in several years, Israelis and Palestinians are working together and solving problems together. Relationships of trust and shared conviction are being built through this process. The fact that Israelis and Palestinians negotiated this act directly is a rich source of hope for the future."
The memorandum laid the groundwork for progress on other issues that have been delayed for months or years. For the first time, it would allow free passage for Palestinians between their two main population centers, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Currently, few Palestinians have that privilege, and those who do must obtain permission from the Israelis.
It would also allow Palestinians to go ahead with construction of a seaport at Gaza, which many see as a potentially critical boost for their anemic economy.
The revised Wye memorandum includes specific deadlines for implementing the accord. Under the plan:
* Israel will relinquish another 11 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian control over five months, giving the Palestinian Authority complete or partial control of 42 percent of the territory.
* Israel will release 350 prisoners -- 200 immediately and another 150 in October.
* The two sides will establish a framework of final peace talks by February 15, 2000, with a goal of signing a permanent accord by September 2000.
* The Palestinians can begin building their own seaport in Gaza. Israel will guarantee safe passage corridor for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank.
* The Palestinians will implement security commitments, including the collection of illegal firearms, the arrest or detention of Palestinian suspects and providing Israel with the names of all Palestinian policemen.
Sharm agreement to affect dialogue between Arafat, PLO factions
Moussa: Implementation of Wye accord to be guaranteed by US, Europe, Egypt
Differences between Wye and Sharm el-Sheikh agreements
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