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|Thursday, September 27, 2001, updated at 09:01(GMT+8)|
Peres, Arafat Reach Agreement on Ceasefire Plan
It was expected that Peres and Arafat would emerge from their meeting to hold a joint news conference, but instead, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Foreign Ministry Director General Avi Gil walked out of the building to issue a brief statement.
In the joint statement read out by Erekat, both leaders reiterated their "full commitment" to implementing the ceasefire plan brokered by U.S. Central Intelligence Agency chief George Tenet last June and the recommendations of the Mitchell report.
The Mitchell report, published last May by an international fact-finding panel led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell, urges both sides to end the violence, carry out a series of confidence-building measures after a six-week cooling-off period, and finally resume their peace talks.
In order to implement the agreements, a joint committee of senior officials will be set up to deal with issues that may arise, said the statement.
According to the statement, the two sides will resume their security coordination, in which the U.S. representatives would serve as supervisors and arbiters, and "exert maximum efforts to sustain the declared ceasefire."
"In accordance with the parties' commitments, they will carry out all their security obligations emanating from previous agreements, and the government of Israel will begin to lift closures and redeploy its forces," the statement said.
Both leaders also agreed to meet again within a week or so to discuss the next steps.
The Peres-Arafat meeting has brought a glimmer of hope that the two sides could finally end the one-year-old violence, despite Wednesday morning's bombing attack against an Israeli army post in the Gaza Strip, in which three Israeli soldiers were seriously wounded.
Even during the meeting, clashes erupted between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian protests in nearby Rafah area, in which Palestinians sources said that one 16-year-old Palestinian youth was killed, and nine others, five of them seriously.
According to earlier reports, Arafat has promised to Peres that he will arrest suspected Palestinian militants and collect illegal weapons in the Palestinian areas, but this would not be specified in the joint statement.
After the first week, free of any serious attacks, the Israeli army will withdraw its troops to the positions they held before the outbreak of the violence in September last year.
In addition, the international border crossings between the Palestinian areas and Egypt and Jordan, and the Gaza airport will be reopened and Israel will allow more Palestinians back to their jobs in Israel.
The Peres-Arafat meeting has been prepared for weeks, but it had been canceled at the last minute four times by Israeli hawkish Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
But in the end, Sharon could not resist the great pressure from the United States, who eagerly wants such a meeting to take place before it could launch any military actions against "terrorist organizations" in Afghanistan.
The U.S. has claimed that the exiled Saudi-borne billionaire Osama Bin Laden, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., is hiding in Afghanistan.
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