Abbas, Sharon declare truce at Middle East summit

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Israeli and Palestinian flags

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palesinian President Mahmoud Abbas today declared an end to military and violent activities against each other. The two leaders made the expected announcement at a summit held at Shram el-Sheikh, Egypt, the first such meeting between the two sides in four years.

Prime Minister Sharon pledged to end military operations against Palestinians, and President Abbas similarly said that the Palestinians will likewise end "all acts of violence against Israelis....wherever they are". Both leaders expressed hope that the agreement will lead to long term peace in the long-running conflict. Prime Minister Sharon said that the agreement is part of the goal of "quiet, dignified and peaceful lives for all the nations in the Middle East". President Abbas said "the calm that is currently prevailing in our territories signals the start of a new era, the start of a hopeful peace." Both sides also confirmed their intent to create an independent Palestinian state. The talks became possible in the renewed optimism after the death of Yassir Arafat and the election of Abbas.

The agreement marks a profound change in Israeli-Palestinian relations, but the negotiated truce is a shaky peace. The ability of President Abbas to exert control over Palestinian militant groups is questionable, and thorny political issues remain for the Israelis if they begin to withdraw settlers from the occupied territories. There are signs that the Palestinian resistance groups are willing to participate in the cease-fire: the terrorist organisation, HAMAS released a statement in the hours before the summic stating that "was prepared to calm down resistance raids in the event the Zionist entity reciprocated," referring to Sharon's pledge to stop military activities, yet shortly after the summit a spokesman for the organization said it will not be bound by the cease-fire.

The agreement includes a pledge by Israel to release 900 Palestinian prisoners, to create join committees on prisoner release and the withdrawal of troops from Palestinian territories, and cooperation with Palestinian security forces in occupied areas.