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Crisis in the Middle East: Israelis, Palestinians Agree to End Violence

Aired October 17, 2000 - 7:01 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: It has been a busy night. There is breaking news out of the Middle East this morning. Just within the last few minutes, Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to take steps to end more than two weeks of violence.

CNN's Christiane Amanpour is at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el- Sheikh in Egypt, where this emergency Middle East summit has been taking place.

Christiane, what are the details?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, most significantly is the fact that the president of the United States has come out and said that the two sides have agreed to a cease-fire, basically, and that was frankly the best we were going to achieve here according to all the parties.

What they want to do is achieve a cease-fire, make sure this kind of violence doesn't erupt again.

Let me just give you a taste of what President Clinton said when he opened this closing session.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The leaders have agreed on three basic objectives and steps to realize them. First, both sides have agreed to issue public statements unequivocally calling for an end of violence. They also agreed to take immediate, concrete measures to end the current confrontation, eliminate points of friction, ensure an end to violence and incitement, maintain calm, and prevent recurrence of recent events.

To accomplish this, both sides will act immediately to return the situation to that which existed prior to the current crisis, in areas such as restoring law and order, redeployment of forces, eliminating points of friction, enhancing security cooperation, and ending the closure and opening the Gaza Airport.

The United States will facilitate security cooperation between the parties as needed.

Second, the United States will develop with the Israelis and Palestinians, as well as in consultation with United Nations secretary-general, a committee of fact-finding on the events of the past several weeks and how to prevent their recurrence. The committee's report will be shared by the U.S. president with the U.N. secretary-general and the parties prior to publication. A final report will be submitted under the auspices of the U.S. president for publication.

Third, if we are to address the underlying roots of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, there must be a pathway back to negotiations and a resumption of efforts to reach a permanent status agreement based on the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and subsequent understandings.


AMANPOUR: Now, earlier this morning, after the talks had reopened and reconvened after a short lull during the early morning hours when people, frankly, got some sleep, we were being given a different spin, if you like, on the mood.

Yesterday, when we had said good night and things looked very, very dire, this morning, it looked much more optimistic and people were saying, expect a statement.

But what has happened here is that you do not have a public agreement signed, sealed, delivered by the two parties, what you have is a presidential statement that the president of United States said is binding on both sides. This clearly because the two sides couldn't get together and sign an agreement between themselves. So what we are already hearing is both the Israelis and the Palestinians now still having issues with this fact-finding commission. The international commission of inquiry, which the Palestinians had been demanding for a long time now, is the single biggest sticking point of this whole thing.

The Palestinians are saying they are not entirely happy with the way this has been resolved here, but in their words: What can we do? We have to save our people.

The Israelis, who didn't want to internationalize any kind of fact-finding committee, saying they thought it would be a kangaroo court, are also now playing down the significance of what the president has just announced on that committee.

So who knows whether that will open a whole new can of worms. But what seems to have been achieved is an agreement for a cease-fire, to remove Israeli heavy weaponry and forces from around Palestinian towns and cities, and to go back to the situation that existed before this conflict erupted -- Carol.

LIN: Christiane, President Clinton may see this as binding, but how are people on the ground going to see it? Do you think the Palestinians, who are already protesting in Gaza today, are going to agree to this cease-fire?

AMANPOUR: Well, you know, this is a -- this is a big question. The Palestinians, who are protesting on the streets, many of them in the last couple of days have been further protesting against Yasser Arafat, even coming to this summit. Many of them have said: Listen, it's just too much for you to go to this summit after so many of our people have been killed.

And they also said you're going under great, great pressure, and either you come back with a full agreement or it's not satisfactory. Well, they have not come back with a full agreement, in terms of the peace process, they have come back with a cease-fire at best. And so this is not going to go very far towards satisfying the Palestinian people.

And President Mubarak of Egypt, the host of this conference, made that clear in his opening statement. He said, quote: "The outcome of this meeting may not meet our people's expectations, but it could be the basis for re-establishing trust, re-building confidence, and trying get back to the negotiating path rather than to the path of confrontation."

So the jury is still out on how the people in the territories will take this, and also how the Israeli people will take it. Their confidence has been badly shattered over the last couple of weeks of violence -- Carol.

LIN: So Christiane, what are you looking for to happen, as Ehud Barak goes back to Israel, as Yasser Arafat goes back to the West Bank and Gaza, are they likely to make public statements?

AMANPOUR: Well, President Clinton has said that they are both committed to making public statements and public calls for an end to the violence. That is what the president of United States is saying, that he has agreed with the two leaders.

In terms of what to expect, it is hard to tell. President Arafat of the Palestinian Authority is under a huge amount of pressure from the street, he is under a huge amount of pressure because after seven years there is no final peace agreement, and the Palestinian people are fed up, the people who are demonstrating are exceptionally poor, destitute, frustrated people who see no way out of their bleak and dire existence.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Barak of Israel says that he has offered more than any prime minister could have offered in Israel to the point that he is now leading a minority government, that he may even be tossed out of office when the parliament reconvenes in a couple of weeks, or he still may be, perhaps he has averted this though now here, forced into having an national unity government with the right wing Likud, who would frankly end the Oslo peace process anyway.

So both leaders are under an enormous amount of domestic pressure themselves. So it is going to be interesting to see how this plays out on the ground -- Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Christiane Amanpour reporting live from Sharm el-Sheikh. And in the hours and days ahead, we will see if this is, in fact, a turning point.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we're going to find out right now whether or not this -- the word may have reached Gaza by now. If there is any reaction, you talked about that moments ago with Christiane Amanpour.

Let's go now to Rula Amin, she is CNN's reporter there, who is in Gaza this morning.

Rula, what have you seen there? Is there any reaction at all yet to the news we've heard this morning?

RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For most of the people we talked to, we have actually broken the news for them. I'm right now at the funeral of a Palestinian policeman, who was killed yesterday. This funeral started with very strong rhetoric talking about continuing the fight, talking about confronting the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, talking about the disappointment from the peace process.

Every person we've talked to over here, there was either disbelief or disappointment. People didn't believe that there was an agreement. Also we are listening to the news of the agreement on the radio told us that they think this is a very partial agreement, don't know what it is all about. They think it looks like the gaps are still huge between the two sides, and they were very skeptical that this agreement withdrawal.

One person, a university student we talked to, was even saying that this conference, Arafat attended this conference under tremendous pressure and that of course any -- any agreement that is agreed upon under pressure is not valid.

Back to you.

HARRIS: Rula, I know it may be a little bit early right now to assess whether or not there will be any violence to come. But, as you have just heard reported by Christiane Amanpour, Chairman Arafat is going to be going back to Gaza and -- actually to the West Bank and he is going to make a public announcement denouncing the violence that has taken place for the last two weeks and calling for an end to it.

Do you get a sense there that people will actually listen to that and buy into it?

AMIN: Actually the last two weeks show a rise in the popularity of Mr. Arafat. Even those who have been protesting his attendance to the summit have been voicing praise and support in the Palestinian leader, but there's a lot of skepticism that whatever the Palestinian leader is going to bring is going to be enough to stop the violence. People here have been telling us that the agreement doesn't do any to tackle the reasons and the causes for this anger on the Palestinian streets.

Also the fact that Mr. Arafat is going to have to come back with territories that have been sealed off, and a lot of people have been killed, and the Palestinians that we have talked to now, as I said there is disbelief and disappointment, they say they want to know more about the agreement before they also make a judgment.

Back to you.

HARRIS: Well, Rula, just out of curiosity, I can hear in the background behind you someone speaking on a loudspeaker. Is someone there talking about the news that we have just heard delivered this morning or is this something else that is going on?

AMIN: Those people are still in the mood of no agreement. This is the funeral, again, of the Palestinian policeman, it is an official funeral. There is a lot of security here, Palestinian security. And people are not aware yet of this agreement -- most of the people are not aware of this agreement. As I said before, they think that whatever Yasser Arafat had signed is under pressure.

And in terms of renouncing the violence, people here are concerned that they do not want to see the Palestinian president de- legitimize what they have been through in the last two weeks, meaning that he would say that that was violence that has no cause, or call it terrorism or whatever. They think this fight that they have been leading in the last two weeks is legitimate, they think they are fighting the occupation, and that President Arafat should not compromise on that.

HARRIS: Exactly. We understand. We have heard quite often over the last couple of weeks about the frustration level there of the Palestinians in the streets.

Thank you very much, Rula Amin reporting live. It is of bit early there. We should have more reaction coming later on throughout the morning and throughout the day.



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