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Israel-Palestinian Peace Process: Speeches at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

(September 4, 1999)

In an effort to break the deadlocked Israel-PA negotiations, the parties met in Sharm el-Sheikh in the presence of Secretary Albright, President Mubarak and King Abdullah, and signed an agreement which called for the Israeli withdrawal from a further 11% of the West Bank; the release of 350 Palestinian prisoners; the opening of safe passages between the West Bank and Gaza; and a seaport to be built in Gaza. There was also a timetable for final status talks to deal with Jerusalem, borders, refugees and settlements. A framework agreement on permanent status (FAPS) was to be achieved by February 2000 and permanent agreement by September 2000.

Speech by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

Ladies and gentlemen, after long days and nights of serious negotiations and hard work, it was finally possible to reach agreement on a formula for a timetable for the implementation of the Wye Plantation Accord.

There were moments of loss of hope. However, reason and mutual accommodation prevailed at the end. All the parties realized fully that the road is still a long one and that the difficulties which lie ahead would be great. But with vision and determination, the success which has been achieved in the past few days can be built on.

It is our earnest hope that the implementation of this new agreement will proceed promptly and without much contention. This will require from all of us vigilance, mutual understanding and good faith.

The paramount goal is to reach a just agreement on the final status of the West Bank and Gaza. We will remain actively involved and engaged in support of the negotiations that will lead to the goal during the months ahead. What is needed in order to enable the parties to achieve their goal is to build bridges of confidence between them. This is a factor which will serve the rights and interests of both parties. Likewise it is an important requirement to create the right atmosphere to achieve meaningful progress on the other tracks.

The parties directly involved have exerted tremendous effort in order to make this achievement possible. But other contributed generously to this process too. Secretary Albright played an important role which reflected President Clinton's commitment to peace and reconciliation in the Middle East. The European Union took helpful positions as well. As we did for years, we shall be most willing to help whenever this is made possible by the parties themselves.

We look forward to the days ahead with hope and optimism. We are confident that both the Palestinians and the Israeli people desire to live in peace and dignity. They have suffered long enough from bloodshed and tension. They are entitled to a new era of co-existence and peaceful interaction. Let us all vow to turn a new chapter in the history of this troubled region. God willing, we shall prevail. Thank you very much.

Speech by Prime Minister Barak at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

President Mubarak, His Majesty King Abdullah, Chairman Arafat, Secretary Albright, ladies and gentlemen,

Today we embark on a new road, which will hopefully lead us within five months to a major milestone, a framework agreement for permanent status. Today we are paving the way to the end of a century of conflict between us and the Palestinians. Reaching within a year the permanent status agreement, which resolves all outstanding issues, is bound to present us with numerous problems and obstacles and crises. But together, as partners, with trust, goodwill, consultation and above all determined leadership, we will prevail and achieve peace, security and prosperity for our peoples.

Tonight I wish to pay tribute to the memory of my mentor and friend, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, whose legacy of peace and security will continue to guide us throughout the peace process.

I have said all along that my government is committed to the full implementation of the Wye River Memorandum. The logic for today's accord is rooted in our desire to implement Wye in such a way that enhances the prospects of arriving at the permanent status talks with a minimum of pitfalls and landmines along the road. This is a common Palestinian-Israeli interest. Indeed, I believe that this accord facilitates a smooth transition from the Wye River Memorandum to permanent status negotiations.

I am committed to the security of Israel and will do my utmost to enhance it. I also want every Palestinian to feel secure and prosperous. Thus, we must prevent terrorism from derailing our peace efforts and fight it with all our might. The process of peace does not tolerate threats of violence and any kind of acts of terrorism.

I wish to say to our Palestinian neighbors: The bitter conflict between us has brought great suffering to both our peoples. I am not only aware of the suffering of my people, but also of that of the Palestinians. There is no sense in settling accounts over past mistakes, as we cannot change the past. But we do have an historic opportunity to shape a better future for our children and grandchildren, and for generations to come. My desire is to bring an end to violence and suffering and to work with the Palestinian leadership under Chairman Yasser Arafat, in partnership, respect, and in a forward-looking manner, in order to jointly arrive at a fair settlement for co-existence in peace, prosperity, and good neighborliness in this beloved land where our two peoples will always live.

We wish to resume the peace process with Syria and Lebanon as well. From here I call upon President Assad to put aside all past disagreements and together find the appropriate way to resume peace negotiations. Peace between Syria and Israel is an especially important element of the needs of both sides. We intend to pursue the peace process on all tracks. All are equally important and vital in order to arrive at a comprehensive and stable peace in the Middle East.

The accord we sign today is the result of the major common effort of both Israel and the Palestinians. Chairman Arafat has proven to be a leader determined to protect the rights of his people, but at the same time committed to the constant search for peace. Both Chairman Arafat and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin laid the foundation for the peace of the brave.

We would like this evening to thank all those who have contributed and will continue to contribute to the success of the process, particularly President Clinton, a great leader of the United States of America, and Secretary Albright; our host, President Mubarak; and King Abdullah. We attach great importance to the support given under the leadership of President Mubarak to the resumption of the peace process.

Mr. President, Your Majesty, Mr. Chairman, Madame Secretary, we are at the threshold of the 21st century and the new millennium. The people of the Middle East are ready for the dawn of a new era. I believe in a vision of peace and security, which ensures the needs of all parties and is achieved through dialogue, mutual respect, and good neighborliness. I believe that it is our duty, leaders of all parties, to pave the way and lead our peoples to the common destination of peace, security, and prosperity, without deviating from this clear goal. We must rise to the occasion, and for the sake of our fathers and mothers, children and grandchildren, turn the vision of a comprehensive peace into a lasting reality.

Speech by Chairman Yasser Arafat at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

Mr. Hosni Mubarak, President of Egypt, His Majesty King Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Mr. Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel, Mrs. Madeleine Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to thank President Mubarak for hosting this ceremony to sign the agreement to implement the outstanding clauses of the Wye Agreement between the PLO and the government of Israel. In this respect, we would like to express our deep appreciation of the constructive role that has been played by Egypt under the leadership of President Mubarak and his top aides, who have expressed their full support to the peace process in the region. I would like also to extend my thanks to President Clinton and to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright for the efforts that have been done by the United States as a guarantor of the peace process and to put the peace process back on track. It is a new occasion to go ahead within the significant role of the United States and the role and the efforts done by His Majesty King Abdullah, and the support that we have had from the European community, from Russia, from China, from Japan, from friendly countries, from the United Nations. It is with the help of all those that this ceremony is being held and the signing is taking place. On this occasion I would like to remind you of the role that was played by the late King Hussein, may his soul rest in peace, in achieving the Wye River Agreement and in supporting the peace process in the region.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, the signing of this memorandum tonight represents a complement to the peace process and to move forward to implement all the outstanding clauses and points. We have no time to waste and we have no chance to waste any more chances. It is an ongoing hope now for us to maintain the pace of the peace. We respect our commitments and implement them, and we implement all our commitments in the agreements, and we will continue our efforts to maintain the supremeness in the interests of all people and safeguarding the peace process, and we express our interest to go on forward to reach the final status settlement based on the UN Resolution 242 and on the basis of land for peace, and to build our independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem being its capital, to solve the problem of the Palestinian refugees according to resolutions of the international legitimacy.

Now, as we are ready to implement the Wye Memorandum, we will be seeing in a few coming days the PNA takeover of additional lands of the Palestinian territories, to open the safe passage between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and we will be seeing too the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. We would like to try to stress the need to stop all the settlement activities, the land expropriation and house demolition - all those have been stressed in our previous and former agreements that we signed together. The commitment to the peace process is very significant and important because it supplies the appropriate atmosphere to achieving progress towards the permanent status negotiations and to build confidence by implementing all the agreements signed, based on the Declaration of Principles between the PLO and the government of Israel.

We have succeeded with our partner the late Yitzhak Rabin and with Shimon Peres in the first years that followed the signing of the Oslo Agreement, the Taba Agreement, and the Cairo Agreement as well, to express a good mood of friendship and partnership, Palestinian and Israeli, and we have proved that this partnership is very important, based on mutual respect and commitment to signed agreements and combatting enemies of peace on both sides. We have succeeded in establishing a strong infrastructure for maintaining peace - the peace of the brave - in our region.

I would like here to reiterate the commitment of the PLO and of the PNA and of the Palestinian people in the peace agreements. We hereby extend our hand to Mr. Barak as our main partner in the peace process, the peace of the brave, and we tell him: We are ready to resume the process of building the Palestinian-Israeli partnership for the sake of peace, and we are ready to continue to help maintain continuous cooperation between us to build the peace of the brave and make it reality. This is the real challenge that is facing both of us. Let us work together in order to achieve it, and let us work together in order to improve our capability to make peace the basic and fundamental ground of our daily life.

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, more than three years ago this city in Egypt witnessed an international summit, when dozens of world leaders met to stress the unity of the world against terror and their support of the peace process. Today we meet again on this important occasion to reiterate the same meanings and the same goal, which is to lead the peace process to its final destination by means of achieving a just and a long-lasting peace in the region on all tracks, including the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks. Thank you.

Speech by His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

President Hosni Mubarak, President Arafat, Prime Minister Barak, Madame Secretary, ladies and gentlemen,

I am glad to be among you today, to witness a rebirth of all our efforts to bring about a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I would like to take this opportunity to thank President Clinton and Secretary Albright for their tireless efforts and enduring faith in peace. President Mubarak played a key role in bringing about this agreement and deserves all our thanks and gratitute. I want to congratulate President Arafat and Prime Minister Barak for their courage and will to bring the conflict to an end once and for all. About a year ago, His Majesty King Hussein fought illness and took a stand for peace. This agreement reminds us all of his spirit, his vision, his courage, and his commitment to peace, and I hope and pray that we do not let him down. Thank you very much.

Speech by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the Signing of the Sharm el-Sheikh Memorandum

September 4, 1999

President Mubarak, Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat, His Majesty King Abdullah, and I must say King Hussein in spirit, distinguished colleagues, excellencies, special guests,

On behalf of President Clinton and the American people I am honored to be here with you to mark this moment of accomplishment and renewed resolve in a search for an Arab-Israeli peace. I begin by thanking our hosts, President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Moussa. For many years Egypt has merited the world's admiration as an unwavering and courageous champion of peace. This reputation has only been enhanced by Egypt's strong supporting role in the negotiations just completed.

I especially want to congratulate Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat and their respective negotiating teams headed by Gilad Sher and Saeb Erekat. They have toiled long hours, under great pressure, in a noble cause, and they have succeeded.

In addition I want to highlight the presence of such leading supporters of peace such as the King of Jordan, and distinguished representatives of Russia, the European Union, Norway, and Japan. The peace process could not survive without their backing, which will be even more crucial as we strive to build on the current agreement.

The accord Israeli and Palestinian leaders have just signed provides a long-awaited boost, both to the substance and spirit of the search for Middle East peace. By agreeing on a plan for implementing the Wye River Memorandum and other outstanding commitments, the two sides have begun to rebuild their partnership - a partnership that is central to the Oslo process and vital to the region's future.

For the first time in several years, Israelis and Palestinians are working together and solving problems together. Relationships of trust and shared convictions are being built through this process. The result is beneficial to both sides.

Under today's agreement further redeployments will be carried out, security cooperation will deepen, the fight against terror will continue, and prisoners will be reunited with their families. In addition, construction of a port for Gaza will begin, and a safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank will be opened.

These provisions are important in themselves, but there is an even larger significance to this agreement. First, the fact that Israelis and Palestinians negotiated this pact directly is a rich source of hope for the future. As one can see here tonight, the peace process has many sponsors and many supporters. But that process cannot succeed unless the parties are engaged with each other, gaining mutual confidence and building mutual trust. When that happens, agreements are not only more likely to be signed, they are more likely to be implemented. And if you ask the average Palestinian or Israeli, he or she will tell you - implementation is what counts.

Second, through this agreement the parties have cleared the way for the beginning of serious permanent status negotiations. Here is where the bold vision encompassed by the Oslo Declaration of Principles will meet its sternest test. The obstacles that permanent status negotiators will face are daunting. The issues are tough, laden with emotion and deeply rooted in the region's troubled past. They involve life and death issues for both sides. But the road to reconciliation has always been strewn with obstacles. Over the years, the peace process has been undermined by extremists, assaulted by terrorists, and shot by assassins. Still, the desire for peace has not been quenched, and the need for peace has never lessened.

If a permanent settlement is to be achieved, the friends of peace must be strong. Those who seek peace must be persistent and the advocates of peace must make the case over and over again, that negotiations are not just one option among many, they are the only way for either Israelis or Palestinians to realize their deepest aspirations. But permanent status negotiations will prosper only if they are conducted in the spirit of partnership that was born in Oslo. And that spirit has been absent in recent years, but is present today and marks a new beginning, and it must be maintained. It is the spirit of striving not to create obstacles but rather to overcome them, and seeking not to intimidate, but rather to persuade; searching not to defeat the other party but rather to find a way to a shared victory.

If we are to ask, where will the negotiators find the required strength and confidence, I can only think of the model provided by Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, by Yitzhak Rabin, and King Hussein. These leaders experienced war and understood therefore the need to prevent war. They believed that a people brave enough to fight must also be courageous enough to make peace, and they proved that negotiations can produce gains that alternatives cannot, such as the removal of security threats, the restoration of land, and the opening of new economic possibilities.

The legacy of their leadership guides us tonight and must continue to inspire us tomorrow. That is true with respect to peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, it is true as well in the search for a comprehensive settlement. We must help find the right way for Israel to resume negotiations with Syria and Lebanon, while also restarting the multilateral track so that what has been a regional conflict can end in a regional peace.

As President Clinton has affirmed, the United States will do all we can to facilitate and enhance this effort, and to help negotiations succeed. This reflects the interests we have, the commitments we have made, and the values we cherish. Let there be no doubt through the remaining months of this century and far into the next, America will stand by and with those who stand for peace. And once again, I want to thank President Mubarak, Foreign Minister Moussa, for Egypt's indispensable role in the peace process, and to extend my warmest congratulations to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat. A great task has been completed and an even larger one remains. Thank you.

Sources: Israel Foreign Ministry