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Dennis Ross: Still 'a long ways to go' in Mideast



Former U.S. Mideast Envoy Dennis Ross joined CNN's Carol Lin Wednesday morning to discuss the latest developments in the Mideast peace process.

LIN: Just want to get your reaction to the development today on what appears to be now a formal acceptance of a plan to end hostilities.

ROSS: Well, obviously it's very important. Anything that can stop the killing and stop the violence gives you a chance to begin to think again about how you make peace.

We've got a long ways to go before we can get back to peacemaking, but you can't go anywhere if you can't stop the violence and stop -- can't stop the killing, and I think this is a first step, but it's obviously a step that is going to have to be implemented. It's going to have to be monitored, and there's going to have to be accountability, as well, if we want to see this go forward.

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LIN: And how is that going to happen between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Are they going to actually physically have to work together day in and day out to monitor?

ROSS: Well, I think they are going to have to work together day in and day out, but I think it's going to require us. George Tenet is the one who brokered this agreement. It was a very good job by him. He's a very special person, and I think the key here is now you can't have the two sides monitoring each other. You're going to have to have us monitoring this. You're going to have to have a mechanism that ensures that every step that's identified is, in fact, carried out.

And if one side or the other doesn't fulfill what they say they're going to do, then we should call them on it. We should call them on it publicly.

LIN: Well, give us a picture of how that's likely to happen. Are there Americans or American representatives already in Israel and the Palestinian territories to do so, or who needs to go there? What needs to happen next?

ROSS: Well we, in fact, have had people on the ground who have been cooperating with both sides and working with both sides in the secured area. I think those people who have already been there are going to have to be the ones who, on a day to day basis, are going to have to have meetings.

They're probably going to have to have these three-way meetings to ensure that every single step that has been agreed upon is, in fact, carried out and you judge it day-by-day. You're going to have to have that kind of monitoring. You're going to have to have that kind of accountability. You're going to have to have something that is extremely systematic if this in fact going to be an agreement that is something more than just words.

LIN: Well, let me ask you this then, just moments after this agreement was announced, there was a shooting death in the West Bank, a Greek Orthodox monk who was driving through with Israeli license plates. So what does that tell you in terms of hopes that this is going to hold?

ROSS: Well, first I think -- I think actually his shooting took place while George Tenet was actually with Yasser Arafat and the discussions were still ongoing. But I think the fact is that this is going to be very tough. One shouldn't have any illusions. We have had agreements before; we've had many agreements on security before.

It isn't the case of simply agreeing to something. It is a case of implementing what is agreed to, and that's why I say first you have to have the mechanism that ties down every single detail, then you have to have a structure in which each side acts, and in which there is accountability.

Without accountability, there is very -- there's not going to be the kind of follow through that is going to be required.

LIN: But Mr. Ambassador, do you sense a change here today? Is there a difference in tone, in language, if not in action?

ROSS: It's too soon to see that. We have had a lot of casualties over the last eight months, but probably the most profound casualty of all has been the loss of trust on each side.

It's going to take time to restore that. One shouldn't assume that you're going to -- you're going to see a change in tone and character immediately. What's going to have to happen now is after you stop the killing and the violence, you begin to restore some confidence between the two sides.

The steps are going to have to be taken are going to also have to prove to each side that the other is a genuine partner for making peace again. That's one of the things that has been lost over the last eight months.






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