Peace plan sets steps to Palestinian state
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Officials from the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union on Tuesday outlined a plan aimed at bringing about Mideast peace that combines Palestinian elections and political reforms with the prospect of statehood in three years.
Representatives of the so-called Mideast quartet outlined the proposal after meetings with Arab foreign ministers and Israeli and Palestinian officials.
The plan calls for reciprocal steps between the Israelis and Palestinians on economic, political, humanitarian and institutional preparations "for the state that is on the horizon," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.
"In short, we need a process that is both performance-driven and hope-driven, because we need both performance and hope," Annan said.
Besides Annan, the meeting included U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, and E.U. chief of foreign policy Javier Solana and its Commissioner Chris Patten.
The quartet's plan has three phases: First, reforming Palestinian security forces, withdrawing Israeli troops from Palestinian-controlled areas and supporting Palestinian elections in early 2003.
The second phase would consist of establishing provisional borders and a constitution for a Palestinian state as a "way station" to a permanent Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Third, Israeli-Palestinian talks would take place, aimed at reaching a permanent status agreement by mid-2005.
In return for new elections and reforming the Palestinian Authority, "the plan must include measures to improve the lives of Palestinians," Annan said -- including lifting curfews and economic restrictions and an end to Israeli settlement activity in the Palestinian territories.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called it "a useful meeting," but said the greatest obstacle remains the lack of a clear chain of command among Palestinian security forces.
"We don't want to occupy them or reoccupy them, and as soon as it is possible we shall be more than happy to leave them, provided that security can be assured," Peres said.
The quartet also met with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said Arab ministers were "encouraged" by Tuesday's talks. Muasher said international monitors need to oversee the implementation of that course.
The quartet first formed in Madrid, Spain, in April to discuss ways to move toward peace in the Middle East.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said Arab ministers made clear that reforms of the Palestinian Authority must be aimed at meeting Palestinian needs and "should not be a dictation by any other party." Regarding United States calls for new leadership to replace Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Maher said that is something Palestinians must decide upon themselves.
Denmark, which holds the E.U.'s rotating presidency, introduced the "road map."
A senior State Department official said Monday that the fact Lebanon and Syria were invited to the meeting is evidence of the Bush administration's commitment to a "comprehensive peace" in the region, although it was unclear how substantially the issues important to those countries were discussed, such as the return of the Golan Heights, captured by Israel from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War.
In a speech to the United Nations last Thursday, U.S. President George W. Bush reaffirmed his administration's commitment to "an independent and democratic Palestine, living beside Israel in peace and security."
Palestinian Planning Minister and negotiator Nabil Sha'ath told CNN that during a reception last week in New York, he had a brief conversation with Bush, where the president said the suffering of the Palestinians "affected him personally" and "broke his heart."
"He told me he meant everything he said in his speech," Sha'ath said, referring to the president's vision of two states -- Israel and Palestine -- living side by side.
Sha'ath said the president told him that "both parties have to do their duty," and that he was "trying to get the Israelis to move" on relieving the humanitarian situation for the Palestinians by allowing more movement of Palestinians so that they can work and by returning more tax revenue owed to the Palestinians.
CNN State Department Correspondent Andrea Koppel and Producer Elise Labott contributed to this report.
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