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World - Middle East

Mideast interim accord taking shape

graphic October 21, 1998
Web posted at: 9:14 a.m. EDT (1314 GMT)

WYE MILLS, Maryland (CNN) -- The framework of a Middle East interim peace agreement was taking shape as Palestinian and Israeli leaders entered the seventh day of intense negotiations at a secluded Maryland retreat on Wednesday.

If an interim accord is signed at the summit, it would be a big step toward finalizing a comprehensive settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Among the latest developments:

  • CNN has been told a comprehensive deal is close.
  • Talks on the interim accord continue Wednesday.
  • A signing ceremony could be held Thursday.

On Wednesday, U.S. officials said that progress has been made in efforts to break the 19-month stalemate in the Middle East talks.

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U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Tuesday evening that the talks were "in their most intensive phase yet," but added that "significant gaps" remained.

"I'm not in a position to predict the two sides will reach an agreement," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said on Tuesday.

U.S. President Bill Clinton has been involved in the tough negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. Also joining the talks on Tuesday was King Hussein of Jordan, who enjoys good relations with both Israelis and Arabs.

CNN was told that a draft agreement currently under discussion was based on the following U.S. proposal for an interim accord between Israelis and Palestinians:

While an interim agreement would be significant, it would only be one key step toward peace, as defined by the Oslo peace accords of 1993.

Proposed interim accord:
  • 13 percent more West Bank land to be ceded by Israel.
  • Transfer of 14.2 percent of jointly-controlled West Bank land to Palestinian control.
  • A detailed security package.
  • A revision of the PLO charter, which currently calls for the destruction of Israel.
  • Agreement by Palestinians to arrest dozens of Palestinian fugitives responsible for attacks against Israeli targets.

Under the Oslo accords, the interim agreement should immediately lead to so-called final status talks on such explosive issues as the future status of Jerusalem and the final borders of what would likely become Palestine.

Correspondent Andrea Koppel and Reuters contributed to this report.

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