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World - Middle East

Agreement reached in Mideast talks

Midday signing ceremony expected

October 23, 1998
Web posted at: 7:54 a.m. EDT (1154 GMT)

WYE MILLS, Maryland (CNN) -- After nearly nine grueling days of Mideast peace talks, "an agreement has been reached between the two parties," White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said early Friday. A White House ceremony was expected around midday.

U.S. President Bill Clinton left the Wye River Conference Center Friday after 21 hours of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and their tops aides.

Earlier Friday, Israeli sources and Palestinian officials involved in the talks told CNN that a verbal agreement had been reached on all outstanding issues.

Sources said the document was nearly written. The final agreement was still "several hours away," a senior adviser to Netanyahu told CNN.

Paving the way for final-status talks

Both Arafat and Netanyahu were meeting -- separately -- with their teams as the draft is being written.

The breakthrough deal, currently called An Agreement for the Implementation of the Interim Agreement, is designed to bring closure to all interim issues and allow final-status talks to begin.

The sensitive issues to be worked out in final talks include the status of Jerusalem and the borders for a possible Palestinian state. Those talks are scheduled to end on May 4, 1999, when the Oslo accords expire.

Interim agreement details

The agreement being drafted will include a concrete security plan designed to curb violence in the region -- violence from both Palestinian extremists and Jewish extremists.

Other issues in the deal include:

  • A 13 percent Israeli redeployment in the West Bank, to take place over 90 days;

  • An Israeli commitment for a third-phase redeployment of Israeli troops from the West Bank; both sides need to agree on the size and scope of the redeployment;

  • The revocation of anti-Israeli clauses in the Palestinian National Charter;

  • The opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza;

  • Safe passage for Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank;

  • An industrial zone in Gaza;

  • An "in-principle" agreement for a seaport in Gaza;

  • The release of 750 Palestinian prisoners, to be completed in three phases; and

  • The formation of a committee to study releasing other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

    The document also states that unilateral actions -- such as the building of settlements, housing demolitions and a possible declaration of a Palestinian state by Arafat -- should not occur.

    U.S. officials say Clinton invested an enormous amount of personal time trying to bring the two sides to closure on the deal.

    The idea, according to the Clinton administration, was to settle these outstanding issues in order to make it possible to speed up final-status talks.

    Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers contributed to this report.

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