The main outcome of the summit is the announcement of a mutual cessation of all acts of violence on the Israeli and Palestinian side. Abbas and Sharon also discussed a number of other important issues related to overcoming the confrontation and resuming a dialogue based on fulfilment by the parties of their obligations under the road map. It was agreed that negotiating contacts between the Israelis and Palestinians would continue.
Russia welcomes the results of the summit held in Egypt. They establish the conditions for a fully fledged restoration of the peace process and advance towards a just Palestinian-Israeli settlement, as provided by the road map, drawn up by the Quartet of international mediators and approved by the Security Council in its resolution 1515 (2003).
We highly assess the effective and useful role of Egypt and Jordan in the preparation and holding of the meeting. We also proceed from the necessity of consolidating the positive tendencies in the region, including by way of the restoration of talks on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks in the interest of achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.
Moscow expects that the accords worked out in Sharm el-Sheikh will be scrupulously observed by the parties. Russia together with the other Quartet members is ready to render them necessary help and assistance in this.
Acting as a neutral intermediary, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today monitored the release process of 500 Palestinian detainees from Israeli detention places to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. ICRC delegates were present at the various locations of release, namely, the Tarqumiya, Beituniya, Tulkarm, Salem and Erez crossings. Prior to their release, the ICRC carried out individual interviews with all 500 detainees to confirm that they agreed to the location of their release.
Since 1967, under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the ICRC has been visiting Israeli places of detention in which Palestinian detainees are being held to monitor their treatment and living conditions. These visits are a standing priority of the ICRC and will continue in all Israeli places of detention.
The World Council of Churches is deeply concerned about actions by the Government of Israel that threaten the achievement of a just peace for both Israel and Palestine by pre-empting negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem within the framework of international law. This letter reiterates the position of the World Council of Churches on a matter of critical importance.
While the world’s attention is drawn to its Gaza withdrawal plans, the Government of Israel has intensified unilateral programmes to consolidate control over Jerusalem and other occupied territory. These include:
• Cutting the West Bank in two by adding 3,500 housing units to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, a decision that mocks prospects for a viable, contiguous Palestinian State with a shared Jerusalem as its capital
• Repeated declarations by the Government’s top leaders that large illegal West Bank settlements and all of Jerusalem will belong to Israel in any final agreement
• Ongoing violations of human and civil rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem, including building Jewish settlements in Palestinian neighborhoods while construction permits for Palestinians are denied, family homes are demolished and requests for family reunification are denied
• Threats and more threats, including an absentee property law allowing the confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and a new regulation to require permits for Jerusalem residents entering the West Bank
Irregular transfers of church-held land from one side to the other only add to the alarm of those who hope for justice; all such transfers must be annulled.
The World Council of Churches calls for an open and inclusive Jerusalem, a city of shared sovereignty and citizenship, a city of two peoples and three faiths, of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Now is the time to cease actions that pre-empt peace in Jerusalem and to begin negotiation of Jerusalem’s final status within the framework of international law.
Hope for the prospects of peace has revived in recent months. The death of Yasser Arafat and the election of his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, have fostered the expectation of a new era in relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Within this context, Israel's disengagement plan, introduced in December 2003, should be seen as an important step forward.
Ever since the 1967 Six-Day War brought Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip under Israel's administration, their status has been in question. Israel was forced to wage that war in self-defence, and the disputed territories were held not as the object of conquest, but to be part of eventual negotiations for lasting peace.
Although Israel has historic ties, security needs and other vital interests that are directly connected to these disputed territories, it was never Israel's intention to rule over a large Palestinian population. Israel is ready as always to address the vital interests of the Palestinians in these areas. The goal is to reach a just settlement that would allow both peoples to live in genuine peace and security.
Israel demonstrated its willingness to trade land for peace in its 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, when it gave back all of the Sinai Peninsula. This decision entailed painful sacrifices, including the dismantlement of the town of Yamit and the uprooting of all the Sinai settlements.
Today, Israel is poised to disengage from the Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank, an initiative that will be the first practical test of the possibility for peaceful coexistence with the Palestinian Authority under the new leadership of Mahmoud Abbas. This bold move to end the stalemate in the peace process follows more than four years of terrorist bloodshed that have brought untold suffering to both Israelis and Palestinians.
Preparations for implementing the Government's disengagement plan, which was endorsed by the Knesset (Israel's Parliament) in October 2004, received a welcome boost at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit in February 2005. At the summit, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Chairman Abbas both declared an end to the violence and formally renewed the dialogue for peace.
The disengagement plan does not replace negotiations, but could make an important contribution to the renewal of peace talks as envisaged by the road map sponsored by the United States, the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United Nations provided, of course, that the Palestinian Authority eliminates the infrastructure of terrorism. It is Israel's view that the direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the final status will result in the establishment of full peaceful relations between Israel and a Palestinian State.
This plan of course entails risk, but it is an opportunity Israel feels is well worth taking. As Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom stated in an address before the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard on 7 March 2005: “We recognize that the effort to resolve our conflict with the Palestinians can have a positive impact on a broad range of other issues of international concern and we are committed to this task. We are prepared to take risks for peace."
Following the Palestinian elections on 9 January 2005 and the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit on 8 February 2005, Israel has taken a series of measures with the purpose of easing the everyday life of the Palestinian population. These measures are part of a policy aimed at utilizing the "window of opportunity" that was opened after the establishment of the new Palestinian Government and renewed cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Their implementation was possible due to the decrease in the number of terrorist attacks against Israelis and the improvement in cooperation between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Palestinian security forces.
The main areas in which measures were taken:
In addition, Israel has decided to employ a new security system based on the concept of "minimal friction" between the Palestinian population and Israeli security forces. Israel is examining a new approach for managing the movement of people and goods from Palestinian controlled areas into Israel and vice versa. To this end, Israel has started constructing new terminals that would enable smooth passage with minimal friction between civilians and security personnel.
The disengagement plan: a humanitarian perspective
Israel's implementation of the disengagement plan carries with it the potential for improvement of the Palestinians' everyday lives. When he first outlined the disengagement plan on 18 April 2004, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated that: “The relocation from the Gaza Strip and from Northern Samaria will reduce friction with the Palestinian population, and carries with it the potential for improvement in the Palestinian economy and living conditions.”
Israel sees the Disengagement Plan as an opportunity for the Palestinians to rebuild their economic and social infrastructures and is willing to assist the Palestinian Authority in achieving these ends. Israel is also seeking the collaboration of the international community on these issues.
On 3 May 2005, Vice Premier Shimon Peres met with Quartet special envoy on disengagement, James Wolfensohn, along with the heads and members of the inter-ministerial teams for economic and civilian coordination of the disengagement. Peres emphasized that coordination of the disengagement between the Israelis and the Palestinians was important to facilitate the disengagement's success, and to leverage the economic potential embedded in the process. He also stressed the importance of focusing on projects that provide concrete, tangible economic benefits in Gaza in the short term, such as the issue of the crossing points. Peres noted that "preserving the residential structures in the Gaza settlements is in our mutual interest".
Israel offers the Palestinian Authority a concrete dialogue related to trade relations, economic development, transfer of assets, passages and access, as well as the Gaza seaport.
Transfer of security responsibility to the Palestinian Authority
The transfer of security responsibility over certain areas to the Palestinian Authority is part of Israel's policy aimed at reducing the friction between Israeli security forces and the Palestinian population. Following the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit, Israel agreed to gradually hand over security control in the towns of Jericho, Tulkarm, Qalqilyah, Bethlehem and Ramallah, even before completing the implementation of the Disengagement Plan. Israel's view is that this process should be coordinated and implemented on a gradual basis, serving as a mutual confidence-building measure.
Accordingly, Israel has initiated a gradual process of transferring security responsibility for Palestinian cities to the Palestinian Authority, starting with Jericho on 15 March 2005 and Tulkarm on 21 March 2005. Consequently, all military checkpoints, closures and curfews in these areas were removed.
The success of the process depends on the commitment of the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian security forces to implement their obligations to combat terrorism, to maintain public order and to promote security for both Palestinians and Israelis.
Minimal friction: a new security system in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip
As part of the preparations for implementing the disengagement plan and in the wake of the improving cooperation between the Israeli Defense Forces and the Palestinian security forces, Israel has decided to adopt a new security system in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, based on the concept of "minimal friction" between the Palestinian population and Israeli security forces.
Accordingly, Israeli security forces will transfer the bulk of their monitoring and control efforts from checkpoints inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to crossing points along the revised route of the security fence. This will mean a sharp reduction in the number of roadblocks and barriers within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, alongside the construction of new terminals and crossing points between Palestinian-controlled areas and Israel.
The new system will enable enhanced freedom of movement for residents of the areas in which it becomes operational.
The new system will be introduced first in the Jenin area, where some roadblocks have already been removed. It is expected that the shift to the new system in that area will be completed by the end of the summer of 2005. The plan is to implement the new system in the entire West Bank gradually, starting from the north and going southwards.
Passage between Israel and Palestinian controlled areas: a new approach
Israel is examining a new approach to managing the movement of people and goods from Palestinian controlled areas into Israel and vice versa. The new approach is based on an "open concept", meaning that the interruption to the flow of people and goods caused by security considerations will be reduced to a minimum.
To this end, Israel has started constructing new terminals that will replace old crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip and between Israel and the West Bank. Unlike today, the new terminals will be run by civilian operators in order to reduce unnecessary friction between the military and civilians. Inside the terminal, the use of sophisticated technology will reduce the inconvenience caused by long security checks. Thus, for example, passengers will get smart cards that will enable them to cross without any physical security check.
In the Gaza Strip, most interaction between Israelis and Palestinians is expected to take place within the two major terminals:
Hamas must cease immediately Qassam rocket and mortar attacks against civilian areas, Human Rights Watch said today.
Hamas mortar shells and Qassam rockets killed three civilian workers, including two Palestinian and one Chinese, and injured an Israeli woman and her two children in an attack that struck a packing plant in the Israeli settlement of Ganei Tal in Gaza and the Israeli town of Sderot yesterday. Both Israeli and Palestinian analysts suspect that Hamas’s continued use of mortar and Qassam attacks against civilians is an expression of the group’s displeasure at the cancellation of local election results in localities that favoured Hamas and the recent postponement of the Palestinian Legislative Council elections.
“Hamas has repeatedly failed to respect a fundamental rule of international humanitarian law by attacking civilians and civilian objects,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch. “It is unacceptable for Hamas to express its unhappiness with the political situation by firing on civilians.”
Any party to any armed conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories are obligated to abide by international humanitarian law and the laws of war. International humanitarian law prohibits direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks and attacks that cause disproportionate damage to civilians. A prohibited indiscriminate attack includes using weapons that are incapable of discriminating between civilians and combatants or between civilian and military objects.
Human Rights Watch said that Qassam rockets, named after the armed wing of Hamas, Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, are by their very nature problematic weapons because it is not possible to direct them at military targets with any degree of precision. They are primitive, short-range, home-made rockets that do not have the technical capability to be guided. Typically, a Qassam is made up of a 1-meter-long tube filled with six kilograms of explosives and has a range of between 3 to 10 kilometres. The longest shot to date was an eight kilometre attack on Ashkelon, an Israeli town eight kilometres north of the Gaza Strip. Because Qassams are not capable of accurate targeting, it is unlawful to use them in or near areas populated with civilians.
“If Hamas wants to be considered a legitimate political actor in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, it must show respect for the most basic principles of humanitarian law,” said Whitson. “To date, it has failed to do so.”
According to the Israel Defense Forces, Hamas has launched more than 300 Qassam rockets since September 2000. All of the victims of the rockets have been civilians. Including this most recent attack, there have been eight civilian deaths from Qassam rockets, including four children, as well as many civilian injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure, such as homes. Not a single one of these attacks has hit a military target.
In the past, Israel has retaliated against Qassam attacks with large-scale military operations that have resulted in the deaths of civilians, levelled land and demolished homes and other buildings. The most destructive Israeli response to a Qassam attack, a 17-day-long operation in October 2004, named by the Israeli army as “Days of Penitence,” targeted the Jabalya refugee camp, from where it was believed Hamas launched Qassams resulting in the death of two Israeli children in the town of Sderot in September 2004. The operation led to the death of approximately 107 Palestinians, a quarter under the age of 18, and the injury of 431, as well as the demolition of at least 91 homes. When questioned by Human Rights Watch about the destruction in October 2004, Israeli General Israel Ziv could not articulate a military purpose for the attack, but said the attack was necessary to punish Jabalya residents for their support of the armed groups.
Human Rights Watch said that unlawful attacks committed in response to another unlawful attack are a form of reprisal, which is a violation of international humanitarian law, and Israel should refrain from repeating them.
The global significance of this conflict requires strong international engagement. We underline our resolve to support both sides in meeting their road-map commitments and call on others to do the same.
A teleconference of the Middle East Quartet took place on 12 August at the ministerial level, attended by Russian Federation Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana. Issues related to the implementation of the road map for Middle East settlement were considered.
In discussing the situation in Palestinian-Israeli relations on the eve of Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern part of the West Bank, the importance was noted of preserving calm and maintaining security in all the stages of implementation of this plan. The Quartet members pointed out the importance of the coordination of actions by the sides. They gave a positive assessment to the efforts by the Quartet special representative James Wolfensohn and his team in dealing with practical issues arising in connection with Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, and expressed support for his mission in fostering engagement between Israel and the Palestinian National Authority and carrying out projects for the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories.
It was agreed to carry on contacts within the Quartet framework with the aim of assisting Palestinian-Israeli settlement. Agreement was reached to hold a ministerial Quartet meeting in New York on 20 September in the course of the work of the General Assembly. At this meeting, it is borne in mind to consider the initiative of Russia for the convocation in Moscow this autumn of a high-level working meeting of experts for a comprehensive assessment of the state of affairs in Middle East settlement at the stage after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank.
This is a historic moment for both sides and the commitment of both sides to a successful disengagement process has been impressive,” Rice said in a 12 September statement.
Israel withdrew its last military forces from Gaza on 12 September, just four weeks after officials called on residents of the 21 Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip to evacuate the territory. This marks the first time that Israel has withdrawn settlements from land it occupied during the 1967 war. Israel also withdrew from four settlements in the West Bank as part of the disengagement.
Rice said the withdrawal will enhance Israel’s security and allow the Palestinians to begin building the institutions necessary for a future State. She praised the cooperation of the Israelis and Palestinians in ensuring that the process moved forward smoothly.
On Wednesday, 21 September, the transport ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement in Jerusalem for the establishment of a joint transport office. The role of the office will be to study and promote the implementation of projects of mutual interest, especially in the domain of road and railway transport. The agreement was facilitated by the European Commission and the joint transport office will be supported financially by the European Union.
The signing of the agreement by Israeli transport minister Meir Sheetrit and Palestinian transport minister Saed el Din Kharma was the culmination of a process that began at the fifth Euro-Mediterranean Transport Forum held in Brussels on 21 and 22 December 2004, at which Israeli and Palestinian representatives had expressed an interest in the establishment of a joint office for transport infrastructures. Since that time, the two sides, accompanied by European Commission officials, had met several times to discuss the relevant issues.
Reacting to today’s signing, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said:
The specific activities of the Joint Transport Office as agreed by the parties will be to:
• Conduct joint analyses of such common projects, including feasibility studies and provide related technical advice
• Prepare proposals for agreed projects to be submitted for consideration by international financing institutions and other donors
• Promote the exchange of data and information related to the transport sector
• Reinforce administrative capacity-building in the field of transport;
• Promote regional transport
President Abbas is a man devoted to peace and to his people's aspirations for a State of their own. And today the Palestinian people are closer to realizing those aspirations. It's a really interesting period of history, I think. I was just commenting to the President when we were in the Oval Office how much things have changed in the Holy Land. After all, he got elected in January; there were successful Palestinian municipal elections; and then we witnessed the completion of Israel's disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. It's been an eventful year.
And I say it's an eventful year because the ultimate objective is for there to be two States, living side-by-side in peace; two democracies living side-by-side in peace. And I believe that's where we're headed. Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of West Bank was a bold decision, with historic significance. President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority contributed to the success of the withdrawal in significant ways. Mr. President, thank you.
Through the active coordination and ground-level cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, the disengagement has been completed successfully and calmly. Israeli withdrawal creates new opportunities, creates responsibilities for the Palestinian people.
The way forward must begin by confronting the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine. And those armed gangs must confront the threat that armed gangs pose to lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Now, Mr. President, you ran on a platform of peace. That's why the people voted for you. I strongly support your rejection of terror and your commitment to what you have called one authority, one law and one gun. The United States, in cooperation with the international community, has helped you achieve this through the efforts of our senior United States security coordinator, General Kip Ward. I appreciate your service, General Ward. Thank you for being here and thank you for all your hard work to help the Palestinian security forces at a critical time. Job well done.
In the coming days, I'll be naming our new coordinator to build on the progress General Ward has made. This person will take on an enhanced mission to help President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority carry out their responsibility to end terror attacks, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, maintain law and order and, one day, provide security for their own State.
The way forward must include rebuilding the Palestinian economy. This goal has the support of the Quartet: the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and the Russian Federation. Quartet Special Envoy Jim Wolfensohn is coordinating a broad effort to generate economic and financial support from the international community for the Palestinian Authority, and he's doing a good job. I'm going to continue to consult with our Quartet partners to ask Jim to extend his mission until next spring.
It's important that we make quick progress on the issues that Jim has identified as most critical for the Palestinian economy, including opening the Rafah crossing, connecting the West Bank in Gaza, improving the ability of Palestinians to travel in the West Bank, and beginning work on the Gaza seaport. These are all practical steps that will help the Palestinian economy grow and flourish. I believe that Arab States have a particular responsibility to help the Palestinians build a strong and prosperous economy, and I urge them to create an environment in the region that strengthens the possibility of peace.
The way forward must continue to include democratic elections. The upcoming elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council offer an opportunity to open the door to the next generation of Palestinian leaders. They'll be responsible for building a peaceful and hopeful future for their country.
In the short term, the Palestinian Authority must earn the confidence of its peoples, by holding elections and having a functioning Government that delivers economic opportunity. The Palestinian Authority must also earn the confidence of its neighbours by rejecting and fighting terrorism.
As I have stated in the past, achieving peace demands action from all parties. Israel must continue to work with Palestinian leaders to help improve the daily lives of Palestinians. At the same time, Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations or prejudices the final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem. This means that Israel must remove unauthorized posts and stop settlement expansion. It also means that the barrier now being built to protect Israelis from terrorist attacks must be a security barrier rather than a political barrier. Israeli leaders must take into account the impact this security barrier has on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities.
This is a time of great possibility in the Middle East and the people of the region are counting on their leaders to seize the opportunities for peace and progress. This work isn't going to be easy, but the path forward is clear. I want to thank President Abbas for his hard work. I appreciate your service, Mr. President. I assured him that the United States will use our influence to help realize a shared vision of two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.
I am pleased to be able to announce today that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have concluded an agreement on movement and access. The Quartet’s Special Envoy Jim Wolfensohn has played a key role. Thank you, Jim. We also had important help from the European Union and I am glad that Javier Solana can join us here today. The European Union, as you will learn, will play an important role in implementing this agreement.
This agreement is intended to give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives. The agreement covers six topics.
First, for the first time since 1967, Palestinians will gain control over entry and exit from their territory. This will be through an international crossing at Rafah, whose target opening date is 25 November.
Second, Israel and the Palestinians will upgrade and expand other crossings for people and cargo between Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. This is especially important now because Israel has committed itself to allow the urgent export of this season’s agricultural produce from Gaza.
Third, Palestinians will be able to move between Gaza and the West Bank; specifically, bus convoys are to begin about a month from now and truck convoys are to start a month after that.
Fourth, the parties will reduce obstacles to movement within the West Bank. It has been agreed that, by the end of the year, the United States and Israel will complete work to lift these obstacles and develop a plan to reduce them.
Fifth, construction of a Palestinian seaport can begin. The Rafah model will provide a basis for planned operations.
Sixth, the parties agree on the importance of the airport. Israel recognizes that the Palestinian Authority will want to resume construction on the airport. I am encouraging Israel to consider allowing construction to resume as this agreement is successfully implemented; construction that could, for instance, be limited to non-aviation elements.
This agreement is a good step forward. With the international community, Israel and the Palestinian Authority must keep working hard to make these measures work in practice. As they are implemented, trust can grow. Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas have shown real statesmanship in making the decisions that led to this agreement.
Meanwhile, our commitment to security is strong, as always. Progress like today’s agreement cannot continue unless there is also progress in fighting terror and obviously we all have a great interest in working together to ensure that anyone involved in criminal activities or violence will be prevented from passing through Rafah or any other crossing.
For our part, the United States will work closely with the parties to be sure that reliable security arrangements are in place.
Earlier this year, the United States dispatched General William Ward to lead a mission working on security with both sides. As General Ward completes his tour of duty, I am pleased to announce that President Bush has nominated General Keith Dayton to replace General Ward and take over as the United States Security Coordinator in an expanded mission to assist the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel.
Palestinians and Israelis have many other concerns to address on the road map toward two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace. But today’s steps show that progress continues. As Palestinians move back and forth to the outside world, as they trade with their Israeli neighbours, the lives of ordinary people on both sides will change for the better.
Thank you very much, and now I would like to ask Javier to make a few remarks.
High Representative Solana
Thank you very much, Condi. I think what we have transmitted here today is a very, very important agreement. It has taken a long time to finalize but it will give the Gaza disengagement the full content in particular because the border between the Gaza and Egypt will be now opened.
And as you know from the document that you are going to read in a moment, the European Union will take the third-party role in that very important and complicated border. We are ready. We have the plans already done and prepared and by the end of the month, we will be in a condition to take the full responsibility and have the border function.
I hope very much that it will be a successful operation. It’s not an easy task, but it will be successful and it will contribute for the first time to Palestinians to have from Gaza a border open and controlled by them with a third party there to go to Egypt.
As you know, the Philadelphi Road will be controlled by the Egyptians but the crossing border will be - the third party will be the European Union. We assume that responsibility with full responsibility and with full to have a very important contribution to the finalization of the Gaza disengagement.
I want to say that Jim Wolfensohn has played a fundamental role. He is responsible for the Quartet for this negotiation and I want to thank him very, very warmly, and I want to thank Condoleezza Rice for the long hours that we have to spend in the past days.
Well, thank you very much, Javier and Madame Secretary. For us in the Quartet, this is a very important day. For more than six months we have been negotiating these points and I am very grateful to you, Madame Secretary, for giving us the push in these last hours to try and ensure that the parties would reach an agreement, and I’m grateful to them also for agreeing to come to a solution that is valid and with which we can move forward.
The Quartet will continue to do its work in trying to assist the parties in implementing the agreements and will go further in terms of materializing the programmes and the projects so that we can get beyond the issue of these preliminaries to the real question of assisting the Palestinians to build an area of hope and an area of peace. And this is something that I think now both the Israelis and the Palestinians are committed to and I appreciate very much the work that you have done, Madame Secretary, and we look forward to the next months.