'New opportunity for peace'

The months and years ahead will tell whether the statements made yesterday in Aqaba, Jordan, were the beginnings of historic peace in the Middle East or diplomatic words surrounding yet another false start.

The words, promising words all, were uttered after meetings between Palestinian Prime Minister

Mahmoud Abbas

and Israeli Prime Minister

Ariel Sharon

, along with

President Bush

. Their host was King Abdullah of Jordan.


Following are excerpts from their closing remarks:

KING ABDULLAH: Mr. President, prime ministers, let us have ambitions - ambitions to move beyond the violence and occupation to the day when two states, Palestine and Israel, can live together, side by side, in peace and security.

And in our hands today we hold the mechanism that can translate these ambitions into realities on the ground. It is a plan, the "road map," that addresses the needs of both Palestinians and Israelis. To the Israelis, this plan offers collective security guarantees by all Arabs, a peace treaty and normal relations with Arab states, and an end to the conflict. To the Palestinians, it offers an end to the occupation, a viable state and the promise to live as a free and prosperous people. ...

The road to confrontation has shown its consequences: loss of innocent lives, destruction and fear. Most costly, however, was the loss of hope. The most precious gifts that you can present to your peoples over the coming weeks is renewed hope borne out of tangible progress on the ground. ... The eyes of the entire world will be upon you. ...

But at the end of the day, it is you, the Palestinians and the Israelis, who have to come together to resolve the many outstanding issues that divide you. Many will view the compromises that will be made during your negotiations as painful concessions. But why not view them as peace offerings, ones that will provide in return the priceless gifts of hope, security and freedom for our children and our children's children? It is only by putting yourselves in each other's shoes that we can hope to achieve real progress.

Thus, we reaffirm today our strong position against violence in any form and from whatever source. Blowing up buses will not induce the Israelis to move forward, and neither will the killing of Palestinians or the demolition of their homes and their future. All this needs to stop, and we pledge that Jordan will do its utmost to help achieve it. ...

ABBAS: ... As we all realize, this is an important moment. A new opportunity for peace exists - an opportunity based upon President Bush's vision and the Quartet's road map, which we have accepted without any reservations. Our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

The process is the one of direct negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to resolve all the permanent status issues and end the occupation that began in 1967, under which Palestinians have suffered so much.


At the same time, we do not ignore the suffering of the Jews throughout history. It is time to bring all this suffering to an end.

Just as Israel must meet its responsibilities, we, the Palestinians, will fulfill our obligations for this endeavor to succeed. We are ready to do our part. Let me be very clear: There will be no military solution to this conflict, so we repeat our denunciation and renunciation of terrorism against the Israelis, whatever they might be.

Such methods are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are dangerous obstacles to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state we seek. These methods also conflict with the kind of state we wish to build based on human rights and the rule of law. We will exert all of our efforts using all our resources to end the militarization of the intifada, and we will succeed. ...

Our goal is clear, and we will implement it firmly and without compromise: a complete end to violence and terrorism. And we will be full partners in the international war against terrorism. And we will call upon our partners in this war to prevent financial and military assistance to those who oppose this position. ...

We seek to build the kind of a democratic state that will be a qualitative addition to the international community. ...

In order to succeed, there must be a clear improvement in the lives of Palestinians. Palestinians must live in dignity. Palestinians must be able to move, go to their jobs and schools, visit their families, and conduct a normal life. Palestinians must not be afraid for their lives, property or livelihoods. ...

Together, we can achieve the goal of an independent Palestinian state, sovereign, viable, in the framework of a good neighbor with all states in the region, including Israel. ...

SHARON: ... As the prime minister of Israel, the land which is the cradle of the Jewish people, my paramount responsibility is the security of the people of Israel and of the state of Israel.

There can be no compromise with terror, and Israel, together with all free nations, will continue fighting terrorism until its final defeat.

Ultimately, permanent security requires peace, and permanent peace can only be obtained through security. ...

It is in Israel's interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.

There can be no peace, however, without the abandonment and elimination of terrorism, violence and incitement. We will work alongside the Palestinians and other states to fight terrorism, violence and incitement of all kinds.

As all parties perform their obligations, we will seek to restore normal Palestinian life, improve the humanitarian situation, rebuild trust and promote progress toward the president's vision. We will act in a manner that respects the dignity as well as the human rights of all people.

We can also reassure our Palestinian partners that we understand the importance of territorial contiguity in the West Bank for a viable Palestinian state. Israeli policy in the territories that are subject to direct negotiations with the Palestinians will reflect this fact. We accept the principle that no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of our negotiations.

In regard to the unauthorized outposts, I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law; that we will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts.

Israel seeks peace with all its Arab neighbors. ...

BUSH: ... Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East.

In Iraq, a dictator who funded terror and sowed conflict has been removed, and a more just and democratic society is emerging.


Prime Minister Abbas now leads the Palestinian Cabinet. By his strong leadership, by building the institutions of Palestinian democracy and by rejecting terror, he is serving the deepest hopes of his people.

All here today now share a goal. The Holy Land must be shared between a state of Palestine and the state of Israel, living at peace with each other and with every nation of the Middle East. ...

No leader of conscience can accept more months and years of humiliation, killing and mourning, and these leaders of conscience have made their declarations today in the cause of peace. The United States is committed to that cause. If all sides fulfill their obligations, I know that peace can finally come.

- Compiled by Kathy Lally