With a handshake, Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed on Tuesday, November, to launch negotiations about final status issues with the goal of reaching a final deal by the end of 2008.
"We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008," the two said in a joint statement read out by US President George Bush.
"We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples."
The statement, issued at the start of the Annapolis peace conference, promises a "new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and non-violence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis."
The two sides agreed to form a top-level steering committee, expected to hold its first meeting on December 12.
They pledged to conclude "a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements."
The document emerged from lengthy, last-minute negotiations to chart the course for negotiating the final status issues of Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem), the borders of the future Palestinian state and the fate of refugees.
It assigned the US the key role of judging whether the parties are fulfilling their requirements under the 2003 internationally-backed roadmap peace plan.
Abbas described the conference as an opportunity for peace between Palestinians and Israelis that "will not repeat itself."
"The exceptional opportunity that the Arab, Islamic and international presence brings today coupled with overwhelming Palestinian and Israeli public opinion in support of Annapolis, must be seized in order to be a launching pad for a negotiations process," he said in Arabic.
"Tomorrow, we have to start comprehensive and deep negotiations on all issues of final status, including Al-Quds, refugees, borders, settlements, water and security and others."
Olmert said Israel was ready to make peace with the Palestinians.
"We want peace. We demand an end to terror, incitement and hatred. We are willing to make a painful compromise, rife with risks in order to realize these aspirations."
But he did not address Jewish settlement activity on the occupied West Bank, an issue at the heart of the decades-old conflict.
The Israeli premier did not miss the chance to ask all Arab and Muslim countries to normalize ties with his country.
"I am pleased to see here in this hall representatives of Arab countries. Most of them do not have diplomatic relations with Israel," he told delegates of 50 countries and organizations, including 16 Arab nations such as Saudi Arabia and Syria.
"The time has come for you as well."
The conference is the first time that Arab heavyweight Saudi Arabia has sat with Israel to discuss peace.
Saudi Arabia is the architect of the Arab peace initiative offering formal Arab diplomatic ties with Israel in return for an Israeli pullout from all land occupied in the 1967 war.
"There is no Muslim state with which we do not want to establish diplomatic relations," said Olmert.
"Anyone who wants peace with us, we say to them, from the bottom of our hearts, 'Ahalan Wa'Sahlan' (Welcome)."
Güncelleme Tarihi: 01 Aralık 2007, 13:26