Barak Ravid And Mazal Mualem
November 9, 2007 - 6:33pm

Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed on Thursday that any future agreement between them will be conditional to the implementation of the first stage of the road map, which includes Palestinian counter-terrorism operations and a freeze on construction in the settlements.

The agreement, which follows two weeks of stalemate in the negotiations between the two sides, may pave the way to the drafting of a shared declaration that will be presented at an upcoming peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland, that aims to set terms for relaunching peace talks.

In talks between the two negotiating teams in Tel Aviv on Thursday, it was agreed that "any implementation of agreements in the future will be conditional to both sides carrying out what they must in accordance with the first stage of the road map." It is expected that a similar formulation will appear in the joint declaration the two sides will make at Annapolis.

As part of the first stage of the road map, the Palestinians are obligated to undertake a series of security-related activities, with particular emphasis on counter-terrorism actions against militant groups, collecting weapons and arresting militants.

For its part, Israel is obligated to freeze construction in settlements, evacuate illegal outposts and withdraw from Palestinian cities.

During the second stage of the road map, a Palestinian state will be established within interim borders, and during the third stage a Palestinian state will be established as part of a final settlement.

An Israeli political source stressed that "the Palestinians have agreed to a formula according to which they must fulfill their obligations in the security area, prior to any move to the next stage."

Reiterating agreements already struck, the two sides concluded Thursday that a monitoring mechanism headed by the United States will ensure that each side meets its obligations in the implementation of the first stage of the road map.

However, the agreement is general and there is no accord on the specific functions of the monitoring mechanism.

According to the same political source, now that the two sides have agreed on how to proceed "it is possible to begin work on drafting the joint declaration that will be presented at the Annapolis summit."

He said that the two sides would meet again on the matter next week.

The Palestinian agreement was achieved Thursday after two weeks of refusal to show flexibility on this issue. The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Ahmed Qureia, was particularly adamant about the Palestinian position.

In spite of earlier understandings between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Qureia insisted that for their part the Palestinians had fulfilled their obligation according to the first stage of the road map, and said it was possible to proceed forward toward a final settlement.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Qureia met three times during the past week, and Livni emphasized that Israel would not back down from its insistence that the Palestinians must acknowledge fully their obligations according to the road map.

Livni was also able to involve Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the matter, telling her that "I will not move forward one millimeter until this [issue] is not closed."

Lieberman wants PM to submit declaration outline ahead of Annapolis summit

Olmert should submit the outline of the Annapolis declaration to the cabinet for approval before leaving for the conference, Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman demanded Thursday.

He made the demand at a meeting with Olmert that he had requested in order to reiterate his party's red lines ahead of the Annapolis conference.

During the meeting, Lieberman told Olmert that the cabinet ought to hold a discussion prior to Annapolis, so that all coalition partners would be briefed on events and have a chance to express their position on the conference and the statement expected to come out of it.

Sources close to Lieberman said that Olmert promised to hold such a cabinet discussion. They added that the prime minister has thus far behaved decently toward Yisrael Beiteinu and has kept his promises.

Over the past few days, Lieberman has been working hard to torpedo the Annapolis conference, but he has not managed to persuade Shas Chairman Eli Yishai to form an alliance to that end.

Olmert also held a working meeting Thursday with Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader and defense minister, amid reports of major tensions between the two.

Associates of both officials said the meeting took place in a friendly atmosphere and that reports of a crisis in their relationship have been overblown. The "crisis," these officials insisted, is nothing more than the professional disputes common between a prime minister and his defense minister.

Officials: PA, Israel want U.S. help on summit draft

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are turning to U.S. mediators to bridge serious gaps in drafting a common approach to peace negotiations, officials on both sides said on Thursday.

A senior Palestinian negotiator said the two sides sought U.S. intervention on Tuesday after negotiators failed to resolve differences over a document they hope to present at the upcoming peace conference.

Another senior Palestinian official said that when the sides disagreed this week over the terms of an earlier understanding that Washington would adjudicate in disputes over whether peace terms had been met, U.S. officials sent both a written text.

Palestinian officials also said the latest talks had shown that any document would be shorter on detail than they hoped.

A U.S. diplomatic source said U.S. officials expected to be involved in bridging differences.

Meanwhile, The Palestinian Authority has said it wants the preface to the joint statement at Annapolis to say that a final-status arrangement will be completed within six months of the signing of agreements at the summit.

The demand based on a document recently written by the Palestinian support team for the negotiations with Israel. Palestinian sources relayed to Haaretz the main points of the paper, which recommended that the preface indicate that both parties are to fulfill their mutual obligations in the first stage of the road map within six months. The recommendations were submitted to chief Palestine Liberation Organization negotiator Saeb Erekat.


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