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Arafat Hails Geneva Initiative, Stresses UN Legitimacy - Accord Proves A Majority Among Palestinians And Israelis Want Peace: Abed Rabbo (Palestine Media Center- (PMC) 12/02/03) Source: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=1126
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Addressing more than 700 world dignitaries attending the launch of “Geneva Initiative” on Monday, President Yasser Arafat praised the informal Palestinian Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to show his support for the plan, but criticized the campaign “that is being launched by some against the United Nations and its resolutions in an attempt to undermine the legal and political basis” of Palestinian rights.
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The Geneva Accord is "a brave initiative that opens the door to peace,” Arafat said in a letter read out by Palestinian UN envoy Nasser al-Kidwa.
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In his letter, Arafat urged Sharon, whose government has expressed strong opposition to the initiative, to show his support for the plan, which he said was offered the path to a complete and just peace between nations paved by assassinated Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
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However Arafat urged the United Nations to continue upholding its responsibility vis-ŕ-vis the Palestine Question “until it is solved” and criticized “the campaign that is being launched by some against the United Nations and its resolutions in an attempt to undermine the legal and political basis of our rights,” Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported Monday.
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The Geneva Initiative stipulates in clause (2) of Article 1: “The implementation of this agreement will settle all the claims of the Parties arising from events occurring prior to its signature. No further claims related to events prior to this agreement may be raised by either Party.”
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Arafat specifically called for the implementation of United Nations resolution 194, which advocates the right of Palestinians to return to lands within Israel´s borders.
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He renewed his appeal to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan “to support urgently sending international monitors to supervise the implementation of the roadmap,” referring to the UN Security Council resolution 1515, which adopted the peace plan that was drafted and adopted by the Quartet of the EU, US, Russia and the UN.
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President Arafat and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurie, have approved the Geneva initiative in principle but not the details.
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Arafat decided Monday to send his national security advisor Jibril Rajoub and cabinet minister Qaddura Fares to Switzerland for the launch of the virtual peace accord.
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Rajoub underlined that his presence did not necessarily signify that Arafat was giving it his official seal of approval. "This decision reflects a desire by the Palestinian leadership to encourage the Israeli peace camp," he told AFP.
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Geneva Initiative Launched
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Hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis joined Nobel Peace Prize winners Monday for a ceremony filled with song and hope, celebrating the unofficial peace accord intended to guide their peoples out of conflict, amid encouraging support from world leaders past and present, though the Initiative has not been endorsed by either the Palestinian leadership or the Israeli government.
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Member of the executive committee of the PLO and former cabinet minister of culture and information of the Palestine National Authority (PNA) Yasser Abed Rabbo, who along with ex-Israeli justice minister Yossi Beilin, was the main architect of the plan, said that it was "the first step in a long march" towards peace.
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"This proves that a majority among Palestinians and Israelis want peace," Abed Rabbo told the gathering.
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He dismissed suggestions that the peace plan was unrealistic, describing it as a "real historical compromise with real details solutions to all issues."
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“The accord lays out, for the first time, what a credible and negotiable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could look like. In the process, it addresses all the major differences between the parties, including security arrangements, the shape of permanent borders, the status of Jerusalem, the future of West Bank settlements, the rights of refugees and access to holy places,” Abed Rasbbo and Beilin said in a joint release published by the New York Times on Sunday.
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The agreement was first presented on October 12 in Amman, Jordan.
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The hall where the launch took place Monday, near the UN Geneva HQ, featured a large sign declaring: "There is a plan," with a live olive tree adorning the stage.
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"For the first time in more than a hundred years of conflict a detailed and comprehensive solution was agreed upon which settles the most critical issues of this conflict," the negotiators earlier said in a statement.
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The American actor, Richard Dreyfus, opened the event. "To sum it up in one word, this initiative represents hope," Dreyfus told swissinfo.
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The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, the mayor of Geneva, Christian Ferrazzino, and the president of canton Geneva, Laurent Moutinot, represented the Swiss during the ceremony.
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Calmy-Rey dubbed the event "a little light in the darkness."
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Former US President Jimmy Carter told the conference: "The alternative, and the only alternative, to this initiative is sustained and permanent violence."
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"It is unlikely that we shall ever see a more promising foundation for peace,” said Carter, after receiving a standing ovation from a packed Geneva conference hall. "The people support it. Political leaders are the obstacle to peace," he added.
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Carter criticized President George W. Bush administration, saying it had supported Israel but ignored the well - being of Palestinians. He also criticized Sharon´s government for allowing the number of Jewish settlements to skyrocket.
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Carter said Israelis had to ask themselves: "Do we want permanent peace with all our neighbors or do we want to retain our settlements?" Palestinians also must halt violent attacks on Israelis, he said.
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Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rodaina on Monday accused Israel of sabotaging underway peace efforts as well as inter-Palestinian dialogue, as its occupation forces invaded the West Bank city of Ramallah, killing four Palestinians, including a nine-year old boy.
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These actions are “provocative and disruptive to underway inter- Palestinian dialogue in Cairo as well as the Geneva Accord being signed in Geneva today,” he said, adding that Sharon “is not interested in peaceful solutions.”
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Nobel peace prize winners Nelson Mandela of South Africa, via a video link, and Poland´s Lech Walesa in person joined Carter in addressing the ceremony in the city where the plan was negotiated in secret.
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Worldwide Support
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Fifty-eight former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other global leaders also released a statement Monday expressing "strong support" for the accord.
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"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken far too great a toll already," said the leaders.
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Among the 58 signatories of the statement of support were ex- presidents Mikhail Gorbachev of the ex-Soviet Union, Martti Ahtisaari of Finland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, F.W. de Klerk of South Africa and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico.
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“The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken far too great a toll already. Both peoples have paid dearly in lives and livelihood in a war which both are losing," declared the statement.
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The European Union´s foreign policy chief Javier Solana sent a message calling the Initiative "a powerful example of how civil society efforts can...show Israelis and Palestinians alike that there are partners for peace on the other side.”
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The plan also won messages of support from King Hassan VI of Morocco, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Hosni Mubarak, of Egypt and Bill Clinton, U.S. president from 1993 to 2001.
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Blair in a statement Monday said that the Geneva accord enables both Israelis and Palestinians to see what might be achieved with goodwill on both sides. “At a time of despair, both peoples need hope. The initiative you are launching today gives them a chance to look beyond current difficulties to what might be achievable with goodwill on both sides.”
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United Nations, Secretary General Kofi Annan also commended the Initiative, saying the plan shows that Israelis and Palestinians can act with reason and restraint, and agree to live side-by-side in peace.
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Monday´s event, hosted by US actor Richard Dreyfuss, included performances by Palestinian and Israeli musicians and optimistic speeches from the accord´s brokers. The event was sealed with a song called "Generation Demands Peace," sung by Palestinian and Israeli musical groups.
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Shaath Denounces Sharon’s Policies
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Earlier, members of Israel´s government have called the plan subversive and criticized it for not explicitly ruling out the "right of return" for Palestinian outside Israel.
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"Creating the impression that this is some sort of alternative ... causes some damage to Israel and is just a repetition of mistakes," said Raanan Gissin, an adviser to PM Ariel Sharon.
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"There´s no giving up of the right of return. There´s no mention of the Jewish people having the right to a Jewish state in their ancestral homeland,” Gissin said.
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According to a public opinion poll conducted for Haaretz by the Dialogue survey company, under the supervision of Prof. Camille Fuchs, 31 percent of the public supports the Geneva Accord while 38 percent are against it. Some 20 percent of the respondents said they had yet to form a definite opinion on the issue, but were likely to join the supporters of the agreement in the future, the paper said.
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Another significant finding of the survey, Haaretz reported, was that 13 percent of Likud voters support the Geneva Accord and some 21 percent of Likud voters expressed support for the ceremony taking place today in Geneva.
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According to another poll published last week by the Texas-based Baker Institute for Public Policy, and the International Crisis Group in Washington, 53 percent of the Israelis surveyed and almost 56 percent of the Palestinians surveyed support the Geneva Accord peace proposal.
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Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath denounced Sharon and praised recent moves by Israel´s opposition Labor party, including the Geneva Initiative.
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"I don´t know of any initiative that pleases Israel, besides the initiative of Sharon which we don´t know anything about and which (only) demands compromises" from the Palestinians, said Shaath.
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All peace initiatives "are against Sharon, against his military plan, against the occupation," he said.
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"All of them are for an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. All of them consist of a movement within Israel and the Israeli left which died in the last three years,” since Sharon came to power.
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"The Labor party, for the first time, is speaking about an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders ... with the Arabic (east) Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state and the Jewish Jerusalem the capital of the Israeli state,” he added.
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Shaath reiterated that the Palestinians would never give up their right to return to their homeland, and would only negotiate on the process.
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"All the plans that we are working on with the World Bank provide for receiving one million Palestinian refugees from abroad in the West Bank. There is no place for them in Gaza,” he said. (PMC © 12/02/03)
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