Our hopes of peace

Mahmoud Abbas, President of The Palestinian Authority, and Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, have agreed a ceasefire, bringing an end to four and a half years of bloody conflict betweeen the two sides

MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of The Palestinian Authority

MAHMOUD ABBAS, President of The Palestinian Authority

We have agreed with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to stop all acts of violence against Israelis and Palestinians, wherever they are. The calm that our land will experience starting today is the start of a new era, a start for peace and hope. What we have announced today is an important step, representing a new chance for the peace process to get back on track, so that the Palestinian and Israeli peoples might regain hope in the possibility of peace.

We are all aware of our great and joint responsibilities to enhance this chance. This will be done by rapidly seeking to regain the spirit of partnership in peace and in the future, by entrenching reciprocity and by refraining from unilateral steps.

What we have agreed is but a start on bridging the gap between us. We have differences on several issues, the settlements, prisoner releases, the wall, the closure of Jerusalem institutions. We shall not be able to settle all these today, but our stand remains clear and firm.

Less than a month ago, the Palestinian people headed for the ballot boxes ... In their memorable, democratic practice, [they] reiterated their adherence to a just peace; a peace that will finally end decades of war, violence and occupation; a peace that will mean the establishment of a Palestinian state, side-by-side with the state of Israel.

I stress our eagerness to honour and implement all our obligations.We will not spare any possible effort to protect this chance for peace. It is time for the Palestinian people to regain their freedom and independence. It is time for an end to decades of suffering and hardship. It is time for our people to enjoy peace and the right to lead a normal life ... under the rule of law, under one authority that is the only party allowed to carry weapons, and through political pluralism.

We look forward ... for the language of dialogue to replace that of bullets and cannons and for coexistence and good neighbourliness to replace the wall. This is in order to offer our children and grandchildren, Palestinians and Israelis, a different, promising tomorrow. Here is a new chance for peace to be born in the city of peace today. So let us all pledge to protect it until the hope of peace becomes reality.

ARIEL SHARON, Prime Minister of Israel

Congratulations are due to you, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, on your impressive victory in the elections. Your victory can mark a direction of real change to your people, which will affect the entire region. I hope you will be able to lead your people on the path of democracy and maintenance of law and order, until the establishment of an independent, democratic Palestinian state.

We have an opportunity to break off from the path of blood which has been forced on us in the past four years. For the first time in a long time, there exists hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren. We must move forward cautiously. This is a very fragile opportunity, that the extremists will want to exploit.

They want to close the window of opportunity for us and allow our two peoples to drown in their blood. If we do not act now, they may be successful in their scheme. There is only one answer: We must all announce here today that violence will not win, that violence will not be allowed to murder hope.

Today, we agreed all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere and, in parallel, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians anywhere.

To our Palestinian neighbours, I assure you we have a genuine intention to respect your right to live independently and in dignity. Israel has no desire to continue to govern over you. We in Israel have had to painfully wake up from our dreams. We are determined to overcome all obstacles which might stand in our path. You, too, must prove you have the courage to compromise, abandon unrealistic dreams, subdue the forces which oppose peace and live in peace and mutual respect side by side with us.

To the citizens of Israel, I say: We have passed difficult years, faced the most painful experiences, and overcame them. The future lies before us.

And one final call to the Arab leaders of the region: Come, let us join hands and create a new atmosphere of openness and tolerance. Together we can build a dam against the radical forces of yesterday which threaten to carry us all into a whirlpool of blood and hatred.

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