Sharon and Abbas announce cease-fire at summit

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The Independent Online

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian President, today declared they would stop all military or violent activity against each other, a pledge crucial to restoring peace talks that stalled four years ago.

Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister and Mahmoud Abbas, the new Palestinian President, today declared they would stop all military or violent activity against each other, a pledge crucial to restoring peace talks that stalled four years ago.

With their flags whipping in the wind, Sharon and Abbas met face-to-face at a Mideast summit today at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. Mr Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, said afterwards: "We have agreed on halting all violent actions against Palestinians and Israelis wherever they are."

Mr Sharon made a similar pledge: "Today, in my meeting with chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and, at the same time, Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians everywhere."

The Palestinian leader said it is time for the Palestinian people to regain their freedom.

"A new opportunity for peace is born today in the city of peace, let's pledge to protect it," said Mr Abbas, referring to the nickname of Sharm el-Sheik earned through past peace summits.

The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who summoned the two leaders and has been a key mediator throughout the process, said both sides showed a serious desire to "work together truly and sincerely."

"The challenges today are large and deep, but the mission is not impossible. If the road is long, we today took the first step," Mubarak said in a speech he said he was delivering on behalf of himself and Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"The Palestinian and Israeli peoples equally deserve a secure life for the coming generations to enjoy, based on justice, international principles and good neighborliness."

Mr Mubarak also said there was now fresh hope for the Syrian-Lebanese peace track. Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations have been frozen since early in 2000.

"Our goal is lasting peace in the Middle East, therefore, our movement will be followed by other moves to revive both the Syrian and Lebanese tracks," he said.

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