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CNN Today

Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators Agree to West Bank Land Transfer, Step Closer to Peace

Aired March 9, 2000 - 2:34 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DONNA KELLEY, CNN ANCHOR: Overseas, at a meeting in Egypt, Israel and the Palestinians appear to have papered over the latest crisis to threaten their effort to make peace.

CNN's Ben Wedeman has the story of a high-level Middle East summit.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Another handshake on the rocky road to a final peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For the second time in six months, Israeli and Palestinian leaders meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in this Red Sea resort to try and settle their differences.

PRES. HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPT: We met here in a very friendly atmosphere, overcoming so many obstacles. The good relation between the two leaders is giving great hope for the resumption of a solution between both sides, which we consider it is very important.

WEDEMAN: Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have agreed on the transfer of 6.1 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority, a sticking point that had caused talks to break off in early February.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders say they are still committed to an ambitious, some observers say unrealistic, September deadline to resolve all outstanding issues, including the hotly-contested questions of the final status of Jerusalem, return of Palestinian refugees and demarcation of borders between Israel and a future Palestinian state, daunting issues that go to the very heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

MUBARAK: We have great hopes that the Israeli-Syrian-Lebanese track could resume soon and this would be the end of the problem of the Middle East. I have great hopes. I'm very optimistic on that side.

WEDEMAN: Since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, the peace talks have veered from one crisis to another, each crisis resolved only after outside intervention, high-profile ceremonies and hearty handshakes. But once well-meaning mediators and honest brokers leave the two sides to work out their differences, a new crisis always seems to emerge. (on camera): No one is willing to predict that this cycle of crisis and resolution is about to be broken, but given the grim alternative to negotiations, both sides seem determined to carry on.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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