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CNN Today

Crisis in the Middle East: Barak, Arafat to Agree to Cease- Fire

Aired October 17, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. ET

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

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And let's go ahead and take another look at our top story as we continue to watch developments in the Middle East hours after the conclusion of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. President Clinton persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to agree to a cease-fire. Their agreement also calls for a fact-finding commission to investigate causes of the recent Israeli-Palestinian violence and for the two sides to consider the resumption of peace talks.

U.S. officials are indeed watching to see if today's agreement results in an actual end to the violence.

Let's check in with CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel.

Andrea, hello.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn. As you know, there were very modest goals for the Sharm el-Sheikh summit. And for all intents and purposes, they feel that they achieved what they set out to do. But the proof will be whether or not they'll put able to put this verbal agreement to stop the fighting of the last three weeks into practice on the ground, whether or not they will actually be able to implement it.

There isn't an exact sequencing as to what would happen first, but in fact we know that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, has committed to withdrawing his troops, his forces and tanks from various Palestinian areas to positions they held before, that he would also agree to lift what the Palestinians are calling the state of siege that's been in effect for a number of days where they can't get food, medicine, et cetera across the border, or really be able to use the Gaza Airport.

And then, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has agreed to also publicly call for an end to the violence as Ehud Barak would do; and in addition, to arrest about 350 prisoners that he had let out of prison. These are Hamas and Islamic jihadists who he let out. And so if they are able to do that, then people will be much more hopeful that this verbal agreement will actually mean something.

In addition, you alluded there to this international fact-finding commission. It's supposed to be headed by the U.N., but also with input from the United Nations, which was a key Palestinian concern.

Finally, the third thing you also eluded to: the peace protest. The U.S. still believes that the peace process is possible, as Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said earlier today on CNN.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, SECRETARY OF STATE: What I found so interesting, and so did the president, is that despite the anger and what was happening on the ground, that there were real indication from both of them that they did see the peace process as their vehicle to end this. And they both, in fact, wanted to come to Washington in order to work out the procedure. I think, frankly, the horrors of what has been seen and the tragedy has impelled them to understand that there's a choice between a future like what we've seen in the last 10 days and one where they can learn to live together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: But in figuring out whether or not the two sides will be able to live together, they will have to get this cease-fire that's been called for publicly to actually stick. And even then, Daryn, many say there will still have to be a period of cooling off. There have been incredible tension, violence and a lot of raw emotion on both the Israeli and the Palestinian side, so they'll have to step back once there is a cease-fire before they can think about trying to get back to the peace table -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Andrea, let's get back to this fact-finding commission. Why indeed did the Palestinians want the U.N. to head this? And what are the implications, in fact, that the United States actually will be heading it?

KOPPEL: Well, it will be sort of a cooperative venture between the United States and the United Nations. And the reason is that the Palestinians have felt for some time that the U.S. isn't necessarily an objective broker in all of this. And it believes very strongly -- the Palestinians -- that if the U.S. were to lead it, maybe the Palestinian opinion wouldn't be reflected as much in the findings of this international commission. And so they wanted to make sure -- and this is the way things stand right now -- that the commission will be made up of a wide representation of the international community, including the Arab world, Daryn.

KAGAN: Andrea Koppel at the State Department, thank you.

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