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Rice On Israeli-Palestinian Talks

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

On February 8th, during a meeting at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a cessation of hostilities. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah also participated in the meeting. Mr. Abbas said the two sides "have agreed to cease all acts of violence against all Palestinians and Israelis everywhere."

Israel has indicated that if Palestinian terrorist attacks end, it will halt targeted assassinations and release up to nine hundred Palestinian prisoners. Israel also announced a pullback of its military forces from Bethlehem, Jericho, Ramallah, and other parts of the West Bank. Israel said it would lift checkpoints and roadblocks that have hampered Palestinians' freedom of movement.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice says that the election of Mr. Abbas as Palestinian president and Israel’s decision to withdraw from its settlements in Gaza and several West Bank towns have given a new momentum to efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:

"We do have a new opportunity to do something really quite dramatic thanks to the Israeli decision to withdraw from the Gaza and from the West Bank. I just can't emphasize enough how historic a decision that is, how fundamental a decision that is; that with all of the going back and forth that we've done over the last thirty-plus years, the return of territory is a major step forward."

Secretary of State Rice has named General William Ward, currently deputy commanding general of the United States Army in Europe, as Middle East security coordinator. General Ward will monitor security discussions between Israel and the Palestinians and assist the Palestinian authority in reforming its security services. The United States has also pledged forty million dollars for aid projects over the coming ninety days to the Palestinian Authority.

President George W. Bush said in his State of the Union message that "the goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach, and America will help them achieve that goal."