In the wake of the historic Israeli-Palestinian accord signed at the White House this week, Israel and Jordan have taken a major step toward peace by signing an agreement specifying the components of a future treaty.
The signing of the agreement Tuesday at the State Department was less high-profile than Monday’s Israeli-Palestinian ceremony featuring President Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat.
But the move is nevertheless significant, because it is the first indication that progress can be made on tracks other than the Israeli-Palestinian one in the bilateral negotiations Israel is conducting here with Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinians.
The Israeli-Jordanian agreement is a frame-work for the two countries to negotiate such issues as security arrangements, arms control, territorial disputes, the refugee problem, water rights and economic cooperation.
Israel and Jordan have long been on the verge of initialing this agreement. The Israeli-Palestinian accord signed Monday on self-rule in the administered territories apparently gave the final push needed to push this agreement through.
The document was initialed by Elyakim Rubinstein, chairman of the Israeli negotiating team with the Jordanians, and Fayez Tarawneh, the Jordanian ambassador to the United States. Secretary of State Warren Christopher presided over the ceremony.
‘AN EXTRAORDINARY WEEK’
“This really is an extraordinary week for the Middle East peace process,” Christopher remarked during the ceremony.
“Yesterday I expressed the hope that we could see progress toward a comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Today we take a very important step toward that very comprehensive peace with the initialing of the Israeli-Jordanian substantive agenda,” he said.
Rubinstein, who also serves as Israel’s cabinet secretary, spoke of the promise of peace in the region.
“The Israeli-Jordanian relationship will continue to constitute a major cornerstone in the great enterprise of peace,” he said. “We should vigorously work credibly and reliably to make the dream culminating in a treaty of peace come true.”
Tarawneh of Jordan expressed his hopes for the agreement.
“We hope this first step will be translated through the substantive and lengthy negotiations that will follow into an agreement based on comprehensive peace that will positively transform the lives of all people in the area,” he said.
Also present at the ceremony were Russian Foreign Ministry official Viktor Posuvaluk, Eytan Bentsur from the Israeli delegation to the peace talks and Jordanian official Marwan Muasher.
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