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Middle East interim agreement.

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24 October 1998




I warmly welcome the agreement reached overnight in the latest round of Middle East peace talks. Although this is an interim accord and the refore important steps remain to be taken, it is a crucial milestone on the road to peace. Indeed, I think it is fair to say that now there is a genuine hope that a just, secure and comprehensive peace in the Middle East is at last within sight.


Reaching this agreement has been a long and difficult process. We need to recognise that the issues involved have been complex and highly sensitive and that both parties have worked hard to put together an agreement which can work.


The Australian Government had been increasingly concerned at the lack of progress in the peace process over the past year and the increasing danger that the region would slide back to a climate of mistrust characterised by the rhetoric of confrontation. This agreement will breathe new life into that process and hopefully rebuild lost confidence on both sides.


There is still much to be done. Both sides will now need to work to see that this agreement works - not just in the detail of physical implementation but also in re-establishing a positive working relationship based on trust and optimism between Palestinians and Israelis. This will be essential to enable the parties to address the tough negotiating and political issues in the lead-up to a final status settlement.


The goodwill, commitment and hard work of the two sides were central to the positive outcome at the Wye Plantation Talks. President Clinton’s unflagging support for the peace process and the personal involvement of King Hussein of Jordan were also important factors in securing a successful outcome and I congratulate them on their achievement.


Australia will continue to support efforts to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East. We hope, and believe, that today’s agreement has made that peace substantially more obtainable.


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Departmental - Tony Melville - 0418 623 327.