New date set for launch of Geneva peace plan

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former Palestinian minister (left), and his Israeli counterpart, Yossi Beilin, were key negotiators of the accord Keystone

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have announced that the launch of an unofficial peace plan for the Middle East will take place on December 1.

This content was published on November 8, 2003 - 22:19

The launch of the Geneva Accord had been postponed to allow time for the document to be distributed to Israeli and Palestinian homes.

The Swiss foreign ministry said on Friday the negotiators would meet in the Swiss city of Geneva for the launch ceremony.

The accord was signed by a former Israeli cabinet minister, Yossi Beilin, and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Abed Rabbo, in Jordan on October 12, following two years of secret negotiations.

Both men will be present in Geneva at the symbolic signing of the document.

"The two parties will publicly reiterate their commitment to the project," said foreign ministry spokesman Alessandro Delprete.

Between 100 and 150 Palestinian and Israeli representatives are expected to attend the ceremony, according Ghaith Al-Omari, a member of the Palestinian delegation.

Al-Omari added that the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, would also be in attendance, although the foreign ministry would not confirm this.

Wide distribution

The launch had been planned for November 20, but was postponed in order to arrange the document's distribution.

Kurt Gasteyger of Geneva University's Graduate Institute of International Studies says this will be a key step in promoting the accord.

"The promoters of the accord need to distribute this document as widely as possible so they can have some popular support for their proposals," Gasteyger said.

The document, which is more than 50 pages long, must first be translated into Hebrew, Arabic and Russian.

“The parties involved are trying to raise funds for the distribution of the text,” said Delprete.

Switzerland was considering helping to fund the distribution, he added.

The Swiss government has already provided logistical and financial support for the accord.

Washington support

Beilin and Rabbo announced at a press conference on Friday that they had received a letter of encouragement from Colin Powell, the United States Secretary of State.

However, Paul Patin, a spokesman for the US embassy in Israel, stressed that the message was not an official endorsement of the document by Washington.

Washington is one of the architects of the "road map", a peace plan for the region recognised by both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, the United Nations secretary-general, Kofi Annan, released a statement on Wednesday, also voicing his support for the Geneva Accord, adding that the plan was compatible with the aims of the road map.

The Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, presented the peace plan to Annan during a visit to New York at the end of October.

Gasteyger told swissinfo it was important to get such international support for the accord.

"It is important to relaunch the debate about the future of Israel and the Palestinian Authority since talk about the road map has become dormant," he added.

Despite the involvement of politicians from both sides of the conflict, the initiative has met with stiff opposition from the Israeli government, which has made it clear it is only interested in the road map.

The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, called the Geneva Accord “dangerous” and told his cabinet to oppose it.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The launch ceremony will take place in Geneva.

The accord was drawn up after two years of secret negotiations by Palestinian and Israeli politicians.

However, neither the Israeli government nor the Palestinian Authority has given their support to the plan.

The United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has given his encouragement to the accord.

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