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Mitchell report { December 2 2001 }

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Sunday, 2 December, 2001, 15:17 GMT
Mitchell report: Main points

The report warns that both sides are "close to the abyss"

The Mitchell Commission summarises the main points of its inquiry into the Israeli-Palestinian violence which broke out in September 2000 under three headings:

End the violence
Rebuild confidence
Resume negotiations

Chaired by former US Senator George Mitchell, the commission urges Israel and the Palestinians to "reaffirm their commitment to existing agreements" and call an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

The report calls on Palestinians to:

make a 100% effort to prevent terrorist operations and to punish perpetrators
prevent gunmen from using Palestinian areas to fire on Israeli positions
It calls on the Israeli side to:

freeze all new construction of settlements
stop the Israeli army firing on unarmed demonstrators
Peace 'culture' under threat

The report calls on both sides to "act quickly to pull the region back from the abyss" and warns that:

fear, hate, anger and frustration has risen on both sides
the "culture of peace" carefully established over the last decade is in danger of being destroyed
there is a growing sense of futility and despair, and a growing resort to violence
the situation will keep on getting worse unless the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority take swift and decisive action

Despite the recommendations, the report steers clear of apportioning blame.

It determines that a visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount by Ariel Sharon on 28 September 2000 - well before he became prime minister - "did not cause" the current violence.

But, it concludes, the visit was poorly timed and its provocative effect should have been foreseen.

The Palestinians have said that the unannounced visit to the site - which is holy to both Muslims and Jews - triggered the violence; Israel accuses the Palestinians of using the visit as an excuse to riot.

Palestinian leaders have embraced the commission's findings, despite disappointments that it did not back their demands for an international observer force in Gaza and on the West Bank.

The report includes a seven-page response from the Israelis, and a 10-page Palestinian response.

The Palestinians, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, have called on the Bush administration to embrace the report as a basis for resuming peace negotiations.

Israel has said it accepts the report, but says it will not halt construction in settlements in the West Bank and Gaza - areas the Palestinians hope will become part of their future state.

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