IN THE NEWS #482 - Mitchell Commission Report

By Nancy Steinbach

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.

On Monday, the Sharm el-Sheikh Fact Finding Committee released its report about the situation in the Middle East.

The committee is known as the Mitchell Commission. Former United States Senator George Mitchell was the chairman. Other members were former President of Turkey, Suleyman Demirel; Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thorbjoern Jagland; former American Senator Warren Rudman; and European Union official, Javier Solana.

The committee was created at a special international meeting last October in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The committee members were asked to investigate the causes of the continuing violence in the Middle East. And they were urged to make suggestions about ways to prevent more violence.

Since the committee was formed, the violence in the Middle East has continued. More than five-hundred Palestinians and Israelis have been killed in the past seven months. More than ten-thousand have been injured.

In a statement, committee members explained the main message of their report. They said the situation will not change until Israeli and Palestinian leaders take steps to end the violence, re-build confidence, and re-open negotiations.

The Mitchell Commission report calls on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to carry out the suggestions made in the report. The first step is to stop the violence immediately. The second step is to work toward re-building trust. The report says this could be done by establishing a "cooling off" period, and making it clear that terrorism is not acceptable.

The report says Palestinian leaders should make a one-hundred percent effort to prevent terrorist operations, and to punish those who take part in such acts. It calls on Palestinian leaders to prevent gunmen from using Palestinian areas to fire at Israelis.

The report urges Israel to stop all settlement activity and prevent security forces from destroying property in Palestinian areas. It says Israel should make sure its soldiers do not fire at unarmed demonstrators. It calls on Israel to permit Palestinians to return to their jobs in Israel.

The report suggests both sides consider a joint effort to protect holy places of Jews, Muslims and Christians. It proposes they jointly support private organizations involved in efforts to link the Jews and the Palestinians.

The report warns that the culture of peace established during the last ten years is in danger of being destroyed. It urges the two sides to find a way back to negotiations that attempt to resolve the causes of their conflict. The Mitchell Commission says the people in the Middle East must work to find ways to live side by side in peace.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders have expressed support for much of the report. Yet violence in the area continues.

This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS , was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Steve Ember.

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