Excerpts of Sharon's Speech: Disengagement Could Pave Way to Road Map'

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Following are excerpts from Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's speech at Sharm el-Sheikh:

"I would like to thank you, the president of Egypt, Mr. Hosni Mubarak, on your welcome initiative and the kind hospitality for this important summit. We all hope and pray that this day will be remembered as the day on which the process began to move forward toward completion, toward the goal of a tranquil, dignified and peaceful life for all the peoples of the Middle East.

"I also wish to convey special congratulations to your Majesty, King Abdullah, on the birth of your son Hashem, and on the occasion of your birthday. May you live a long life filled with joy, and be able to lead your people to tranquillity and prosperity, and hopefully we can, together, strengthen the relations between us.

"Congratulations are also due to you, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, on your impressive victory in the Palestinian Authority elections .... I hope that you will be able to lead your people on the path of democracy and maintenance of law and order, until the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state.

"We have an opportunity to start on a new path. For the first time in a long time, there exists in our region hope for a better future for our children and grandchildren.

"This is a very fragile opportunity that the extremists will want to exploit .... We must all make a commitment not to agree for a temporary solution ... [but] to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to disarm and subdue it once and for all.

"Today, in my meeting with Chairman Abbas, we agreed that all Palestinians will stop all acts of violence against all Israelis everywhere, and Israel will cease all its military activity against all Palestinians anywhere .... Furthermore, we agreed on a process of transferring security responsibility for Palestinian areas. I informed Chairman Abbas of our intention to take a series of confidence-building measures: Soon we will release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and also establish a joint committee to explore future release of prisoners.

"I am determined to carry out the disengagement plan I initiated. The disengagement plan was initiated by a unilateral decision. Now, if new change does emerge on the Palestinian side, the disengagement can bring hope and become the new starting point for a coordinated, successful process.

"The disengagement plan can pave the way to implementation of the road map, to which we are committed and which we want to implement. We are prepared to fulfill all our obligations actively and expect the other side to carry out all its obligations.

"To our Palestinian neighbors, I assure you that we have a genuine intention to respect your right to live independently and in dignity. I have already said that Israel has no desire to continue to govern over you and control your fate. We in Israel have had to wake up painfully from our dreams, and we are determined to overcome all the obstacles that might stand in our path in order to realize the new chance which has been created.

"You too must prove that you have the strength and the courage to compromise, abandon unrealistic dreams, subdue the forces that oppose peace and live in peace and mutual respect side-by-side with us.

"To the citizens of Israel, I say: We have passed difficult years, faced the most painful experiences and overcome them. The future lies before us. We are required to take difficult and controversial steps, but we must not miss the opportunity to try to achieve what we have wished for, for so many years: security, tranquillity and peace.

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