After marathon all-night negotiations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced a comprehensive agreement between the Israeli and the Palestinian governments Tuesday designed to ease the Gaza Strip's isolation by allowing more reliable access for its goods and people to Israel and the outside world.
The agreement allows the Palestinians to begin work on Gaza's seaport, and assures donors that Israel will not interfere with its operation. It leaves unclear when the port would open and under what guidelines, but work to get it up and running will take at least three years, Palestinian officials said. The deal says discussions on renovating and reopening Gaza's international airport will continue.
"The important thing here is that people have understood that there is an important balance between security on the one hand, and, on the other hand, allowing the Palestinian people freedom of movement," Rice said at a news conference with international envoy James Wolfensohn and European Union foreign minister Javier Solana. "The other important point is that everybody recognizes that if the Palestinians can move more freely and export their agriculture, that Gaza will be a much better place, where the institutions of democracy can begin to take hold."
That last bit is the key, and Condi stresses it exactly teh right way. Not surprising given her background in diplomacy (no word on whether her rift with mentor Scowcroft can ever be healed). Nadezdha has all the gory details.