SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt (AP) — Israeli and Palestinian leaders said they will declare a formal end to more than four years of fighting during a summit today in this Egyptian resort — a breakthrough in Mideast peacemaking that comes after both sides also accepted invitations to meet separately with President Bush at the White House.

The cease-fire deal, finalized during last-minute preparations yesterday on the eve of the summit, was the clearest indication yet of momentum following Yasser Arafat’s death, the election of a new Palestinian leader and a signal from the White House that it plans a renewed push for peace.

“The most important thing at the summit will be a mutual declaration of cessation of violence against each other,” said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian negotiator.

Erekat said the agreement also includes the establishment of joint committees — one to determine criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and the other to oversee the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian cities on the West Bank.

An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the cease-fire agreement and said it would also include an end to Palestinian incitement to violence, such as official Palestinian TV and radio broadcasts that glorify suicide bombers and other attackers.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will attend the summit today in this Egyptian beach resort, along with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and the host, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

It will be the first meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders since Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, succeeded Arafat after his death on Nov. 11.

In Washington, Bush said the background for peace talks improved with Abbas’s election in January.

His invitations to both sides to separate talks this spring seemed a clear signal he plans a stepped-up peacemaking effort in his second term.

“What you’re watching is a process unfolding where people are becoming more trustworthy,” the president said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, ending two days of pre-summit talks in Israel and the West Bank, called it “a time of hope, a time we can hope for a better day for the Palestinian and Israeli people both.”


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