US Letter Of
Assurances To The Palestinians
October 18, 1991
decision to attend a peace conference to launch direct negotiations with Israel
represents an important step in the search for a comprehensive, just and lasting
peace in the region. The United States has long believed that Palestinian
participation is critical to the success of our efforts.
In the context of the process on which we are embarking, we want to respond to
your requests for certain assurances related to this process. These assurances
constitute US understandings and intentions concerning the conference and
These assurances are consistent with United States policy and do not undermine
or contradict United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. Moreover,
there will be no assurances provided to one party that are not known to all the
others. By this we can foster a sense of confidence and minimize chances for
As President Bush stated in his March 6, 1991 address to Congress, the United
States continues to believe firmly that a comprehensive peace must be grounded
in United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and the principle of
territory for peace. Such an outcome must also provide for security and
recognition for all states in the region, including Israel and for the
legitimate political rights of the Palestinian people. Anything else, the
President noted, would fail the twin tests of fairness and security.
The process we are trying to create offers Palestinians a way to achieve these
objectives. The United States believes that there should be an end to the
Israeli occupation, which can occur only through genuine and meaningful
negotiations. The United States also believes that this process should create a
new relationship of mutuality where Palestinians and Israelis can respect one
another's security, identity, and political rights. We believe Palestinians
should gain control over political, economic and other decisions that affect
their lives and fate.
Direct bilateral negotiations will begin four days after the opening of the
conference; those parties who wish to attend multilateral negotiations will
convene two weeks after the opening of the conference to organize those
negotiations. In this regard, the United States will support Palestinian
involvement in any bilateral or multilateral negotiations on refugees and in all
multilateral negotiations. The conference and the negotiations that follow will
be based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The process will
proceed along two tracks through direct negotiations between Israel and Arab
states and Israel and Palestinians. The United States is determined to achieve a
comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and will do its utmost to
ensure that the process moves forward along both tracks toward this end.
In pursuit of a comprehensive settlement all the negotiations should proceed as
quickly as possible toward agreement. For its part, the United States will work
for serious negotiations and will also seek to avoid prolongation and stalling
by any party.
The conference will be co-sponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union.
The European Community will be a participant in the conference alongside the
United States and the Soviet Union and be represented by its Presidency. The
conference can reconvene only with the consent of all the parties.
With regard to the role of the United Nations, the UN Secretary General will
send a representative to the conference as an observer. The co-sponsors will
keep the Secretary General apprised of the progress of the negotiations.
Agreements reached between the parties will be registered with the UN
Secretariat and reported to the Security Council, and the parties will seek the
Council's endorsement of such agreements. Since it is in the interest of all
parties for this process to succeed, while this process is actively ongoing, the
United States will not support a competing or parallel process in the United
Nations Security Council.
The United States does not seek to determine who speaks for Palestinians in this
process. We are seeking to launch a political negotiation process that directly
involves Palestinians and offers a pathway for achieving the legitimate
political rights of the Palestinian people and for participation in the
determination of their future. We believe that a joint Jordanian-Palestinian
delegation offers the most promising pathway toward this end.
Only Palestinians can choose their delegation members, which are not subject to
veto from anyone. The United States understands that members of the delegation
will be Palestinians from the territories who agree to negotiations on two
tracks, in phases, and who are willing to live in peace with Israel. No party
can be forced to sit with anyone it does not want to sit with.
Palestinians will be free to announce their component of the joint delegation
and to make a statement during the opening of the conference. They may also
raise any issue pertaining to the substance of the negotiations during the
The United States understands how much importance Palestinians attach to the
question of east Jerusalem. Thus, we want to assure you that nothing
Palestinians do in choosing their delegation members in this phase of the
process will affect their claim to cast Jerusalem, or be prejudicial or
precedential to the outcome of negotiations. It remains the firm position of the
United States that Jerusalem must never again he a divided city and that its
final status should be decided by negotiations. Thus, we do not recognize
Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem or the extension of its municipal
boundaries, and we encourage all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would
exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their
final outcome. It is also the United States position that a Palestinian resident
in Jordan with ties to a prominent Jerusalem family would be eligible to join
the Jordanian side of the delegation.
Furthermore, it is also the United States position that Palestinians of east
Jerusalem should be able to participate by voting in the elections for an
interim self-governing authority. The United States further believes that
Palestinians from east Jerusalem and Palestinians outside the occupied
territories who meet the three criteria should be able to participate in the
negotiations on final status. And, the United States supports the right of
Palestinians to bring any issue, including east Jerusalem, to the table.
Because the issues at stake are so complex and the emotions so deep, the United
States has long maintained that a transitional period is required to break down
the walls of suspicion and mistrust and lay the basis for sustainable
negotiations on the final status of the occupied territories. The purpose of
negotiations on transitional arrangements is to effect the peaceful and orderly
transfer of authority from Israel to Palestinians. Palestinians need to achieve
rapid control over political, economic, and other decisions that affect their
lives and to adjust to a new situation in which Palestinians exercise authority
in the West Bank and Gaza. For its Part, the United States will strive from the
outset and encourage all parties to adopt steps that can create an environment
of confidence and mutual trust, including respect for human rights.
As you are aware with respect to negotiations between Israel and Palestinians,
negotiations will be conducted in phases, beginning with talks on interim
self-government arrangements. These talks will be conducted with the objective
of reaching agreement within one year. Once agreed, the interim self-government
arrangements will last for a period of five years. Beginning the third year of
the period of interim government arrangements, negotiations will take place on
permanent status. It is the aim of the United States that permanent status
negotiations will be concluded by the end of the transitional period.
It has long been our position that only direct negotiations based on UN Security
Council Resolutions 242 and 338 can produce a real peace. No one can dictate the
outcome in advance. The United States understands that Palestinians must be
free, in opening statements at the conference and in the negotiations, that
follow, to raise any issue of importance to them. Thus, Palestinians are free to
argue for whatever outcome they believe best meets their requirements. The
United States will accept any outcome agreed by the parties. In this regard and
consistent with long-standing US policies, confederation is not excluded as a
possible outcome of negotiations on final status.
The United States has long believed that no party should take unilateral actions
that seek to predetermine issues that can only be resolved through negotiations.
In this regard the United States has opposed and will continue to oppose
settlement activity in the territories occupied in 1967, which remains an
obstacle to peace.
The United States will act as an honest broker in trying to resolve the
Arab-Israeli conflict. It is our intention, together with the Soviet Union, to
play the role of a driving force in this process to help the parties move
forward toward a comprehensive peace. Any party will have access to the
co-sponsors at any time. The United States is prepared to participate in all
stages of the negotiations, with the consent of the parties to each negotiation.
These are the assurances that the United States is providing concerning the
implementation of the initiative we have discussed. We are persuaded that we
have a real opportunity to accomplish something very important in the peace
process. And we are prepared to work hard together with you in the period ahead
to build on the progress we have made. There will be difficult challenges for
all parties. But with Palestinians' continued commitment and creativity, we have
a real chance of moving to a peace conference and to negotiation and then on
toward the broader peace that we all seek.