The Palestinian-Israeli peace process is back on track following the security agreement signed by the two sides in Cairo on 9 February.

The agreement, comprising a set of principles and eight pages of clauses covering security issues, was signed by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres after two days of tough negotiations. Details have not yet been released, but officials at the talks said the agreement settled the thorny issue of control of borders of the Palestinian entity in Jericho and the Gaza Strip.

The question of the size of the Jericho area has not yet been resolved, but the officials said a decision on this will be taken when Arafat meets Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The two sides had agreed in principle on an area of a little more than 55 square kilometres, according to Osama el-Baz, political adviser to Egyptian President Mubarak, who is said to have played an important role in pushing the two sides to an agreement.

Cairo reports said that the PLO and Israel have agreed on 150 clauses covering security issues, and that just seven more clauses need to be settled. The security negotiations have dragged out for more than three months, and have exposed fundamental differences of interpretation between the two sides of the 13 September 1993 declaration of principles signed in Washington. The PLO has been striving to emphasise that the agreement will lead to Palestinian sovereignty, while Israel has pressed at every point to maximise its continuing security presence in the occupied territories.