The PLO and Israel have reported progress in the talks on the transfer of authority to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Jericho which resumed in the Egyptian town of Taba on 10 January.

Hopes for the peace process have also been revived by the 7 January signing of a co-operation agreement between Jordan and the PLO and by the expectations of progress from the 16 January meeting planned between US President Clinton and Syria’s President Asad in Geneva (see Cover Story).

In the Taba talks, the two sides say they have agreed on the size of the Jericho enclave, an issue which has provoked disagreement in the past. Details of the exact size have not yet been disclosed. PLO chief negotiator Nabil Shaath said some tricky issues related to security have still to be resolved, but the two teams have finalised plans for the transfer of 12 of the 38 civilian departments that will come under Palestinian control.

The PLO-Jordan agreement covers key issues such as the reopening of Jordanian banks in the occupied territories and the basis of commercial exchanges between the two sides. A similar agreement is being discussed with Egypt.