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Honduras' interim President Roberto Micheletti announced Thursday night that negotiators finally reached an agreement that could allow ousted President Manuel Zelaya to return to the presidency, ending the political stalemate that this week marked four months since the Honduran military toppled their chief-in-command.
The accord (whose points are listed below) seems like an ironed-out version of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias' proposal, which he pitched after talks in his San Jose home faltered. It remains to be seen whether the outgoing leader will parlay this new accord, as well as the many thanks from negotiators involved, into a last great masterpiece of diplomacy of his presidency.
Washington could not have hoped for a better finale to this week's visit to Honduras by senior State Department and White House staff, which seems to have catapulted the accord to form a power-sharing government.
The visit was a slight departure from the Obama administration's position to leave the talks in the hands of the Hondurans and the Organization of American States (and previously President Arias). It seemed like a decisive, send-in-the-wolf moment, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dispatched a team, led by a high official in Western Hemisphere affairs, Thomas Shannon, to turn up the heat.
The clincher was that the U.S. and other major world players claimed they would not recognize a president elected in Honduras' Nov. 29 vote if the rival leaders didn't first sign a reconciliation deal. The financial pressure from frozen aid to one of the hemisphere's poorest countries might have helped, too.
Clinton, speaking from Islamabad, Pakistan, said that under this new accord Washington is "looking forward to the elections ... and working with the people and government of Honduras to realize the full return of democracy and a better future for the Honduran people."
The agreement is pending approval from Honduras' Congress in order to go into effect.
Here are some excerpts from what Micheletti had to say Thursday evening:
"Tonight I am pleased to announce that minutes ago I authorized my negotiating team to sign a final agreement that marks the beginning of the end for the country's political situation."
(And he proceeded to read off the following points from the accord.)
1. The creation of a government of reconciliation.
2. Rejection of political amnesty despite the fact that our team was willing to grant it.
3. Recognition of the Nov. 29 presidential elections.
4. The transfer of authority from the Armed Forces to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
5. The creation of a Verification Commission to ensure the points of the agreement are met.
6. The formation of a Truth Commission to investigate the incidents before, during and after June 28 when Mr. Zelaya was divested of his powers as president
7. Asking the international community to repeal all sanctions against Honduras and send observers to the presidential elections.
"And lastly, regarding the most contentious issue of the agreement, the possible restitution of Mr. Zelaya to the presidency, my government has decided to support a proposal to allow a vote in the National Congress, with a previous opinion from the Supreme Court, to return all the executive power of our nation to June 28 of 2009. ... Finally, I'd like to deeply thank the delegation from the United States of America and the Organization of American States for their important mediating support in recent days to reach this end point."
Hillary Clinton's remarks from Islamabad, Pakistan:
"... I want to congratulate the people of Honduras as well as President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti for reaching an historic agreement. ... As you know, I sent Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon and his deputy Craig Kelly and the White House NSC representative for the Western Hemisphere Dan Restrepo to Honduras yesterday after speaking with both President Zelaya and Mr. Micheletti last Friday to urge them finally, once and for all to reach an agreement."
"I cannot think of another example of a country in Latin America that having suffered a rupture of its democratic and constitutional order overcame such a crisis through negotiation and dialogue. ... I'm very proud that I was part of the process, that the United States was instrumental in the process. But I'm mostly proud of the people of Honduras who have worked very hard to have this matter resolved peacefully."
Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"The accord provides a roadmap for elections on Nov. 29, but success will depend on rigorous international monitoring of the accord's implementation."
“All of the countries of the Americas and in general the international community also have reason to celebrate, because all together they played a key and almost unprecedented role upon maintaining at all times a common position without divisions.
“Specially important was the role played by the governments of the region that sent representatives to Tegucigalpa during the crisis to help along the dialogue. Of particular note is the contribution of the United States and the Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Thomas Shannon, who, despite great personal cost, became deeply involved in the search for a solution to the problem. The role of (Costa Rican) President Oscar Arias, on whose proposal the final agreement was based, was also fundamental.