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Arab-Israeli summit yields diplomatic overtures

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Arab-Israeli summit yields diplomatic overtures


“My hand is stretched out to the Israeli people.” These were the words of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the wake of a four-way summit at Sharm el-Sheikh. During the talks, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to free 250 Palestinian prisoners as a gesture to Abbas and his Fatah supporters. Olmert also agreed to honour a pledge to end economic sanctions, hand over hundreds of millions of euros in frozen tax revenues and ease travel restrictions.

But Arab leaders at the meeting also urged Olmert to undertake talks over a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Short-term demands made by Abbas included an end to all work on Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory and on the wall that Israel is building through the West Bank.

Hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the summit also included Jordan’s King Abdullah. In response to a call from Mubarak for dialogue, the former Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas said his group was now ready to talk to its Fatah rivals.

Meanwhile the Quartet of Middle East negotiators – the EU, US, UN and Russia – will gather for talks in Jerusalem later today.

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