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Middle East heads discuss Palestinians

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Middle East heads discuss Palestinians


Egypt has tried to persuade Israel to ease restrictions on the movements of Palestinians in talks in Cairo. It was the third meeting between the two heads of state.

The Israeli checkpoints into the coastal enclave of Gaza were discussed, as well as the controls on air space and sea access.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said: “One of the reason the meeting was positive is because Israel promised to take measures to ease pressure on the Palestinians. Lifting the blockade is fundamental, because it allows freedom of movement to the citizens”.

Egypt has also been mediating talks on a proposed Israeli-Palestinian prison swap but it was unclear if any progress was made.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “I am very encouraged by the commitment of President Mubarak to the peace process. I hope to see such a readiness from the Palestinian Authority. It is time to move the peace process forward, to restart talks.”

The meeting comes days after an Israeli announcement of plans for nearly 700 homes in mainly Arab East Jerusalem.

This is despite Palestinian and international demands that Israel freeze building there. The US and EU have criticised the move. Last month, Israel also unveiled plans for 900 homes on occupied land in south of Jerusalem.

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