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Italian PM, Palestinian president discuss prospects for long term truce

Source: Xinhua | 02-11-2009 08:05

Special Report:   Israel airstrikes in Gaza

ROME, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and visiting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas discussed prospects for a longer-term truce in the Gaza Strip and reconciliation between Palestinian factions during a lengthy meeting in Rome on Tuesday.

Abbas' Palestinian National Authority (PNA) governs the West Bank while its rival Hamas holds power in Gaza. Abbas was in Rome as part of a tour of European capitals, according to Italian News Agency ANSA.

Berlusconi and Abbas discussed a solution to the Gaza crisis after Israel's three-week war on Hamas and diplomatic efforts underway to revive the Mideast peace process, a statement from the premier's office said.

The talks came hours ahead of a meeting between Berlusconi and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has been leading negotiations for a longer-term accord.

Mubarak, who discussed his initiative with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, is proposing a staged process which would begin with a longer-term cease-fire, followed by a prisoner exchange deal and the opening of Gaza's border crossings. The Egyptian proposal also envisages talks between the PNA and Hamas.

Berlusconi and Abbas voiced appreciation for Mubarak's important mediating initiative as well as diplomatic efforts being made by U.S. President Barack Obama, the statement said.

Obama sent his Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, to the region last weekend in a bid to revive the process and end the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Berlusconi told Abbas that Italy was ready to contribute to all the diplomatic initiatives underway while continuing to supply aid to the Palestinian population and helping in the reconstruction of Gaza.

In its capacity as the 2009 chair of the Group of Eight, Italy is co-sponsoring a March 2 conference in Cairo on the reconstruction of Gaza and aid to the West Bank.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said last week that it will be Italy's task at the conference to coordinate aid from the G8 countries which include the United States, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei