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Roundup: Rice, Arab FMs voice commitment to coordinating efforts for Mideast peace
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07:45, August 01, 2007

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Some Arab countries and the United States renewed commitments to coordinating efforts for advancing the stalled Mideast peace process following a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and eight Arab countries' foreign ministers Tuesday in Egypt.

Rice, in a four-day Middle East tour, held talks with foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the six Gulf Cooperation Council ( GCC) states on Tuesday at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el- Sheikh.

The top diplomats issued a final communique after the meeting, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to work together to achieve their common goal of restoring peace in the Middle East, Egypt's official MENA news agency reported.

Sharing the vision of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Middle East, the foreign ministers reiterated their commitment to a two- state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, said the communique.

The communique added that the foundation for such an outcome includes UN Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1515, and the Arab Peace Initiative, which calls to end the occupation since 1967 and establish a Palestinian state living in peace with all its neighbors.

At a joint press conference with Rice following the talks, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit described the meeting as important and beneficial, saying all views were exchanged frankly during the meeting.

The foreign ministers discussed the issues of the Middle East peace process, the Iraqi file and the Iranian nuclear program along with the situation in Lebanon, Abul Gheit said, adding they also discussed means of fighting terrorism and efforts exerted to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Rice explained to the Arab foreign ministers the U.S. vision on reviving the Mideast peace process through an international peace conference proposed by U.S. President George W. Bush.

Rice hoped the meetings with top Arab diplomats will bear fruit to set the scene for Bush's proposed meeting.

On July 16, Bush proposed to hold an international conference later this year to group Israel, the Palestinians and some neighboring Arab states to help resume the stalled Middle East peace talks.

During an Arab foreign ministers emergency meeting held Monday in Cairo, most Arab countries expressed their support to the U.S. initiative to hold the international peace conference while Syria voiced its reservation about the proposal.

On the issue of Iraq, Abul Gheit said the Arab world are committed to maintaining the unity of the war-torn country, calling on foreign countries to refrain from interfering in Iraq's internal affairs.

Rice said it is time for Iraq's neighbors to fulfill their commitments to Iraq made during previous meetings on Iraq in the Red Sea resort.

On the Iranian nuclear issue, the diplomats called on Iran to comply with its obligations to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, voicing their strong support to international efforts to resolve Iran's disputed nuclear program diplomatically.

Answering a question on the military aid to Egypt, Israel and arms trade packages with Gulf countries, Rice said the plans were the outcome of long-time negotiations with these countries, denying that U.S. weapons were provided for getting more help in Iraq.

The military assistance is meant to assure security for the U.S. allies and partners in the region, Rice said, adding her country is working together with these Mideast countries to fight against extremism.

According to a Saturday report by the Washington Post, the United States will announce this week a series of arms deals worth at least 20 billion U.S. dollars to Saudi Arabia and five other oil-rich Gulf states as well as new 10-year military aid packages to Israel and Egypt.

The arms deals, which include the sales of a variety of sophisticated weaponry, would be the largest negotiated by the Bush administration.

In addition, the military assistance agreements would provide 30 billion dollars in new U.S. aid to Israel and 13 billion dollars to Egypt over 10 years, representing significant increases in military support.

Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Egypt earlier in the morning in a rare duo visit to the Middle East to rally support for the American overture to hold an international peace conference to boost the Middle East peace process.

After meeting with the Arab foreign ministers in Egypt, Rice went to visit Saudi Arabia. The top U.S. diplomat will also visit Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Source: Xinhua

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