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Israeli, Palestinian Presidents Call Middle East Conference Historic Opportunity


The Israeli and Palestinian presidents have praised an upcoming U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference as a historic opportunity.

In an address Tuesday to the Turkish parliament, Israel's Shimon Peres said his country is determined to end the conflict with the Palestinians. His speech was the first by an Israeli president to the legislature of a predominantly Muslim country.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the Turkish assembly, becoming the first Palestinian head of state to do so. He warned that missing the opportunity for peace presented by the conference could have dangerous consequences.

Mr. Abbas said a Middle East peace settlement also should resolve the status of the Golan Heights and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Earlier, Mr. Abbas said that if Israel ends its occupation of Arab land, it will live in what he called a "sea of peace."

He was speaking at a joint news conference in Ankara with Mr. Peres and Turkish President Abdullah Gul.

The leaders signed an agreement to set up an industrial zone in the West Bank in which Turkish companies will make investments. The project is designed to create jobs for thousands of Palestinians and allow them to export products to international markets.

The U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference is expected to take place later this year in the U.S. city of Annapolis, Maryland.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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