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Cheney Holds Talks With Palestinian Leaders


U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday. VOA's Jim Teeple reports that on a trip the West Bank, Cheney warned Palestinians that continued violence against Israel will hurt efforts to create a Palestinian state.

Cheney traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah Sunday where he met with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In remarks following the talks with Mr. Abbas, Cheney said the U.S. is strongly committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state. However, he said Palestinian violence against Israel could doom any chance for a future Palestine.

"Terror and rockets do not merely kill innocent civilians, they also kill the legitimate hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people," Cheney said. "A negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one that addresses the legitimate national claims of both peoples, would have limitless value. Years of mistrust and violence have achieved nothing, and the extremists who have stood in the way of a settlement have only caused grief and suffering for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples."

In his remarks, Palestinian President Abbas condemned rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip that target towns in southern Israel. He also called on Israel to ease its restrictions on the Palestinians.

Mr. Abbas says peace will not come to the Middle East as long as Israel continues to build settlements in the occupied West Bank and kills Palestinians in their own territory.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators have been holding a series of talks since late last year, aimed at reaching a peace agreement by the end of this year. However Palestinians say the talks have not resulted in any progress when it comes to stopping Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, or easing restrictions on Palestinians' freedom of movement.

Israel says Palestinians must do more to stop terrorism, including the rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Hamas militants who control Gaza criticized Cheney's visit, saying it was designed only to offer support for Israel's actions against the Palestinians.

Hamas militants defeated Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas last year, taking control of Gaza and effectively splitting the Palestinian territories in two.

Mr. Abbas says any reconciliation must be contingent upon Hamas agreeing to restore his authority in Gaza, something Hamas leaders have so far been unwilling to do.

Efforts to reconcile Palestinians appeared to take a step forward on Sunday when Hamas and Fatah representatives meeting in Yemen agreed to hold direct talks aimed at resolving their split.

No date has been set for the talks, but the issue is expected to be on the agenda at the upcoming Arab summit in Damascus scheduled to take place at the end of March.

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