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Egypt Hosts Gaza Ceasefire Meeting


Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosted a summit of six top European leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, in order to coordinate efforts to strengthen a ceasefire in Gaza and to help rebuild the war-torn territory. No representatives from Israel or Hamas attended the summit, co-chaired by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Top European and Arab leaders met in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el Sheikh, in a bid to act quickly to strengthen the just-declared ceasefire in Gaza, to help rebuild the battered territory, and to try to avoid a repeat of the three-week conflict.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who co-sponsored a staged peace plan for Gaza, began the conference by spelling out what needs to be done.

He says there are difficult and important issues before us, requiring us all to redouble our efforts: we must guarantee the respect of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and restore the truce, reopen border crossings and lift the Israeli blockade.

French President Nicholas Sarkozy, who co-authored the Gaza peace plan, thanked Mubarak for his efforts and subtly criticized other Arab states who recently met in Qatar, calling for an end of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the ostracizing of Israel.

He says that Egypt played an essential role in stopping this war, which has only led to more pain and more disaster and will not guarantee peace and security for anyone. Egypt unlike other Arab states acted responsibly to find consensus, rather than throw oil on the fire.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, his face looking drawn and tired, explained sadly that the crisis has been a disaster for his people and that much remains to be done to overcome it.

He says that a human, humanitarian, and national catastrophe has befallen us, one we wanted to avoid from the start. But since it has happened, Abbas says we must work to strengthen the just-declared ceasefire, resume a truce (with Israel), bring urgent humanitarian aid to our people, and rebuild Palestinian unity.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called for Hamas and Israel to do what needs to be done to strengthen the still-fragile ceasefire.

"Hamas must stop fighting, must stop sending rockets into Israel and Israel must also exercise maximum restraint, so that this ceasefire can be sustained," Mr. ban said.

Jordan's King Abdallah II urged the European Union and the incoming U.S. Obama Administration to cooperate and to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian crisis immediately, so that future crises can be averted.

"Coordination between the EU and the incoming Obama Administration is going to be vital for all of us, to think of the day after, to get the process back on track and to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem immediately," King Abdallah said. "If we do not do that, it will only be a matter of time before many world leaders will be meeting again, calling for a ceasefire in the region."

King Abdallah also insisted that the 2002 Arab peace initiative be kept alive, tacitly criticizing Syria and other radical Arab states, who recently declared it was dead.

Meanwhile, despite recent bellicose rhetoric coming from the Damascus-based Hamas leadership, the Deputy head of its political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk declared the group would abide by the ceasefire, giving Israel one week to withdraw its forces from Gaza.



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