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Israel to Hold Talks With Palestinians Soon, says Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, making his first official visit abroad since re-gaining the office, has met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Sinai resort town of Sharm el Sheikh. Both men reaffirmed their commitment to Arab-Israeli peace and progress in negotiations on the Palestinian track.

Looking cheerful and trying to sound positive, Mr. Netanyahu told reporters in the Egyptian Sinai resort town of Sharm el Sheikh that he hoped to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in the coming weeks.

He says Israel wants to resume peace negotiations with the Palestinians as soon as possible and that he sees a resumption of talks within the coming weeks. We must promote measures, he argues, that result in economic cooperation between us, as well as developing a Palestinian security force that can help us to achieve stability.

Mr. Netanyahu refused to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state, despite encouragement from the United States that he do so.

The Israeli prime minister stressed that achieving peace with Israel's "Palestinian neighbors" was his top priority. "We want Israel and the Palestinians to live with prospects of peace, security and prosperity," he argued. "These three items go together and not one at the expense of the others."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reiterated Egypt's long-standing position, defending a two-state solution, and urging Mr. Netanyahu to accept such a two-state solution, as well:

He says the Israeli prime minister assured me of his government's commitment to strive for peace, and I told him of Egypt's expectations of positive positions reflecting his commitment: achieving peace on the Palestinian track, in accordance with a two-state solution. He adds that he also raised the issue of Israeli settlements, and their negative effects on the chances of peace, as well as the importance of picking up peace talks with the Palestinians where they broke off.

U.S. President Barack Obama has been trying to restart stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks, including the appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell as his top negotiator.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose right-wing coalition opposes a two-state solution with the Palestinians, refuses to commit to such a solution, despite Israel's pledge to do so under the 2003 "Roadmap" plan.