Palestinian and Israeli leaders have declared their commitment to peace before a Mediterranean summit in Paris. Lisa Bryant reports for VOA both sides have called for Europe to play a bigger role in the Middle East peace process.

Flanked by Israeli and Palestinian leaders, French President Nicolas Sarkozy described Sunday's Euro-Mediterranean summit in Paris as an historic event because it gathered almost all the Arab heads of state along with the Israeli Prime Minister.

Mr. Sarkozy told reporters that obviously did not mean all the problems in the Middle East were resolved. But the gathering mirrored the objectives of the new Mediterranean partnership - in which members could learn to like each other rather than to make war.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas scheduled discussions before the afternoon summit, in which more than 40 heads of state launched a new pact between the European Union and non-European Mediterranean states.

Although there have been few developments in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in recent months, both leaders said they were committed to peace.

Olmert described the talks as very serious. Never had the two sides been so close to an accord, he said. Both Israeli and Arab leaders have called for the European Union to play a larger role in the Middle East peace process.

Mr. Sarkozy says that will be one of his priorities during France's six-month term as president of the European Union, which began this month.