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Olmert, Abbas to discuss peace initiatives next week

RIA Novosti

29/05/2007 16:14 GAZA, May 29 (RIA Novosti) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday he would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert next to discuss ceasefire proposals amid the latest wave of violence between Israel and Palestinian militants.

The Israeli-Palestinian November 26 ceasefire was broken two weeks ago, when Palestinian militants launched rocket attacks on southern Israel, killing two people. More than 50 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli retaliatory air attacks on Gaza.

"I will meet with Olmert on June 7. I believe that by that time Palestinian groups will have responded to my initiative," Abbas told a news conference in Gaza after meeting with the head of the European Parliament.

Abbas said he had proposed a mutual ceasefire covering Gaza and the West Bank, the release of Palestinian prisoners and Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and an end to travel restrictions for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Abbas and Olmert last met April 15. Their U.S.-brokered talks brought an agreement on further meetings to advance the peace process.

Israel has warned it could continue strikes on militants in Gaza even if they end attacks unilaterally. Israel has also refused to halt army operations on the West Bank.

Rocket attacks against Israel have come amid reduced turf fighting between pro-presidential Fatah and the more radical Hamas groups on Palestinian lands. The Islamic factions declared a ceasefire on May 19 after a week of violence during which 50 Palestinians died.

The Quartet of international mediators on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will gather in Berlin on Wednesday to address ongoing violence in the region.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said Tuesday Russia would call for an end to the economic blockade of Palestinian lands in Berlin, in a bid to encourage processes of integration in the PNA, which remains heavily dependent on foreign aid.

The United States and European countries cut off aid to the Palestinians in January 2006 following a landslide election victory by Hamas, which has refused to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Kamynin said: "We will call on our partners in the Quartet to lift the blockade which has led to a socioeconomic catastrophe in the PNA territories, which has become obvious for all."

The Hamas-led government was replaced in March by a national unity government, established with Fatah, to stop the bloodshed.

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