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Round of Arms Control Talks Opens with Palestinians Now Taking Part

A third round of multilateral talks on arms control in the Middle East opened here Tuesday, with Israel expressing hope for “real progress.”

This week’s session, which was to end Thursday, marks the first time Palestinian negotiators and representatives from the United Nations have taken part in the arms control talks.

But Syria and Lebanon stayed away, as they did during the last two rounds in Moscow and Washington. The two countries have also boycotted the other four sets of multilateral talks, which deal with such regional issues as economic development, refugee issues, water resources and environmental concerns.

The multilateral component of the peace process, often overshadowed by the higher-profile bilateral talks, involve most of the countries in the Middle East, including countries officially at war with Israel, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Also taking part are major industrialized nations, such as Russia and Japan.

Twenty-five delegations are taking part in the arms control talks, which are considered among the most important of the various multilateral negotiations because of the enormous proliferation of weapons in the region.

The United States was serving as chair of this week’s meetings, which were to focus on “strategic confidence-building measures.”

Israeli negotiating head David Ivry told reporters Tuesday that Israel intended to “respond positively” to proposals for practical strategic confidence-building measures, and would present its own view of the long-term objectives of the arms control talks.

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