Israel seeks Arab League talks

Israel is exploring ways of holding direct talks with the Arab League. Jerusalem officials said Sunday that Israel could hold contacts with a working group that the Arab League is expected to set up this week to promote a regional peace proposal formulated by Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, in an apparent allusion to the new initiative, told his Cabinet: “We are willing to hold a dialogue with any grouping of Arab states about their ideas.”

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit confirmed that contacts between an Arab League working group and Israel were expected, but played down speculation that this could lead to indirect peace negotiations.

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres was similarly circumspect, noting that direct diplomacy with the Arab League would be difficult as it does not formally recognize the Jewish state.

“We will meet to create a common ground in order to reach an agreement,” Peres told Israel Radio. “At this stage, I think all sides are looking for the right channels that will allow us to meet and tackle issues that are still disputed.”

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