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Arab League reps visit Israel

Egypt and Jordan’s foreign ministers met with the Israeli prime minister to discuss the Arab League’s peace initiative.

“We were invited as representatives of the Arab League in order to advance the Arab peace initiative,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters at a press conference Wednesday with Israeli President Shimon Peres. “This is a time of opportunity.”

In March the Arab League voted to revive the 5-year-old Saudi peace initiative, which offers full Arab normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for Israel returning all lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, allowing the creation of a Palestinian state and authorizing the right of return for Palestinian refugees. The Israeli government has varied its responses to the plan, yet consistently rejected parts of it out of hand.

During their visit to Israel, the Jordanian and Egyptian ministers also met with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, and paid a rare visit to the Knesset, where they were scheduled to address the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Later Wednesday they were scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

“It is the first time the Arab League has authorized a delegation to come to Israel,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said, calling the visit “historic.”

Yet in a contradictory statement, the Egyptian state information service released a communique Saturday saying Aboul Gheit was “representing Egypt and only Egypt, not the Arab League” during his visit.

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