Arab, European leaders meet on Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Arab and European leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh discussed how to turn the Gaza cease-fire into a permanent peace.

The leaders, meeting at a hastily arranged conference Sunday, called for an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza and for the movement into the area of humanitarian aid.

The participants, gathered at the invitation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, included the leaders of Britain, the Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Spain and Turkey, as well as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The leaders agreed to hold an Egyptian-sponsored humanitarian summit later in the week and called on Israel and Egypt to end its blockade of Gaza.

Britain, France, Germany and the United States offered to assist in helping to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Gaza, though Mubarak has rejected any plan that would include an international monitoring force on the Egyptian side of the Gaza border.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that his country would pledge about $29 million, a tripling of his country’s commitment of humanitarian aid to Gaza, to rebuild Gaza.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. "We need to put this Middle East peace process back on track," he said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called for the creation of a Palestinian state. 

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