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China Pledges to Promote Peace in Mideast

China's fundamental stance on the Middle East issue is to promote peace and dialogue to achieve comprehensive peace of the region, said President Hu Jintao in Beijing Thursday.

Hu told visiting Israeli President Moshe Katsav during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People that the Israeli-Palestinian issue had been left unsettled for over half a century, and brought disaster to all nations and their peoples in the region including Israel.

"Using force or conflict will not settle problems, peaceful talks and cooperation are the only correct way," Hu said.

He said the Palestinian-Israeli peace process was facing an historic opportunity with the initiation of the Road Map peace plan, and China hoped the two sides would remove the obstacles and return to negotiations.

Katsav said the acceptance of the Road Map was an important decision for the Israeli government, and it would do its best to maintain dialogue with Palestinian leaders to expect an imminent end to the bloody conflict.

"Israel is confident for the future of the region," he said, hoping China could play a bigger role in the Middle East peace process.

During the meeting, Hu put forward a four-point proposal on enhancing Sino-Israeli relations:

-- Maintaining high-level contacts and exchanges, and conducting political dialogue and consultations at all levels;

-- Expanding economic and trade cooperation on the principles of mutual benefit and common progress;

-- Furthering scientific, cultural and educational cooperation and encouraging friendly contacts at the unofficial level; and

-- Working together for the long-term and healthy development of bilateral ties.

Katsav said Israel wanted to continue cooperation with China in agriculture and science, and hoped to set up committees of the two governments to facilitate cooperation.

(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2003)

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