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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 21:27 GMT 22:27 UK
Israel holds talks with Qatar
Shaikh Hamad Bin Jasim and Silvan Shalom giving news conference
The two ministers gave a rare joint Israeli-Arab news conference

The foreign ministers of Qatar and Israel have held the highest-level meeting ever between officials from the two Middle Eastern countries.

Silvan Shalom and his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani met for about an hour at a Paris hotel as Mr Shalom passed through on his way to Britain.

Qatar and Israel do not have diplomatic relations, although they have had low-level trade ties since 1996.

Mr Shalom said the meeting signalled "a major change" and said the level of representation between Israel and Qatar might be raised.

"This meeting between us can be the start that will bring better relations between Israel and Qatar, and Israel and the Arab world," he said.

'Regular contacts'

The meeting came amid a renewed US drive to settle the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr Shalom said he and Sheikh Hamad discussed "everything included in the peace process".

He said they agreed to continue contacts on a regular basis.

Sheikh Hamad said he urged Israel and the Palestinians to strive for peace.

"We are glad of the [US] roadmap [peace plan] and we are glad of the commitment of [US President George W] Bush.

"Both sides have to make sacrifices to reach a solution to end the violence," he said.

Meetings between Israel and Arab ministers are rare, with only Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinians having concluded peace treaties with the Jewish state.

On Sunday, Sheikh Hamad said Qatar could consider a peace treaty with Israel if it served the Gulf state's interests.

Country profile: Qatar
08 Apr 03  |  Country profiles
Profile: Silvan Shalom
26 Feb 03  |  Middle East

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