Israel determined not to let peace meeting fail – Peres

Israeli President Shimon Peres pledged Monday that his country would work for a tangible result at an upcoming US-sponsored Middle East peace conference, saying that the Jewish state is ready to make peace with the Palestinians.“Israel has decided to make Annapolis a success, to bring an end to the conflict, to finally make peace between the Palestinians and ourselves,” Peres told a news conference here after talks with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gul.

“It takes time to make peace… but I believe we can make peace now with the Palestinians,” he said.

The United States is expected to host an international conference in Annapolis, Maryland, later this year aimed at reviving the Middle East peace process that broke down seven years ago.

“All parties concerned are decided… not to let this chance pass away,” Peres said, but warned against expecting a quick result from the meeting he described as a “station on the road to peace”.

Gul said Turkey expects the Annapolis meeting to yield “concrete” results to pave the way for comprehensive peace talks, but stressed that all parties to the Middle East conflict, including Syria, should attend the talks.

Peres said those attending the talks should be “all moderate countries which are for peace”.

“The more countries participate, the stronger the voice of peace becomes,” he said.

No invitations have yet been issued for the Annapolis conference, but US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday it was likely Syria would be invited.

Syrian President Bashar Assad has said that Damascus will stay away from Annapolis unless the Israeli-Arab conflict at large is discussed, including the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

Peres said Ankara would participate in the conference and described it as a move that will bring “spirit, example and contribution to make peace”.

Muslim-majority, secular Turkey believes it is in a position to facilitate peace efforts in the Middle East, counting on its close ties with Israel and the Palestinians both, as well as a recent rapprochement with former foe Syria.

Gul said Turkey was also ready to launch negotiations for the release of two Israeli soldiers captured last year by the Shiite Muslim Hizbollah.

Peres was scheduled to meet Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan later Monday.

The highlight of his trip will be on Tuesday when he addresses the Turkish parliament in Hebrew, becoming the first Israeli head of state to speak before the legislature of a Muslim-populated country.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who arrived in Ankara on Monday, will address the assembly just after Peres.

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