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'No progress' in Mideast peace process: Arab League, EU

By John Inguanez, AFP

VALLETTA (AFP) Arab League chief Amr Moussa on Tuesday slammed a lack of progress in the Middle East peace process as EU and Arab foreign ministers wrapped up two days of talks in Malta.
"We see no progress. We want to send a message, a message of concern," he said following the talks, the first between the two blocs at the level of foreign minister.
He added: "We all supported the process with the hope that it will bring peace in 2008. We are now asking what happened, why no progress?"
At the US-hosted meeting in Annapolis, Maryland, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas agreed to try to conclude a peace deal by the end of this year.
But a top Israeli minister said on Monday the Jewish state was not aiming for a peace treaty with the Palestinians this year, but only a declaration of principles.
In a final communique, the ministers said they supported "the current Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which are the only way to achieve a peaceful two-state solution."
It added: "Only a comprehensive political agreement can deliver sustainable security for all peoples of this region."
The meeting called "for the immediate re-opening of the crossings between Gaza and Israel so that essential goods and services, including fuel, can be supplied on a continuous basis."
The ministers also discussed energy and climate change.
"People would think that in the area of environment, producing countries and consuming countries, like Europe, would have a conflict in this area. Completely not true," said Saudi Al Soud Saud Al Faisal Bin Abdulaziz, who co-chaired the meeting with his Maltese and Slovenian counterparts.
"We are in the same boat. After all, we breathe the same air and we drink the same water, we live on the same earth. So these elements affect us all," he said.
The ministers also discussed Lebanon, migration and inter-cultural dialogue, said Maltese Foreign Minister Michael Frendo.
On Lebanon, they stressed their conviction that a plan unanimously endorsed by Arab League foreign ministers in January "is an appropriate basis for a solution to the ongoing crisis."
Nine EU countries and 12 member states of the Arab League were represented at the foreign minister level at the talks, including Spain, Italy, Ireland, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Frendo launched the initiative for the talks in September 2006 with a letter to the then-Finnish EU presidency.
Egypt offered to host the next meeting of the two blocs, but no dates were set in the final communique, which called for continued dialogue.
© 2008 Agence France-Presse