Rice in Israel to advance Mideast peace process

August 25th, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Jerusalem, Aug 25 (Xinhua) US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Israel Monday to give another push for the sluggish peace process between the Jewish state and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), Ha’aretz daily reported on its website.Hours before Rice’s arrival, Israel released 198 Palestinian prisoners at Beitunya checkpoint north of Jerusalem in the morning as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice’s Monday trip is the seventh in her shuttle diplomatic mission to the hot spot since the US-hosted peace conference in Annapolis in November, when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas resumed the long-stalled peace talks and pledged to reach a comprehensive peace agreement by the end of 2008.

Rice is expected to hold talks with senior officials of Israel and the PNA, focusing on “ongoing efforts to create positive and lasting peace in the region and progress towards the shared goal of a peace agreement in 2008,” the US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said last Friday.

In her latest visit to the region in mid-June, Rice criticized Israel for its expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying they undermined the peace process.

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