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Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to resume talks aimed at boosting
Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to resume talks aimed at boosting progress toward the creation of an independent Palestinian state, U.S. President George W. Bush said on Tuesday.

Following a closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the start of a U.S.-sponsored Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland, Bush read a joint statement that outlined a plan to launch negotiations to conclude a peace agreement by the end of 2008.

"We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements," the statement said.

"We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008," it said.

According to the document, the parties will set up a "steering committee" that will monitor the progress of the resumed talks, with its first meeting to be held December 12. The committee will convene every two weeks after that.

The document also said that the negotiating parties pledged to fulfill their obligations in line with the "road map" toward the final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The "road map" was adopted on April 2003 by the Quartet of international mediators - the U.S., Russia, the United Nations and the European Union.


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