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World powers mediating in the Middle East conflict reaffirmed on Friday
World powers mediating in the Middle East conflict reaffirmed on Friday the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2008 remained a key settlement objective.

Speaking at a news conference after talks in London between the UN, U.S., EU and Russia, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the quartet urged proactive efforts to maintain talks aiming to create a Palestinian state, and end the conflict and violence.

Israel and the Palestinian National Authority pledged at a U.S.-sponsored Middle East summit in Annapolis last year to resume peace talks, draft a settlement plan by late 2008 and come to terms on the form of a future independent Palestinian state. But their talks have made little tangible progress.

The quartet welcomed "concrete steps by both sides," such as the removal of several Israeli roadblocks and Palestinian security improvements, but said "much more remained to be done," Ban Ki-moon said.

The group condemned ongoing Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and several terrorist attacks earlier this year, calling on Palestinians to step up efforts to curb terrorism.

The mediators also expressed "deep concern" about ongoing Israeli construction in West Bank settlements.

The quartet said there was unease over the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which is under a strict blockade Israel imposed since Hamas militants took control of the Palestinian enclave last June, and in response to rocket attacks fired into Israel from the territory.

Gaza has suffered a shortage of fuel and basic supplies as its major crossing points have been blocked by Israel.

In a statement issued after the talks the world powers called on Arab states to fulfill their financial and political pledges to help Gaza.

"...The quartet encouraged the Arab states to fulfill both their political and financial roles in support of the Annapolis process," the statement said.


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