Palestinian crisis

The ministers are preparing for an Islamic summit aimed at ending turmoil in the Middle East, particularly the Palestinian crisis.

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"The land of Israel belongs to both Jews and Palestinians - as long as there are people who reject this fact, the conflict will never be solved"

Iskander, Boston, US

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Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan's prime minister, said peace in the Middle East depended on a fair solution to the Palestinian problem and urged a united stand against radicalism.

Aziz told the ministers in opening remarks: "Durable peace in the Middle East demands an honourable solution of Palestine based on justice, equity and realism in line with the wishes of the Palestinian people."

He said the dispute over Iran's nuclear programme should be resolved peacefully and force should be avoided.

The idea for a summit of Islamic countries has been championed by Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's president, who has long said the Palestinian conflict was the root of terrorism and extremism.

New initiative

Musharraf, whose government does not recognise Israel but has held talks with the state, has expressed gloom about the problems besetting the region and has urged a new initiative in talks with several Muslim countries over the past few weeks.

The ministers are expected to set a date for a summit of Muslim countries that Saudi Arabia has agreed to host in the Muslim holy city of Mecca.

Rival Palestinian factions met there earlier this month and agreed on a unity government, hoping to end bloodshed between their followers.

Aziz said the Palestinian unity government would help progress towards a sovereign and viable Palestinian state.