Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon telephoned Palestinian president-elect Mahmoud Abbas Tuesday to congratulate him on Sunday's election victory. Israeli sources said on Monday that arrangements were being made for a meeting between Abbas and Sharon in the coming days.
On Tuesday, Sharon told his new Cabinet he would call Abbas and plan a meeting for "the near future," officials in the meeting said. The Israeli leader, at the first meeting with his new Cabinet, said he would call Abbas later Tuesday, and the two would discuss scheduling a meeting, an official said, requesting anonymity.
Later in the day, a senior Palestinian official said that the two leaders spoke for about 10 minutes.
Also Tuesday, Israeli President Moshe Katsav called Abbas to congratulate him on his election victory, and to express the hope for further reconciliation. He also told Abbas that he would be pleased to hold talks with him following his meeting with Sharon.
During their conversation, Katsav said that the diplomatic divides between Abbas and the Israeli government were "smaller than they once were," to which Abbas replied that he wishes to renew the peace process. "I hope that we can turn a new page in the relations between us," said the new Palestinian president.
Abbas said Monday that " We extend our hands to our neighbors. We are ready for peace, peace based on justice. We hope that their response will be positive."
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