Israel-Palestine: Cease-fire talks go on

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas held key talks with leaders of the Islamic militant group &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Hamas in a bid to persuade them to sign up to a permanent ceasefire with Israel.

Abbas travelled from Gaza City to an undisclosed location for the talks with Hamas leaders Mahmud Zahar and Ismail Haniyah, sources on both sides said.

He was later to hold separate talks later with leaders of Hamas's smaller rival &to=http://' target=_blank>Islamic Jihad to ask them too to sign up to a mutual ceasefire which he announced with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a breakthrough peace summit on Tuesday, writes the Turkish Press.

The talks come hours after Israeli and Palestinian officials announced Israel will allow about 55 exiled Palestinians to return to the West Bank.

An Israeli official says the returnees must refrain from terrorist activities. The deal could be implemented in two weeks.

Israel expelled the Palestinians to the &to=http://' target=_blank>Gaza Strip and Europe for alleged terror links. Some were involved in the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002, says Voice of America.

Ending violence is key to reviving a U.S.-backed peace "road map" that charts mutual steps toward the creation of a Palestinian state alongside a secure Israel.

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