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      Peres Hosts Arab Leaders, Hails Resumption of Peace Talks

      "Don't listen to the skeptics. Peace is possible," says always optimistic President Shimon Peres.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 7/22/2013, 3:16 AM

      President Shimon Peres meets PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in Jordan
      President Shimon Peres meets PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas at the World Economic Forum in Jordan
      Flash 90

      President Shimon Peres, always optimistic about peace in the Middle East, on Sunday hosted leaders from Israel's Arab community for an "iftar" dinner to break the Ramadan fast, during which he said the resumption of peace talks “is a first step towards a great future."

      Peres praised Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. "I want to commend my friend Mahmoud Abbas, who is brave and who will be in my opinion the father of the Palestinian state, so many years after Arafat. He will be the father of a modern Palestinian state, which has food, medicine and happiness. I want to commend the Prime Minister of Israel Netanyahu, who made a courageous and not so simple decision [to resume talks].”

      Peres also praised U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said on Friday that Israeli and PA negotiators will meet in Washington within "the next week or so" after an agreement on the basis to resume peace talks.

      “I know that people say that nothing will come of [the negotiations]. I say that something will come out," he said. "The situation today is different than in the past. The Arab world is undergoing a profound change, it wants to connect to the new world. These events require a change in the situation and we have reached a situation in which there is no longer benefit to war and terrorism. I think the terrorists who want to harm us only harm their own people.”

      "I know there are people who are skeptical, do not listen to them, there are speeches that make noise - do not listen to them,” said Peres. “They do not they tell the truth - the truth is in our hearts. There is only the truth of peace and cooperation. Hopefully during this important holiday we will start a new path, the first step to a great future,” he concluded.

      Senior PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said Sunday that the PA leadership has still not decided to return to negotiations with Israel. The decision depends on the PA's receiving clarifications on certain matters that are still unresolved, he said, and some of these are “substantive.”

      The Arab League said on Sunday it supported the Palestinian Authority’s stance on the announcement of resumed peace talks with Israel, but that it was skeptical of Israeli intentions.

      Iran, meanwhile, voiced opposition to the resumption of peace talks, predicting the Jewish state would never agree to withdraw from Judea and Samaria.

      Tehran "along with Palestinian groups expresses its opposition to the proposed plan and it's certain that the occupying Zionist regime will utterly not agree to withdraw from the occupied lands," foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi was quoted by local media as saying.

      "Past experience shows that the occupying Zionist regime is basically not ready to pay the price for peace since war mongering and occupation lie at its very core," he added.