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Fri 24 Jul 2009 12:49 PM

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Netanyahu calls for 'warm peace' with Arabs

'We hope in the months and years ahead to forge peace with the Palestinians' - Israel PM.

Netanyahu calls for 'warm peace' with Arabs
PEACE CALL: Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979.(Getty Images)

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for a "warm peace" between Israel and its Arab neighbours on Thursday in a rare speech at the Egyptian ambassador's residence near Tel Aviv."I think we can have a very warm peace," Netanyahu said, according to statements carried by the private Channel Ten television.

"We hope in the months and years ahead to forge peace with the Palestinians and to expand that into a vision of a broader regional peace," Netanyahu said.

"I think a comprehensive peace is possible," he added.

Netanyahu made the remarks at the residence of Egyptian Ambassador Yasser Rida near Tel Aviv, where a reception was held to celebrate Egyptian national day.

Israeli President Shimon Peres also attended the ceremony in Herzliya north of Tel Aviv and joined Rida and Netanyahu in symbolically cutting the cake.

Egypt was the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. Jordan followed suit in 1994.

Relations between Israel and its peace partners have been lukewarm if not tense at times but in recent weeks several Israeli officials have travelled to Egypt for talks with President Hosni Mubarak.

Netanyahu was in Egypt in May, followed by Defence Minister Ehud Barak in June and Peres, whose role as president is largely ceremonial, was in the neighbouring country earlier this month.

Several Israeli warships have recently passed through Egypt's Suez Canal for the first time, to take part in manoeuvres in the Red Sea.

Netanyahu's remarks come as US special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell prepares to return to the region this weekend to help push the peace process.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said that Mitchell will hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials and will also travel to Bahrain.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa authored a column in The Washington Post on July 17 calling on Arab leaders to reach out to the Israeli people by engaging with Israeli media outlets.

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