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U.S. Calls for Arab World to Normalize Israel Ties

U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell called on Arab states on Monday to fully normalize ties with Israel, after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the latest leg of a regional tour.

"Israeli soldiers secure their national flag at their army camp on the outskirts of the Israeli city of Katzrin in the Golan Heights. U.S. Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell has called on Arab states to fully normalise ties with Israel, after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the latest leg of a regional tour."

Mitchell told reporters after the talks that Washington was asking countries in the region to set the "context" for comprehensive peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab world.

"By comprehensive I mean peace between Israel and Palestinians, between Israel and Syria, between Israel and Lebanon and the full normalization of relations between Israel and the countries of the region," he said.

"We're not asking anyone to achieve full normalization at this time, we recognize that will come further down the road in this process," he said.

But he added that the U.S. administration wanted to see "meaningful steps by individual countries."

Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel, but neither have fully normalized ties. Some other Arab countries, such as Qatar, have trade relations with Israel.

After the Mubarak meeting, Mitchell headed to the occupied West Bank where he is to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas. On Tuesday he will hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, likely to focus on U.S. demands that Israel halt settlement activity in the West Bank.

On Sunday, he met Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Olmert in Tel Aviv.

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