ANKARA, Nov 13 (Reuters) The leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in a rare joint appearance before a foreign legislature, pledged support today for planned West Asia peace talks in the United States this month.
In addresses to Turkey's parliament, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the conference at Annapolis, Maryland, in late November would provide a vital chance to kickstart the stalled peace process.
''This is a historic occasion which must not become a historic failure,'' Peres said in his speech, delivered in Hebrew and dubbed into Turkish in live television coverage.
''We are determined to reach a two-state solution for our two peoples, a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people and a Jewish state for the Jewish people.'' Peres, a veteran statesman, has now a largely ceremonial role as president and does not speak for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government which decides policy.
''We support the American efforts (to revive the peace process) ... We extend our hand for dialogue,'' Abbas told the lawmakers, in remarks translated into Turkish from Arabic.
Abbas, who like Peres steered clear of details in his speech, has been badly weakened by the seizure of the Gaza Strip by his Hamas Islamist opponents last June. Hamas opposes Abbas's peace efforts with Israel.
Even as Abbas spoke in Ankara, Hamas was rounding up dozens of activists from his secular Fatah movement in the Gaza Strip one day after a Fatah rally of more than 200,000 people ended in gunfire that killed seven people.
DIPLOMATIC DRIVE Muslim, but secular, Turkey invited Peres and Abbas to address its parliament as part of Ankara's diplomatic drive to increase its own profile in the Middle East region.
Turkey is one of the few countries in the region to have good relations with both Israel and the Palestinians as well as with the Jewish state's regional foes, Iran and Syria.
Yesterday, Turkey told Peres it was trying to help free two Israeli soldiers captured by Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas last year. Their seizure triggered a brief war in which around 1,200 people in Lebanon and more than 150 Israelis died.
Earlier today, Peres, Abbas and Turkey's President Abdullah Gul attended a signing ceremony of a framework accord to set up an industrial zone in the Palestinian West Bank, which is controlled by Abbas' Fatah faction.
Turkish firms will invest in the zone, which is designed to help tackle serious unemployment among Palestinians. Peres described the industrial zone as a ''win-win'' agreement.
REUTERS SBC HT2154