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British officials encourage Middle East peace talks
LONDON (Reuters) -- British junior minister Peter Hain will begin a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Tuesday to offer encouragement for the Middle East peace process, British officials said on Monday.
The start of his visit coincides with a trip to London by Israel's acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami who is due to meet British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.
"The purpose of my visit is to use Britain's influence and friendships in the region to encourage progress, not to broker a deal or seek a breakthrough," the Foreign Office Minister said in a statement.
"The window of opportunity for agreement is small. Now is the time for friends of the peace process to do what they can to encourage all the parties to work as constructively as possible while there is still time."
Ben-Ami, touring Europe seeking support for Israel's stand in the peace process, has said an accord is within reach and both sides must grasp it.
"We are on the verge of being able to reach a final agreement (with Palestinians)," Ben-Ami told the French daily Le Monde in an interview published on Monday to coincide with his visit to Paris.
Ben-Ami said his country had made more concessions to the Palestinians than any other Israeli government before and any other might in the future.
"We believe that the global deal now on the table is not ideal for any of the parties, but it is a reasonable deal. Will we have the courage to grasp the opportunity and avoid embarking on an endless process?" Ben-Ami asked.
Ben-Ami had talks with French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine on Monday.
The key issues of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees were believed to be behind the failure of last month's peace summit at Camp David in the United States.
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