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Peres, Arafat publicly renew their peace partnership
Comments may stem from progress at recent talks
DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- A forum attended by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Sunday resulted in positive signs in the ongoing Middle East peace process.
Appearing in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering of global leaders, Peres and Arafat referred to each other as "partners in peace."
"This has been a phrase that has been missing from Israeli-Palestinian relations in the past four months," reported CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna.
Four months of Israeli-Palestinian fighting has killed 345 Palestinians, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society. Israel Defense Forces lists 50 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs dead in the fighting. Both sides blame each other for the clashes.
"The very fact that Palestinian and Israeli leaders would be meeting in an international forum such as this is indicative that perhaps some change has occurred at the seaside resort of Taba in Egypt," Hanna reported.
Taba was the site of 10 days of Israeli-Palestinian talks that ended Saturday with no final agreement -- but leaving both sides closer than ever before to a peace deal, negotiators said.
At the Davos forum, which was titled "From Peacemaking to Peacebuilding," Peres was adamant with Arafat on the issue of sincerity. "I want you -- our partner -- to be convinced that we are very, very sincere in having you as a partner who lives in security, in freedom, in respect, all of you, each of you, all of us, all of us together. I think we can achieve it," Peres said.
"Maybe in the coming seven weeks we can conclude the agreement," he continued. "Let's not postpone it. We have come such a long distance. Let's make the extra mile. Let's walk the last piece of the road for peace and have it."
Arafat followed Peres' comments by speaking in English, which the Palestinian leader does not do often. "We will continue together," Arafat said, shaking Peres' hand as the audience applauded.
Despite Peres' and Arafat's return to using the phrase "partner in peace" for each other, the Palestinian Authority president did issue an angry denunciation of measures he said Israel was taking against the Palestinian people.
"I wouldn't wish an Israeli child to live a single hour of the lives that Palestinian children are now having to live, suffering under repression and bombardment," Arafat said.
Arafat blamed "extremists in both camps" for blocking Israel and the Palestinian Authority from reaching a final peace agreement. "It is these extremists who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. These same extremists are now resorting to violence against us, against all of us.
"We have extremists, too, in our own camp, in our own ranks," Arafat said. "Of course, there are extremists everywhere, all over the world ... Despite this we are defending ourselves against these extremists."
Rabin was assassinated November 4, 1995, by an ultra-nationalist Jew who was opposed to the then-prime minister's land-for-peace agreements with the Palestinians.
Peres also denounced so-called extremists on his side who might take up arms against Palestinians.
"We have extremes," Peres said. "We don't let extremes use rifles."
CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna contributed to this report.
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