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Pakistan Boosts Contacts With Israel

Pakistan Pervez Musharraf (file photo) 2 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- President General Pervez Musharraf says Pakistan is planning to send a delegation to Israel, but is not yet ready to formally recognize the Jewish state.

Musharraf spoke following talks between the Pakistani and Israeli foreign ministers on 1 September in the Turkish city of Istanbul. The meeting was believed to be the first public contact between the governments of the two countries.

Musharraf said Pakistan would not open full diplomatic relations with Israel until a sovereign Palestinian state is created.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Kursheed Kasuri said Pakistan was encouraged by Israel's evacuation of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which was completed last week.

"Pakistan attaches great importance to Israel ending its occupation of Gaza. We see this development as a beginning of the process of vacation [ending] of Israeli occupation and establishing a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Pakistan has therefore decided to engage with Israel," Kasuri said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom called his talks with his Pakistani counterpart a "huge breakthrough" and said it was time for all Muslim and Arab countries to reconsider their relations with Israel.