Historic handshake: Barak meets Iraq's president in Athens
Defense Minister to meet with Palestinian president on sidelines of summit; agenda has not been revealed.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday had a brief meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at a conference in Greece.
The two shook hands when introduced by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during the 23rd congress of the Socialist International at the Lagonissi Grand Resort, about 40 kilometers south of Athens.
Abbas and Barak met on the sidelines of the conference. The agenda of the talks has not been announced, and neither made any statement entering the meeting hall Tuesday.
Abbas said his government would work to keep alive a June 19 truce between Israel and the militant Islamic group Hamas.
"Israel will live in an island and sea of peace if Israel withdraws from Arab and Palestinian territories," Abbas told the conference.
"We witness some steps in this direction which may stop this violence and bloodshed... Now there has been an agreement and we hope it will be kept. We want to keep this truce going."
"We hope that before the end of this year, and this is a hope, we can reach a true agreement for the end of the occupation and violence ... between Israel and Palestine," Abbas said before his closed-door meeting with Barak.
The Palestinian president met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert earlier this month, just prior to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region.
While peace talks under U.S. guidance have been progressing, Israel's continued construction in areas of East Jerusalem and West Bank settlements has raised the ire of the Palestinians and put a damper on negotiations.
"The painful truth is that we still have a long way to go to achieve success," Abbas said.
Barak, who also met Talabani briefly on the sidelines of the 3-day conference, said that Israel wished to extend its indirect peace talks with Syria to cover Iraq as well.
He said Iran's nuclear program was the greatest threat to Middle Eastern security and urged the international community to increase diplomatic and economic pressure on Tehran.
"The Iranian nuclear program is a challenge to any possible world order," Barak said. He declined to comment on media reports that Israel conducted a military exercise in Greek airspace simulating a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
Greek Defence Ministry sources have said the maneuvers were "only an exercise for training purposes," but concerns over tensions between Israel and the world's fourth largest oil exporter have pushed oil prices to records above $140 a barrel.