Palestinian leader Abbas receives Israeli delegation at Ramallah

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (left) with Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. PHOTO: NITZAN HOROWITZ/TWITTER

RAMALLAH, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (AFP) - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas met an Israeli government delegation in Ramallah on Sunday evening (Oct 3), the second meeting between the two sides in a month, said sources on both sides.

Mr Abbas received Israeli Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Freij and deputy Michal Rozin, all from the left-wing Meretz party, part of the ruling coalition.

"The President underlined the importance of ending the Israeli occupation and achieving a just and global peace conforming to international resolutions," the territory's official news agency Wafa reported.

Mr Abbas also stressed the need to put an end to the settlements, and to end the expulsion of Palestinian families from different parts of East Jerusalem, Wafa added.

The Meretz members reiterated their support for a two-state solution to the conflict, for an independent Palestinian state and the need to build trust between the two sides.

"We have a common mission: to maintain the hope of a peace founded on the two-state solution," Mr Horowitz wrote later on Twitter. The tweet included a photo of him standing with Mr Abbas. Mr Horowitz, leader of the Meretz party, has been harshly criticised by the right in Israel for his meetings with Mr Abbas.

In late August, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz visited the Palestinian authority's headquarters for talks with Mr Abbas, the first such official meeting at this level in several years.

But after those talks, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that there was no peace process ongoing with the Palestinians, "and there won't be one".

Sunday's meeting happened as leaders of the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, held talks in Egyptian capital Cairo over a possible exchange of prisoners with Israel.

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last month, Mr Abbas on Sept 24 gave Israel one year to withdraw from occupied territory, failing which he would no longer recognise the Jewish state based on pre-1967 borders.

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