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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

International Leaders Push For Mideast Peace Initiative

JERUSALEM -- An international diplomatic drive for Middle East peace gained momentum Monday, with Israel welcoming the idea of a regional peace summit and Saudi Arabia suggesting that it would consider changes in a dormant peace initiative to make it more acceptable to Israel.

Senior U.S. and UN officials confirmed that they were trying to bring Israelis and Arabs together in a wide push for peace, but acknowledged that the idea was still at an early stage.

The new developments came at a time of high-profile diplomacy, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice both in the region for talks with Israeli and Arab leaders.

The international officials are trying to break an impasse following the formation of a Palestinian unity government that includes the Hamas militant group.

Immediately after the government was formed, Israel ruled out peace talks with the Palestinians until Hamas explicitly recognizes the Jewish state.

But on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he "wouldn't hesitate" to take part in a regional summit. Palestinian officials cautiously endorsed the idea.

Any such meeting -- especially if Saudi and Israeli officials were to meet publicly -- would be a huge symbolic breakthrough.

Saudis and Israelis are believed to have held private meetings in the last year.

At a joint news conference with Olmert in Jerusalem, Ban confirmed that consultations on bringing the many parties together were ongoing, but said further talks were needed.

Olmert said he would look at an invitation to such a summit "in a very positive manner."