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World leaders agreed Sunday on a joint message on the crisis in the Middle East that reflected a significant swing of support toward Israel's argument that it has been acting in self-defense.
In their statement, the Group of Eight leaders called for the Israeli soldiers abducted in Gaza and Lebanon to be released unharmed; the shelling of Israeli territory to end; Israeli military operations to cease and Israeli forces to withdraw early from areas they have invaded in Gaza; and for arrested Palestinian ministers and legislators to be released.
But the statement did not call for a release of Arab prisoners held in Israel - which the terrorist groups have been trying to achieve - and expressed support for the disarming of Hizbullah.
At the same time, the leaders expressed their "deepening concern about the situation in the Middle East, in particular the rising civilian casualties on all sides and the damage to infrastructure," the statement read.
"We do not want to let terrorist forces and those who support them have the opportunity to create chaos in the Middle East," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters. "Therefore we place value on clearly identifying the cause and effect of events."
"We are convinced that the government of Lebanon must be given all support and that the relevant UN resolutions regarding the south of Lebanon must also be implemented," Merkel said.
"We also demand that in addition to the UN activities, another observation and security mission is established. That must be worked out through the UN," she said.
In addition to the four priority actions, the G-8 leaders said they supported the start of a political dialogue between the Lebanese and the Israelis, and that they would favor a donors conference for Lebanon "at the right time."
On Gaza, it called for all Palestinian parties to accept the conditions of the so-called "road map," including recognizing the existence of Israel and rejecting violence.
"For its part, Israel needs to refrain from unilateral acts that could prejudice a final settlement and agree to negotiate in good faith," the statement said.
On the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it called for an end to terrorist attacks against Israel, Israeli steps to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the West Bank, including compliance with a November 2005 agreement on movement, and the resumption of security cooperation between the Palestinians and Israelis.
It also called on Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to resume steps to ensure his government's compliance with the principles set by the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators - the United States, Russia, European Union and United Nations.
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