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President Shimon Peres urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to remain in office and to work with Israel on a peace agreement.
"We both signed the Oslo Accord," Peres said, as he addressed Abbas during a speech he gave on Saturday night at the annual memorial rally for slain prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in Tel Aviv.
Peres spoke in Rabin Square two days after Abbas announced that he "had no desire" to seek reelection in January. Peres urged him not to quit and called on the Palestinian people to continue with the peace process.
"Don't let go," he told Abbas.
And then, in a statement to both Abbas and the Palestinian people, he said, "Knowing my people and knowing the Israeli government, I tell you that Israel wants real peace.
"This coming year could be a decisive one," he said. "Let's work together to ensure that it does not end in destruction but rather in the greatest contribution that we can give to our children, a true peace."
Peres called on Palestinians and Israelis to pursue that peace in memory of Rabin, who was killed by a Jewish assassin in that "same square 14 years ago.
"The three bullets that killed [Rabin] were meant for the peace process," he said. "They were fired in order to kill hope. Those who starve peace fatten extremism, and those who reject the two-state solution won't bring a one-state solution. They will bring one conflict, not one state. A bloody endless conflict," Peres said.
Turning to the crowd, he said: "We meet here again to stop peace from slipping away... I ask you, demand of you: Do not let go of your political emissaries, not from the Right and not from the Left. Demand that they pursue peace. Don't let yourselves rest and don't let them rest. This is our duty in life, this is our generation's yearning, this is our dream.
"Leave no stone unturned so that next year we will stand here, on the 15th year since the murder, and will be able to say: We acted and fulfilled our dream and Yitzhak's last will."
Abroad, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner asserted on Friday that Abbas's decision not to run for a second term in January's scheduled election was a "threat to peace" in the Middle East.
Kouchner said Abbas's generation was the best hope for settling the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, adding that Abbas's decision was a threat not only to peace, but "for us also."
Kouchner said French officials would discuss peace efforts with Syrian President Bashar Assad, as well as with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, when both leaders visit Paris next week for separate meetings with President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu said he hoped "the decision by Mr. Abbas is not his final decision."
Kouchner and Davutoglu held talks in Paris on Friday.
The Moroccan Foreign Ministry also added its voice to those expressing concern over Abbas's decision, imploring him to run in the upcoming election and praising his "proven leadership" and ability to renew peace talks, Israel Radio reported later on Friday.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said of Abbas on Friday, "We have tremendous respect for him and we think he's an important player in the process, a voice of moderation, and we look forward to continuing to work with him."