Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas are expected to meet later this week to discuss the U.S.-backed “road map” peace plan, in advance of a possible summit with U.S. President George W. Bush, which might be held in Jordan next week. The Israeli-Palestinian talks were originally set for Wednesday, but were postponed for what officials said were scheduling conflicts. Amy Katz has details.
The White House has not officially announced plans for a Middle East summit, but spokesman Ari Fleischer says the Israeli and Palestinian acceptance of the road map could be a hopeful moment for the Middle East. After a sustained period of violence, he said President Bush wants to take advantage of the momentum.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN
“We have seen moments in the Middle East come and go before, when people thought they could achieve peace. This President is committed to seeing if perhaps this time peace can be achieved.”
Mr. Fleischer said President Bush might also hold meetings about the peace plan with other Middle East leaders if he goes to the region.
At a meeting on the Greek island of Crete Tuesday, Foreign Ministers from European and Arab nations, along with Israel, warned that extremist groups and terrorists would likely try to derail the road map with attacks. At the end of the meeting, the group put their political differences aside, issuing a joint declaration condemning terrorism.
Meanwhile, on the West Bank, violence between Israelis and Palestinians flared Tuesday. In Jenin, clashes broke out when the Israeli army tried to impose a curfew. Similar clashes also erupted in other West Bank towns.
NATURAL SOUND – ARIEL SHARON SPEAKING
Israeli Prime Minster Sharon has been criticized by his own Likud Party for accepting the road map peace plan. At a Likud meeting Monday, he defended the decision, saying it would be bad for both the Israelis and Palestinians for Israel to continue to keep 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation forever. It was the first time he had ever used the term occupation.