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Bush to Hold Summits with Arab and Israeli Leaders - 2003-05-28


The White House announces U.S. President George W. Bush will make his first visit to the Middle East next week, where he will hold two summits aimed at pushing forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The first, to be held at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort in Egypt Tuesday, will be with Arab leaders. The second, which will be hosted by King Abdullah of Jordan in the resort city of Aqaba, is where President Bush is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen.

It is the first time President Bush has taken a personal role in trying to end the conflict. Amy Katz reports.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the upcoming Israeli-Palestinian summit shows the U.S. is committed to the implementation of the so-called “road map” to peace in the Middle East.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE
“I think it would give both leaders, Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas, an opportunity to express their views directly to the President. And I think it would give some hope and inspiration to the people of the region that we are now moving forward on the road map toward the vision that the President had.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, says President Bush’s participation is crucial if that vision, a vision of two states: Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace, is to become a reality.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL
“I think the summit will really be the announcing of these two things: presidential involvement by the United States and the beginning of the steps that both sides will have to take.”

Appearing on the Worldnet Television program “Global Exchange” Wednesday, Ambassador Indyk said the U.S. is going to have to bridge the gaps of mistrust and hatred between the Israelis and Palestinians.

MARTIN INDYK, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO ISRAEL
“The United States has to come in, the President has to put his arm around Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abu Mazen and move them forward, give them the confidence that the other cannot provide, that the United States will fill that gap of lack of confidence and mistrust, by reassuring both sides that if they take the action, the United States will ensure that the other side takes the actions they’re required to take.”

Yasser Arafat, President of the Palestinian Authority, who met with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio Wednesday, says he wants to be part of any peace talks. But the White House says he is not invited to either of the upcoming summits.

Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas, who also met with the Spanish Foreign Minister, said he will meet with Prime Minister Sharon Thursday, to discuss the implementation of the “road map” peace plan. He urged the Israelis to seize what he called the “historic opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Sharon clarified his statement about Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said he was just referring to Palestinians in disputed territories, making the distinction between the people and the land, some of which Mr. Sharon indicates Israel should keep.

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