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Bush to Hold '3-Way' Summit During Mideast Visit - 2003-05-28


President Bush will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan next month. It is the president's first visit to the Middle East and his first face-to-face meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

President Bush will meet with Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba next Wednesday.

Their three-way summit will focus on moving forward with a timeline for power-sharing toward the creation of a separate Palestinian state by 2005.

Palestinian leaders have accepted the so-called "road map" for Middle East peace. Israel generally supports the plan but has raised some concerns about security.

The president's National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says Mr. Bush is making the trip because he believes it is a good time to sit down face-to-face with the men now responsible for implementing the peace plan.

"The president believes that this is a new opportunity for peace at the end of the war in Iraq and particularly with changes in the Palestinian leadership that there is a new opportunity, with the Israeli government's acceptance of the steps in the road map and some of the statements that Prime Minister Sharon has made about the future that he sees with the Palestinian people," said Ms. Rice.

Before his meetings in Jordan, Mr. Bush will discuss the peace plan with Arab leaders in Egypt. Ms. Rice says the president will meet with the leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Bahrain along with Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas to discuss what regional powers can do to encourage the peace process.

"The Arab leaders with whom he will meet are all telling him that this is a historic opportunity for peace," added Ms. Rice. "And that historic opportunity for peace is only going to be delivered if there is on the part of all parties a desire to take up their responsibilities."

Ms. Rice says Palestinians must reform their security services and take-up the cause of fighting terrorism. She says Israel must help create and encourage the establishment of a viable Palestinian state.

In his meetings with Arab leaders, Ms. Rice says the president will also discuss plans for a free trade agreement between the United States and the Middle East by the end of the decade.

These talks come at the end of a trip to Europe where the president will visit Poland, Russia and France.

Before returning home, Mr. Bush will visit U.S. troops at the Central Command Center in Doha to thank them for their successful invasion of Iraq.

The long-time Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat says he should be part of the talks on the "road map." Mr. Arafat is not invited to the summit in Jordan as President Bush has consistently refused to meet with him because he says the Palestinian leader has not done enough to fight terrorism.