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Red Sea Meetings Precede Israeli and Palestinian Summit - 2003-06-03

A day before a summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, President George W. Bush meets with five Arab leaders in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. The result: an endorsement of the U.S.-backed “road map” plan for peace. Amy Katz has details on that.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he and the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain support the efforts of the new Palestinian Prime Minister – Mahmoud Abbas – to put an end to violence and terrorism.

“We affirm our position again against terror and violence. We will continue to fight the scourge of terrorism against humanity and reject the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives.”

An end to terrorism has been one of Israel’s demands for moving the peace process forward. Mr. Mubarak called on Israel to fulfill its responsibilities, which he said are to “rebuild trust and restore normal Palestinian life,” as well as to meet the obligations called for in the road map.

President Bush said if both sides fulfill their obligations, they would be able to make steady progress toward a Palestinian state, a secure Israel and true peace in the region.

“America is committed, and I am committed to helping all of the parties to reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace.”

President Bush himself drove the five Arab leaders from their meeting to the news conference, which was held outdoors, with the Red Sea as the backdrop.

The Tuesday talks began with a bi-lateral meeting between Presidents Bush and Mubarak.

The leaders of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority then joined that meeting. The main topic – the U.S. and internationally supported so-called “road map” Middle East peace plan.

This resort town – Aqaba, Jordan is the site for President Bush’s three-way summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Abbas on Wednesday.

Mr. Bush has said the world needs a Palestinian state and what he called “a few killers” cannot be allowed to prevent a peace agreement.

He has also said Israel must consider removing Jewish settlements from the West Bank and Gaza strip, so as he put it, “there is a continuous territory Palestinians can call home.”

Meanwhile, Israel began releasing about a hundred more Palestinian prisoners Tuesday.

But in the West Bank town of Nablus clashes between Israelis and Palestinians broke out as Israeli forces imposed a curfew on a refugee camp.