U.S. President George W. Bush is in Aqaba, Jordan, for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. VOA's Sonja Pace is there and reports on today's efforts to launch the so-called road map for peace in the region.
President Bush's visit to Aqaba was to be relatively short, only a matter of hours. But officials hoped it would be long enough to get concrete commitments from both the Israelis and Palestinians to implement the road map.
By the afternoon American officials would like to get Israeli recognition of the Palestinians' right to an independent state, one that is contiguous and does not consist of small, separate enclaves. From the Palestinians they want full recognition of Israel's right to exist in peace and security.
To move ahead with peace, Mr. Abbas will have to prove he's willing and able to crack down on militants and halt terrorism. The Israelis will be expected to further ease restrictions on the Palestinians and begin dismantling illegal Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This is Mr. Bush's first personal, hands-on effort at Middle East peacemaking since he became president. He has acknowledged that long and difficult negotiations lie ahead. The Administration is stressing, however, that at least the two sides have begun to talk.
While the leaders were talking peace in Aqaba, tensions continued on the ground. Israeli security services say they've received more than 60 specific terrorist threats coinciding with the Aqaba summit. Police and security forces have been put on alert. Also, the West Bank town of Jenin has been put under curfew and Israel radio reported that troops moved into areas north of the West Bank town of Hebron in search of suspected Palestinian militants.