U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is in the Middle East for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an effort to make progress on the international peace plan known as the road map.
The secretary has sought to lessen expectations that the meetings with the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers and other officials would lead to any kind of breakthrough. He told journalists on the flight to Israel, however, that he will do everything he can to press both sides to move quickly to resolve their differences.
Mr. Powell says the two sides are making progress toward restoring Palestinian security in the Gaza Strip, one of the requirements of the road map. But there has been no agreement to do that yet, despite a series of Palestinian-Israeli security meetings over the past few days.
Another road map requirement is for Israel to dismantle all illegal outposts established in Palestinian areas since 2001. More than 30 people were injured Thursday in scuffles that broke out when Israeli soldiers and police tried to do just that at the Mitzpe Yitzhar outpost near the West Bank town of Nablus.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, meanwhile, has not been successful in his attempts to persuade militants to end attacks on Israeli civilians.
Press reports have said both Islamic Jihad and Hamas have agreed to do so in principle, but have still not given a formal reply to a request for a ceasefire from Mr. Abbas.
President Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers agreed to begin implementing the road map at a summit in Aqaba, Jordan just two weeks ago.
But the plan ran into trouble almost immediately with a new outbreak of violence that left dozens dead on both sides. Since then the United States has maintained steady diplomatic pressure on the Israelis and Palestinians to calm the situation and move ahead with the plan.