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Bush, Mubarak View Plan to Close Gaza Settlements as 'Positive Development' - 2004-04-12

President Bush and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met Monday at Mr. Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas, where they discussed Iraq and the Middle East in general. Both leaders are backing a proposal by Israel to close settlements in the Gaza strip, as long as it is part of an overall move for peace in the Middle East.

President Bush says he and President Mubarak would view an Israeli closing of settlements in Gaza as a positive development, but that the only way to bring lasting peace is through the U.S.-sponsored "road map" to peace.

"We both are in agreement that if Israel makes the decision to withdraw it does not replace the road map, it is a part of the road map, so that we can continue progress toward the two-state solution," Mr. Bush said.

For his part, President Mubarak expressed interest in the Israeli initiative, but also insisted that any move be part of the overall plan for a comprehensive peace agreement.

"Any withdrawal from the occupied territory is very highly appreciated, but I would like the withdrawal to coincide with the road map, which is very important," he said.

Under the U.S.-backed plan, a Palestinian state would be created by the year 2005 as part of an agreement that would also include Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state of Israel. Mr. Bush says that terrorists are threatening the realization of that plan and he expressed the hope that they can be stopped.

The plan put forward by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon involves the closing of 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza, but only a few on the West Bank. President Bush says he will discuss this issue further when he meets the Israeli leader in Washington on Wednesday.