Rice Says Middle East Peace Process Will Continue in Annapolis

Kicking off a fresh round of diplomatic talks in the Middle East to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced on Monday that the Bush administration considers the establishment of a Palestinian state “essential for the future” of the Middle East and the United States.

“Frankly, it’s time for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” she said after emerging from a three-hour meeting in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I wanted to say in my own voice to as many people as possible that the United States sees the establishment of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution as absolutely essential for the future, not just for Palestinians and Israelis, but also for the Middle East and indeed for American interests. That’s really a message that I think only I can deliver.”

Brokering a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been the elusive foreign policy ‘holy grail’ for successive US presidents, and President George Bush now appears determined to include it in his legacy.

Israeli and Palestinian diplomatic teams will meet over the coming weeks to develop a joint declaration ahead of the US-sponsored Middle East summit scheduled to begin on November 26 in Annapolis, Maryland.

The peace process encompasses a mine field of contentious issues including the right of return for Palestinian refugees, Israeli-Palestinian borders, Jewish settlements in the West Bank, national security for both states and the allocation of water resources.

While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would prefer that a general statement, if any, be hammered out prior to the summit, Mr Abbas has said he will not show up unless a detailed document sets objectives and deadlines for the start and end of final-status negotiations.

“Everything should be clear in the conference … not open-ended,” said Mr Abbas.

Dr Rice didn’t say whether she thought the document needed to completed before the conference to serve as a basis for the peace talks, but said the leaders would be expected to deal with substantive issues when they meet next month.

“We frankly have better things to do than invite people to Annapolis for a photo-op,” she said.

Mr Olmert suggested in a speech to the Knesset on Monday that he may agree to relinquish control of some outlying Palestinian neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, long considered a basic concession to move the two-state solution forward.

Ahmed Qureia, a former Palestinian prime minister and the lead Palestinian negotiator in the peace talks, said last week that the Palestinians are ready to yield parts of the West Bank to Israel if compensated with an equal amount of land.

Despite the numerous and complex issues that need to be worked through, Dr Rice said she felt encouraged that the initiative is “the most serious effort to end this conflict in many, many years”.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Alex
    Dec 06, 2007 @ 14:54:11

    And what do you think of Obadiah Shoher’s arguments against the peace process ( samsonblinded.org/blog/we-need-a-respite-from-peace.htm )?


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