U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the Middle East to try to help narrow differences between Israel and the Palestinians as they work on a joint document to memorialize understandings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas ahead of an international meeting the U.S. will host later this year with the aim of advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace.
During a press conference with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Dr. Rice said Mr. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert have made progress in their discussions. “My goal in being here at this time,” said Ms. Rice, “is to see what I can do to help you sustain that momentum toward the conclusion of a joint document that you could bring to an international meeting that President Bush has called for sometime this fall. It is a very important time in the Palestinian-Israeli issue,” she said, because “there is goodwill on both sides, there is growing confidence, and growing trust.”
Secretary of State Rice said the purpose of the international meeting is “to work on an international basis to support the efforts of Palestinians and Israelis to end their conflict”:
“We know that that requires the addressing of a number of issues -- core issues -- that must be resolved ultimately if there is to be a Palestinian state. We know that that must involve looking to improve the lives of Palestinians economically, to improve the lives of the Palestinians in terms of movement and access.”
Dr. Rice pointed out that President George W. Bush recently told the Al Arabiya Arab-language satellite television channel that he wants the meeting to be “serious and substantive” and to “advance the cause of the establishment of a Palestinian state”:
“The president has decided to make this one of the highest priorities of his administration and of his time in office. It means that he is absolutely serious about moving this issue forward and moving it as rapidly as possible to conclusion.”
The United States, said Secretary of State Rice, sees “the establishment of a Palestinian state, a two-state solution, as absolutely essential to the future of not just Palestinians and Israelis but also to the Middle East and. . . .to American interests.”