"The time has come," says President George W. Bush, "for a Palestinian state and peace in the Middle East." Mr. Bush addressed representatives from nearly fifty countries and international organizations who gathered in Annapolis, Maryland, to launch the first Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years:
" We meet to lay the foundation for the establishment of a new nation -- a democratic Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and security. We meet to help bring an end to the violence that has been the true enemy of the aspirations of both the Israelis and Palestinians."
Mr. Bush read a statement agreed to by both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas:
"We express our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering and decades of conflict between our peoples; to usher in a new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice, dignity, respect and mutual recognition; to propagate a culture of peace and nonviolence; to confront terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis. In furtherance of the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, we agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, as specified in previous agreements."
The time is right for peace, said Mr. Bush, because "a battle is underway for the future of the Middle East:
"The extremists are seeking to impose a dark vision on the Palestinian people -- a vision that feeds on hopelessness and despair to sow chaos in the Holy Land. If this vision prevails, the future of the region will be endless terror, endless war, and endless suffering. Standing against this dark vision are President Abbas and his government. They are offering the Palestinian people an alternative vision for the future -- a vision of peace, a homeland of their own, and a better life."
"The day is coming," said President Bush, "when Palestinians will enjoy the blessings that freedom brings -- and all Israelis will enjoy the security they deserve."