U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell recently met with Quartet partners. The Quartet -- composed of the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Russia -- is working to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Mr. Powell said that the group discussed ways to ensure that Israel's disengagement from Gaza contributes to real progress toward peace. He also said the group discussed practical measures to help with reconstruction in the Palestinian territories and assist with Palestinian presidential elections on January 9th.
The Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have already agreed on steps to ensure that Palestinians living in East Jerusalem can register to vote. A successful Palestinian presidential election, Secretary of State Powell said, could be a stepping stone to further progress:
"The key is to focus on the election on 9 January, to make sure that the Palestinian people and Palestinian candidates are able to move around in order to present their candidacy to the electorate and then to have an election on the 9th of January where people are free to go vote. . . . So I sense that both sides want to move forward."
Further progress also depends on an end to terrorism against Israel. President George W. Bush said the United States is looking forward to "working with a Palestinian leadership that is committed to fighting terror and committed to the cause of democratic reform." The U.S., said Mr. Bush, will also "work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to complete the disengagement plan from Gaza and part of the West Bank."