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New Middle East Peace Steps Urged by Bush
Palestinians must reject violence to realize statehood

By David McKeeby


July 16, 2007

Washington ­ President Bush has called for a Middle East peace conference this fall to be led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and include Palestinians, Israelis and regional neighbors who support creation of a Palestinian state.

"The international community must rise to the moment and provide decisive support to responsible Palestinian leaders working for peace," Bush said July 16.

Since the violent seizure of Gaza by Hamas in June, the United States has joined the international community in bolstering the Palestinian Authority administration of President Mahmoud Abbas, who dismissed the Hamas-dominated "unity government" and appointed a new government headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, a former World Bank economist.

A new government brings new opportunities for peace, Bush said, through the creation of a democratic Palestinian state that can live peacefully beside a secure Israel, in what diplomats have called the two-state solution.

"By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, we can help them show the world what a Palestinian state would look like and act like," Bush said.

Bush called on the Palestinians to embrace a future of decency and hope, and reject the future of terror and death being offered by Hamas. He said that involves arresting terrorists, confiscating illegal weapons and earning the trust of citizens by confronting corruption.

He also appealed to Israel to find ways to reduce its presence in the West Bank, while preserving its security.

"Unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended," Bush said.

Bush pledged more than $190 million in U.S. assistance to the Abbas government this year, which includes funds for humanitarian relief in the Gaza Strip. In addition, he announced an initiative by the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to raise $228 million in commercial loans to encourage economic development in the Palestinian Territories.

The United States also will redouble its diplomatic engagement to help Israeli and Palestinian leaders define the political horizon of a long term settlement, Bush said, and pressure Hamas to abandon and reject violence, accept the Abbas government, and permit humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.

Bush's remarks came as Abbas met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who announced that Israel would expedite the release of 250 prisoners, mostly from Abbas' Fatah Party, and suspend "kill or capture" orders against 180 other at-large militants to encourage further talks with Abbas' West Bank-based government. The two leaders are expected to meet again in two weeks in Jericho, the first meeting of the two in West Bank territory.

Bush also reiterated support for former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as he starts his new job as peace envoy for the Quartet for Middle East peace, a multilateral group including the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The group meets July 19 in Portugal to discuss the latest steps in the peace process.

Bush praised the Arab League for restarting its drive for peace in the region, and urged it to do more by increasing aid and trade opportunities for the Palestinians, toning down harsh anti-Israel rhetoric in the official media and stepping up contacts with Israel.


On the Web;

Transcript of the President Bush's remarks

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