Tags: Arab | Leaders | Endorse | Road | Map | Peace

Arab Leaders Endorse Road Map to Peace

Tuesday, 03 June 2003 12:00 AM

Mubarak noted that both the Israelis and Palestinians have accepted the road map, and he thanked President Bush for his personal commitment to implementing it.

President Bush appeared with Mubarak at a press conference on a sweltering day in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm e-Sheikh.

Earlier, President Bush met with Mubarak and then with other Arab leaders, including Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Bush is seeking full Arab backing for his road map to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He arrived in Egypt on Monday evening, pledging to "dedicate the time and energy to move the process forward."

At their joint news conference following closed-door meetings, President Bush called this a "moment of promise for the cause of peace in the Middle East."

The potential exists for the birth of a Palestinian state and a broader peace in the region, Bush said, although achieving those goals "will require courage and moral vision on every side, from every leader.

"America is committed, and I am committed, to helping all the parties reach the hard and heroic decisions that will lead to peace," Bush said.

He thanked President Mubarak for hosting the gathering of Arab leaders, and thus "acting in Egypt's best traditions."

'Rejection of terror'

President Bush said that when he advanced his road map a year ago, he said at the time that progress toward peace would require the active commitment and support of neighboring states. "Today I'm pleased to stand with leaders of the Arab world who are committed to these principles," Bush said Tuesday.

"The leaders here today have confirmed their firm rejection of terror," he continued. "They have also committed to practical actions, to use all means to cut off assistance, including arms and financing to any terror group, and to aid the Palestinian Authority in their own fight against terror.

"Terror threatens my nation," Bush said. "Terror threatens Arab states. Terror threatens the state of Israel. Terror threatens the emergency of a Palestinian state. Terror must be opposed and it must be defeated."

Egyptian President Mubarak also addressed terrorism in his remarks.

"We affirm our position again, against terror and violence. We will continue to fight the scourge of terrorism against humanity and reject the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motive..."

Mubarak said Egypt will continue to work for a Middle East that is "free of strife and violence, living in harmony, without the threat of terrorism or weapons of mass destruction."

"We support the determination of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its responsibility to end violence and maintain law and order, as announced by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas," Mubarak said.

He said Egypt will "ensure" that its assistance goes "solely to the Palestinian Authority," and he said Egypt will support efforts to improve the quality of life of the Palestinian people.

Mubarak urged Israel to carry out its obligations under the road map - "to rebuild trust and restore normal Palestinian life."

Israel backs off

In a goodwill gesture Tuesday, Israel further eased restrictions on Palestinians ahead of a three-way summit between President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel allowed some 11,000 Palestinian workers to come into the country from Gaza on Tuesday, up from 5,000 on Sunday. The fishing area off the Gaza coast was increased to 10 miles off the shore, and public transportation in the West Bank was renewed, the army said in a statement.

Israel also began releasing 100 security prisoners.

The three-way meeting between Bush, Abbas, and Sharon is set for Wednesday in the Jordan's Red Sea port of Aqaba

Bush said he will discuss the two sides' responsibilities under the road map. If all sides fulfill their obligations, Bush said, "we can make steady progress on the road toward Palestinian statehood, a secure Israel, and a just and comprehensive peace."

Bush emphasized that he seeks "true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intifadas."

The first phase of President Bush's road map calls for a complete halt to violence as well as a freeze on Israeli settlement building in disputed areas and the dismantling of settlement outposts erected since the beginning of the violent Palestinian uprising.

The Palestinians are eager to see intense U.S. presidential involvement in the process.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath said that in order for there to be progress, Bush needs to continue with the "real engagement" that he has shown by holding the two summits - the one Tuesday in Egypt and the one Wednesday in Jordan.

Israel has expressed concern over the road map because it does not assure an end to violence before proceeding on to the next phase.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who will travel with Sharon to Aqaba, said Israel hopes the summit will succeed.

"We are arriving there with the readiness to make peace," Shalom said. "But we need to remember it takes two to tango. If the Palestinian side is serious, it will find in us a true partner for peace.

"To my great sorrow, I can't say right now that they (the Palestinians) took a real, substantial step to bring about the end of terror, violence and incitement. And if they are not doing the demanded steps, it will be very hard to be optimistic," he said.

Israeli security forces were on high alert along the northern "seam line" with the West Bank and in Jerusalem against the warnings of terror attacks, Israel radio reported.

Israel's secret service said on Monday there has been no let-up in the number of attempted attacks and warnings of planned attacks.

The Lebanese newspaper A-Safir was very critical of the two Bush summits on Tuesday, Israel radio reported. The paper, which often reflects the opinions of the Syrian government, said that Abbas was the latest pudding on "occupier" George Bush's table.

Neither Syria nor Lebanon were invited to the Arab summit.

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Mubarak noted that both the Israelis and Palestinians have accepted the road map, and he thanked President Bush for his personal commitment to implementing it. President Bush appeared with Mubarak at a press conference on a sweltering day in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of...
Tuesday, 03 June 2003 12:00 AM
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