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Upcoming M. East Talks To Launch A Process

Upcoming Middle East Talks To Launch a Process, Rice Says

A proposed Middle East peace conference will launch ongoing discussions aimed at creating a Palestinian state and resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The United States plans to host the conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in either late November or early December. Among essential issues to be discussed are the right of return of refugees, the future of Jerusalem and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

"It's, after all, an opportunity to launch a process, not try and conclude it at Annapolis," Rice said in a November 13 interview in Nashville, Tennessee. A specific date for the conference and a list of essential participants is still being determined.

"It's no secret to anyone that the key here at Annapolis is that once Annapolis is over ... the parties need to have the sense from the international community that they are going to be supported through what is going to be a difficult process of coming to a two-state solution," Rice said.

The Middle East initiative was announced by President Bush July 16. (See related article.)

"More than five years ago, I became the first American president to call for the creation of a Palestinian state. ... I said that Palestinians should not have to live in poverty and occupation. I said that the Israelis should not have to live in terror and violence," Bush said.

In that brief speech, Bush called for a future in which two democratic states -- Israel and Palestine -- would be established side by side in what he terms "the two-state solution." He offered economic and political incentives to design a foundation for a successful Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Rice said it is now important for all the key participants in the Arab-Israeli peace process to support the bilateral efforts that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have undertaken.

"No one can afford failure here. But not acting is failure in these circumstances," Rice said.

She said that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to have to resolve many historic issues, issues that never have been resolved, and many issues that barely have been discussed for the past six years.


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