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Annapolis Talks Foster Int'l Support For Peace


By Merle D. Kellerhals Jr.
USINFO Staff Writer

Annapolis Talks Foster Int'l Support for Peace, Rice Says

The November 26-28 Annapolis Conference is important to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in two ways -- it solidifies the launch of peace negotiations and it brings together international support, especially from Arab nations, says Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

For the United States, the two elements are critical to each other and to achieving success, Rice says.

"I think that the success of this meeting is really in the launch of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians for the establishment of a Palestinian state and therefore a two-state solution," Rice said during a recent press round table interview.

"This time we've tried to have Arab engagement and involvement all along the way. The Arabs are going to need to support this process and support it fully."

Rice said that she did not believe this conference would have been possible several months ago or even weeks ago. But one of the lessons from past efforts, Rice said, is that Arab nations must be involved early and often to support what will be difficult decisions by any Palestinian leader.

"It's a very big step forward to launch these negotiations, to launch them with international support and to make sure that they're continuous and ongoing, and I hope very intensive," she said. "So that's really the purpose of Annapolis."

Rice said the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians needs to be resolved on its own terms rather than in a larger regional context -- because the Israelis need a two-state solution for their security and the Palestinians need an independent state to achieve the normal development expected of any new nation.

Rice also praised Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for his continued efforts to bring about the talks.

"He brings to this a bedrock commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state not born of violence and terrorism. And no one questions that he is someone who believes in a nonviolent, negotiated solution," Rice said.

While the Israelis and Palestinians have expressed the hope to conclude their talks within a year, before President Bush leaves office, there is no guarantee of that, Rice said.

Rice also said that while the United States will play a very active role in helping the Israelis and Palestinians during their negotiations, the United States will not impose a solution. She said it is clear that there now is an Israeli leader and a Palestinian leader who each have spent considerable time coming to understand where the other stands on the core issues, which makes the negotiations all the more viable.

The U.S.-sponsored international conference will be held November 26-28 in Washington and Annapolis, Maryland. President Bush will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Abbas separately November 26 at the White House, a senior U.S. diplomat said November 21 at a State Department briefing. (See related article.)

Following those bilateral meetings, Bush will attend a special dinner being held for the Annapolis Conference participants by Rice in Washington, said David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

On November 27, Bush will meet with Olmert and Abbas together before the opening of the conference, Welch said. The Annapolis Conference will open at the U.S. Naval Academy with speeches from the leaders in the morning and with remarks by Bush. In addition, it is expected that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also will deliver opening remarks.

Plenary sessions will begin with a working lunch and continue through most of the remainder of the day and a final press conference will be held at the end, Welch said.

"The plenary sessions will be divided, roughly speaking, into three parts: demonstrating international support for the bilateral process; looking at economic development, institutional reform and capacity building; and, finally, a session that will address comprehensive peace," Welch said.

Finally, Bush will meet again with Olmert and Abbas separately on November 28 at the White House, Welch said.

Welch said the United States invited 49 nations, international organizations and individuals to the conference.

The list includes the Israelis and Palestinians; the foreign ministers and the U.N. secretary-general from the Quartet, which is composed of the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and the United States; the Arab League Follow-up Committee, which consists of 12 member-states and the Arab League secretary-general; the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (Great Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States); and members of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations

ENDS

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