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Historic Annapolis Hosts Mid East Peace Conference


By Howard Cincotta and Jeffrey Thomas
USINFO Writers

Historic Annapolis, Maryland, Hosts Middle East Peace Conference

The scenic, waterfront city of Annapolis -- a historic Colonial town and state capital of Maryland -- is the site of a Middle East peace conference November 26-28.

The conference will associate Annapolis with other Maryland locations, near Washington, that have hosted U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations. The best known is the presidential retreat at Camp David, in the Catoctin Mountains, but another is the Wye River Conference Center on Chesapeake Bay, where the 1998 negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority were held.

"The Annapolis Conference will signal broad international support for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders' courageous efforts and will be a launching point for negotiations leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said November 20.

Annapolis, approximately 50 kilometers north of Washington, has a long and colorful history dating back to the Colonial era when it was named the capital of Maryland Colony in 1694. The State House in Annapolis, which has been burned and rebuilt, is the oldest state capitol building in continuous legislative use in the United States.

For a brief, but historic, period, Annapolis served as the nation's first peacetime capital, when the Continental Congress met at the State House in 1783-1784 to ratify the Treaty of Paris ending the American Revolutionary War.

In 1786, at a convention in Annapolis called to discuss an interstate commerce dispute, Alexander Hamilton persuaded the representatives of several states to call for an enlarged gathering of state delegates in Philadelphia in 1787. The Philadelphia gathering wrote the U.S. Constitution.

Annapolis grew as a port and waterfront town, and today it thrives as a center of government, high tech-firms and tourism. Although the city itself is relatively small, Annapolis is part of a larger metropolitan area of approximately 7.6 million people.

Annapolis claims to have more 17th-century and 18th-century buildings and homes than any other city in the United States.

The city claims the unofficial title of "America's Sailing Capital." Almost any time of year, vessels of every size and type can be seen on the waters of Chesapeake Bay, from the white sails of single-masted sloops to the rumbling engines of luxury yachts.

Annapolis is home to two remarkable but quite different institutions of higher learning. The U.S. Naval Academy, founded in 1845 and with a current enrollment of 4,400, is the undergraduate school for training officers for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Annapolis is also the location of St. John's College, a liberal arts institution whose curriculum is based on teaching from the great books of history, including literature, science, philosophy and the arts. St. John's, while not as well known as the U.S. Naval Academy, is older -- the third oldest institution of higher education in the United States. (Harvard University and the College of William and Mary are older.)

One of the finest attractions of Annapolis and its surroundings is the Chesapeake Bay, whose waters and tributaries cover an estimated 11,600 square kilometers. It is the largest estuary in the United States, according to figures provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program, a public-private partnership devoted to protecting and restoring the bay's unique and complex ecosystem.

The Chesapeake supports some 3,600 species of plants, fish and other animals, as well as 29 species of migratory waterfowl, according to experts. It produces more than 225 million kilograms of seafood every year and is home to two of the largest commercial ports in the United States: Baltimore, Maryland, and Hampton Roads, Virginia.

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, according to David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

On November 28, Bush plans to meet again with Olmert and Abbas at the White House.

ENDS

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