President, Arab Leaders Back "Road Map" Ahead of Summit
During the meeting, Mr. Bush urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Bahrain’s King Hamad, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, to join the fight against terrorism and to work toward peace in the region.
“We must not allow a few people, a few killers, a few terrorists, to destroy the dreams and hopes of the many,” Mr. Bush said, according to the Associated Press.
The Arab leaders said, in a statement read by Mubarak, that they reject terrorism “in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives” and would use all legal means to fight it.
They also called on Israel to do more to further the peace process and to adopt, without conditions, the internationally backed road map to peace.
The president said his goal was a permanent solution to the troubled history in the Middle East.
“We seek true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intifadas, but a permanent reconciliation among the peoples of the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said
Mubarak, who hosted the gathering at the resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, said the Arab leaders support President Bush’s efforts to reinvigorate the peace process.
“President Bush gave a push to the peace process by presenting his vision of establishing two states, Israel and Palestine, living in security and peace,” Mubarak said.
Television news reports showed President Bush, at the wheel of a large golf cart, ferrying his counterparts to the press briefing after the meeting. Mubarak rode by his side.
The meeting comes a day ahead of a meeting between President Bush, Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in Jordan to discuss implementing the road map.
During Tuesday’s meetings, Mr. Bush directly addressed the Palestinian prime minister, urging him to crack down on continued terrorism against Israelis.
“You, sir, have got a responsibility, and you’ve assumed it,” the president reportedly said to Abbas. “I want to work with you and so do the other leaders here.”
Mr. Bush also said Israel had to address the issue of Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory.
“Israel must deal with the settlements,” he said. “Israel must make sure there’s a continuous territory that the Palestinians can call home.”
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who attended the gathering in Egypt, said the U.S. welcomed a new era in Palestinian leadership.
“We saw that transformed leadership here today — Prime Minister Abbas, Minister of Finance Fayyad and other members of the new administration,” Powell said. “We recognize that President [Yasser] Arafat is still an elected president and he still has standing with the Palestinian people, but we have said clearly, since last year, that we believe that his leadership has failed and it was time for new leadership to come forward.”
Powell, during a press briefing with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, further warned Arafat not to “spoil” peace efforts in order to retain a measure of control.
“I think it would be very, very unfortunate if Mr. Arafat failed to recognize the significance of today, and what I’m sure will be the significance of tomorrow; that we are on a path to create a state for the Palestinian people,” Powell said. “We have the international community mobilized, we have Israel now willing to be a partner in this effort, we have new leadership in the Palestinian Authority. I think that it is clear that we’re moving forward.”
The American government said last year that it would not deal with Arafat and called for the political reforms that led to the creation of Abbas’ position in the Palestinian government.
Abbas and Arafat have reportedly feuded over the prime minister’s role and how much control he should have. Arafat retains some policy-making authority and reportedly enjoys sizeable popular support among Palestinians.