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Israeli and Palestinian Leaders Pledge Commitment to Peace

Sharon, Abbas and President Bush made a joint appearance Wednesday in Aqaba, Jordan, where the leaders held talks.

“Both leaders understand that a future of peace cannot be founded on hatred and falsehood and bitterness,” President Bush said of Sharon and Abbas.

“I welcome Prime Minister Sharon’s pledge to improve the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian areas and to begin removing unauthorized outposts immediately,” the president said.

Since Sharon became prime minister more than two years ago, the number of unauthorized Israeli buildings in the West Bank increased, heightening tensions in the region.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Sharon again reiterated his support for a Palestinian independent state.

“A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and wellbeing of Israel as a Jewish state,” Sharon said. “It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state.”

For his part, Abbas, who was chosen as the first Palestinian prime minister in April, again called for an end to violence.

“The armed intifada must end, and we must use and resort to peaceful means in our quest to end the occupation and the suffering of Palestinians and Israelis,” Abbas said. “There will be no military solution for this conflict, so we repeat our renunciation and the renunciation of terrorism against the Israelis wherever they might be.”

Despite Abbas’ comments, the Palestinian militant group Hamas, responsible for many of the suicide attacks on Israelis, told the Reuters News Agency that it would not give up violence targeting Israelis. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a smaller militant organization, made a similar statement.

On the other side, Sharon faces opposition from hard-line elements within the Israeli population. After the press conference, Israeli settlers condemned Sharon’s statements, saying that they would not allow the destruction of any settlements.

“[Sharon] lost his leadership. He’s lost his way,” said Shaul Goldstein, deputy chairman of the YESHA council, an umbrella settler group. More than 200,000 Israelis live in some 150 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

King Abdullah II of Jordan, who hosted Wednesday’s summit, supported the leaders’ commitments to Middle East peace.

“The most precious gifts that you can present to your peoples over the coming weeks is renewed hope borne out of tangible progress on the ground,” Abdullah said. “And it’s not only your people who will be watching and waiting, the eyes of the entire world will be upon you.”

The Israeli-Palestinian summit followed a meeting of Arab leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Following that meeting, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan’s King Abdullah, Bahrain’s King Hamad and Abbas agreed to a statement rejecting terrorism in any form and regardless of motives and committing to use all legal means available to fight against it.

Mr. Bush further sealed his commitment to ending the conflict by assigning his two top foreign policy advisers, Secretary of State Colin Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, to the work on a resolution, reportedly saying it would be their “highest priority.”

In addition, President Bush appointed Ambassador John Wolf, a 33-year veteran U.S. diplomat, to lead a monitoring team to track Israeli and Palestinian progress on the road map, which aims for a Palestinian state as early as 2005.

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