- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

The United States, Europe, Russia and the United Nations joined yesterday to sponsor a Mideast conference this summer with the goal of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.
"The United States and the EU share a common vision of two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security," President Bush told reporters at the White House after meeting with European leaders.
The president spoke shortly before Secretary of State Colin L. Powell announced that the United States had signed on to the new initiative.
"We committed ourselves to the promotion of serious and accelerated negotiations toward a settlement," Mr. Powell said during a joint appearance with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the State Department.
"We discussed how best to begin to prepare for an international conference meeting this summer."
Mr. Bush left it to his secretary of state to make the announcement.
But speaking to reporters in the White House East Room earlier in the day, the president offered perhaps his most detailed assessment of the crisis in the Middle East.
One month ago, Mr. Bush first demanded that Israel withdraw from the West Bank "without delay" and that Mr. Arafat halt terrorist attacks against the Jewish state.
"In terms of the Middle East, [it] isn't all that long a period of time. We're dealing with centuries and years of hatred," the president said yesterday.
He said that both sides have at least begun to comply.
"After all, a week ago Yasser Arafat was boarded up in his building in Ramallah," he said. "He's now free to show leadership to lead the world."
Mr. Bush was especially tough on Mr. Arafat, saying that the Palestinian leader must "show he can lead."
The president also laid out his expectations for Palestinian statehood:
"A Palestinian state must be achieved by negotiation of an end to occupation," he said. "And such a state cannot be based on a foundation of terror or corruption.
"A Palestinian state must be based on the principles that are critical to freedom and prosperity: democracy and open markets, the rule of law, transparent and accountable administration and respect for individual liberties and civil society."
Mr. Powell said it was not clear who would attend the conference or where it would be held.
It has been reported that the Bush administration hopes to keep the conference as small as possible, probably at the foreign-ministry level and most likely without direct participation by Mr. Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Its task would be to explore whether a viable peace process can resume.
As Mr. Bush met with European leaders at the White House, Mr. Powell held separate talks at the State Department with top officials of the so-called "quartet" the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.
Mr. Powell called on Israel to halt construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and said that "something will have to be done" about existing settlements.
"The issue of settlements is a very real one, and it will have to be dealt with," Mr. Powell said.
"With respect to Chairman Arafat, it's not a question of rehabilitating him. He knows what is expected of him."
Mr. Bush praised Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for advancing the peace process during a meeting at his Crawford, Texas, ranch last week. He said other world leaders will continue that process in the coming days.
"Next week, I'll meet with Prime Minister Sharon and King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss next steps on the road ahead," the president said. "I'm absolutely convinced it's going to require the efforts of the Saudis and the Jordanians and the Egyptians to help cement a lasting peace."
One of the first items on the agenda is bringing peace to Bethlehem, where both sides accused the other of starting a fire early yesterday morning in the Church of the Nativity, believed to be the site of Jesus' birth.
Mr. Arafat called Israelis involved in a firefight "terrorists, Nazis and racistsfl" after Israeli troops pulled out.
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer urged all parties yesterday to "ask themselves what can they do to bring peace to the region, not what can they do to speak ill of others."

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