An Israeli official source in the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office said on Thursday that the United States President George W. Bush rejected a demand by the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to move to the final status negotiations skipping the second stage of the road map.
Stage two of the Road map calls for the establishment of a Palestinian State with temporary borders prior to moving to the final-status talks.
Instead Bush reiterated the road map’s demand that Israeli forces withdraw to their positions as of September 28, 2000, but added that this should happen "as we make progress toward security," rather than unconditionally.
Bush called for halt of all settlement activity expressing some concern over the current expansion of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement near Jerusalem.
Unlike to Sharon, Bush did not give Abbas any written document. However, Bush gave an American support to a key Palestinian negotiation demand concerning borders.
He declared at a press conference following their White House meeting that any border deviations from the 1949 truce-lines would have to be by mutually agreed between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Additionally, Bush stated that "A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work. There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today; it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations."
Israel, Bush added, must "work with the Palestinian leadership to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, especially their humanitarian situation. Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes road map obligations or prejudices final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem."
"Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorized outposts and stop settlement expansion. The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of its security effort must be a security, rather than political, barrier. And its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities."
A new language has been used by Bush in addressing Palestinians in this visit, which is Abbas’ first to the White House since elected President in January of this year.
Bush consistently referred to Abbas as "Mr. President" where he and other U.S. presidents referred to the Late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat as "Mr. Chairman" although he was elected. Bush also unusually made a vague general mention of the need to fight terror.
Officials in Abbas’s entourage expressed particular pleasure over Bush’s statements on the settlements and his explicit mention of Jerusalem as one of the issues on which Israel must not prejudice final-status negotiations. They also said the speech had opened the door for a meeting between Abbas and Sharon in the next two weeks.
Bush meets Abbas in White House
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met with the US President George Bush in the White house. “The Palestinians want peace, we must end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before its too late”, Abbas said.
During the press conference held at the “Flowers Garden" in the While House, the US president praised the steps of Abbas toward democracy, and pledged USD 50 million in housing aid for the Palestinians.
Abbas said that this period is considered a ‘difficult journey which required courage and leadership each day; we will take that journey together”.
“Time is becoming our greatest enemy; we must end the conflict before it’s too late, every day Israel is undertaking steps that undermine President Bush’s vision and effectively prevent a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict", Abbas added.
The USD 50 million in direct aid to the Palestinian Authority is part of a package of 150 M President Bush is seeking from Congress, Bush said that this money “will help the Palestinians settle in Gaza and rebuild it after the Israeli withdrawal”.
"If President Bush is still convinced and committed to his original vision, as I hope he is, and if Sharon is pressed to abandon his unilateral solution and measures, we can together make 2005 the year of peace in the Middle East," Abbas wrote in an opinion peace published earlier Wall Street Journal on Thursday.
Also, Abbas slammed the Israeli policies, and its lack of activities towards peace adding that most Israelis and Palestinians want peace.