In an interview with the BBC World Service, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, lowered expectations in terms of likely outcomes of President George W. Bush’s visit to the region on Wednesday.

Rice believed that parties should not expect a major breakthrough from the president’s planned visit, making clear that Bush is determined to inject more momentum into the Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations.

The president will urge both sides to jumpstart their final status talks with an open mind and heart, Rice maintained.

Bush, who last November hosted a middle east peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland, United States, is about to meet Palestinians and Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Israel, in his first visit to the region since having been a president.

The US president has been looking forward to resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of a two-state solution, living side by side in peace.

Negotiations between the two sides have been deadlocked over the past month, given Israeli plans to build hundreds of housing units in the Israeli settlements of Har Hom and Ma’alee Aadomim on the Palestinian lands, particularly the occupied east Jerusalem, which Palestinians consider as their future capital.

Palestinians say any solution should be based on halting all such Israeli settlement activities, which undermine Palestinians’ rights to lands Israel occupied on June 4,1967.

Among other outstanding issues is the problem of Palestinian refugees, mainly the latest Israeli demand from Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.

Palestinians view the matter as a derogation of the right of return to historical Palestine for millions of Palestinians whose ancestors were displaced by Israel in 1948.

Former US President Bill Clinton visited the occupied Palestinian territories, including the now Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, in 1998, yet he failed in 2000 in Washington to get the parties closer due to the issues of Jerusalem and refugees.

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