Rice: U.S. serious on Palestine

 

 

The Bush administration will work for the creation of a peaceful Palestinian state, Condoleezza Rice said.

Addressing reporters toward the end of a 24-hour visit to Jerusalem and Ramallah, the U.S. secretary of state on Thursday rebuffed Arab speculation that an upcoming Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Washington would not produce concrete results.

“The president and I are absolutely devoted to working as hard as we can for the advancement of the Palestinian state,” she said.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has voiced misgivings about attending the conference unless Israel makes major diplomatic concessions. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, mindful of Abbas’s limited power following the Hamas takeover in Gaza, prefers to reach a joint declaration of intent.

But Rice said she was confident that Olmert and Abbas, who have teams hammering out an agenda ahead of the conference, are sincere about finding a way forward.

“These parties are talking about critical core issues for the first time in six years, and we shouldn’t lose sight of that,” she said.

“The issue here is to move the process forward through a document that we hope will lay a foundation so that there can be serious negotiations on the establishment of a Palestinian state as soon as possible.”

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