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Bush calls for 'painful' Mideast concessions

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Doomsday101, Jan 10, 2008.

  1. Doomsday101

    Doomsday101 Well-Known Member

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    JERUSALEM (CNN) -- President Bush called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders Thursday to make "painful" concessions to reach a peace agreement, including dismantling "terrorist infrastructure" and ending Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

    "There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967," Bush told reporters in Jerusalem. "The agreement must establish a Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people."

    Bush also called on Palestinians to confront terrorists and dismantle "terrorist infrastructure." "Security is fundamental," Bush said. "No agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror." Bush also appealed for "Arab countries to reach out to Israel." Watch more on Bush's comments »

    "Achieving an agreement will require painful political concessions by both sides," said Bush. "I called upon both leaders to make sure their teams negotiate seriously, starting right now."

    The president's comments came after his meeting with Palestinian leaders in the West Bank, where Bush predicted that a peace treaty would be signed by the time he leaves office in 2009.

    Speaking at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas -- and a day after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert -- Bush said both men realize the importance of democratic states living together in peace.

    "In order for there to be lasting peace, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have to come together and make tough choices and I'm convinced they will," Bush said in Ramallah. Watch more on Bush's West Bank visit »

    Abbas called on Israel to complete the terms of the road map, a U.S.-supported peace plan agreed upon in 2003. Under the road map, Israel must halt West Bank settlement activity and Palestinians must dismantle militant groups.

    "We are fully satisfied with the outcome that we reached through this visit with President Bush," said Abbas. The Palestinian leader said talks touched on "all topics" and that "all the issues" are in agreement. "In the coming few days, we are going to meet in bilateral negotiations with the Israelis in order to discuss the final status negotiations, final status issues," said Abbas. See images of Bush's historic trip »

    Bush said he heard "the urgency in the voice of both the prime minister of Israel and the president of the Palestinian Authority. Is it going to be hard work? You bet."

    Bush said he's "confident that with proper help, the state of Palestine will emerge."

    Both Abbas and Olmert agreed to work toward such an agreement at the November 27 U.S.-sponsored peace summit in Annapolis, Maryland. On Thursday the White House announced Bush has tapped Lt. Gen. William Fraser III to help monitor progress with the road map.

    Fraser is an assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, and the military adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

    Following his talks with Abbas, Bush traveled to the West Bank town of Bethlehem passing protest signs along the way that said, "Occupation is terrorism" and called on the United States to "stop giving aid to occupation and death to our children," according to The Associated Press. See Bush's itinerary »

    Once in Bethlehem, Bush visited the Church of the Nativity, believed by many Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus. Watch Bush visit Christian shrine »

    "Not only was my soul uplifted, but my knowledge of history was enriched," said the president, who also commented on the barriers in the area.

    "Someday I hope that as a result of the formation of a Palestinian state that there won't be walls and checkpoints -- people will be able to move freely in a democratic state."

    Possibly in protest of Bush's visit to the region, Palestinian militants in Gaza stepped up their ongoing rocket and mortar assault on southern Israel on Wednesday. None of the attacks resulted in casualties, but three Palestinians died after Israel's military struck back at northern Gaza.

    Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Olmert warned Abbas that he must get control of Gaza before any peace deal can be reached.

    "There will be no peace unless terror is stopped and terror will have to be stopped everywhere," the Israeli leader said. Watch more on Bush's meetings with Israelis »

    Hamas forces seized control of Gaza in June in what Abbas has called a coup against forces loyal to his Fatah movement. Fatah has consolidated its power in the West Bank, and the Palestinian leadership remains split between the two territories.

    A major challenge for Bush's mission has been keeping the trip focused on Israeli-Palestinian peace while other issues -- Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and soaring oil prices -- dominate the media headlines and serve as reminders of the region's instability.

    Bush's visit to the region has prompted the largest security operation in Israel since Pope John Paul II's visit in March 2000. More than 10,000 Israeli police are deployed across the region to back U.S. federal Large parts of Jerusalem and much of the West Bank, including Ramallah, in effect have been shut down.

    After his visit to Israel and the West Bank, Bush will depart Jerusalem on Friday for Kuwait. He will then head to Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He returns to Washington next Wednesday. E-mail to a friend

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