Bush optimistic ahead of Annapolis talks
US President George W Bush, on Monday expressed optimism about the prospects for peace in the Middle East, ahead of Tuesday's conference in Annapolis. Speaking before holding talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Washington, the American leader said he wanted to see "whether or not peace is possible".
Welcoming Olmert to the White House on Monday, Bush voiced optimism that the US-sponsored peace summit would succeed where many others had failed.
"I'm looking forward to continuing our serious dialogue with you and the president of the Palestinian Authority to see whether or not peace is possible," he told the Israeli leader.
"I'm optimistic, I know you're optimistic, and I want to thank you for your courage and your friendship."
On his part, Olmert said he hoped to open serious negotiations with the Palestinians. Olmert added the international support from those nations which had agreed to attend the conference was "very important to us" and could make all the difference in reaching a lasting settlement.
"This time, it's different because we are going to have a lot of participation in what I hope will launch a serious process negotiation between us and the Palestinians," he said.
"We and the Palestinians will sit together in Jerusalem and work out something that will be very good and create great hope for our people."
Bush later met separately with the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to prepare for the talks on Tuesday. He told Abbas: "We want to help you. We want there to be peace. We want the people in the Palestinian Territories to have hope. And we thank you for your willingness to sit down with Israel to negotiate the settlement. The United States cannot impose our vision, but we can help facilitate. And the process will begin tonight at the State Department, and then on to Annapolis tomorrow. And I want to thank you for coming. Wish you all the very best."