Sharm el-Sheikh summit ends: Arab leaders support ''road map'', vow to fight terrorism
Arab leaders, ending their meeting with President Bush in Egypt, pledged on Tuesday to fight terror and violence and called on Israel to "rebuild trust and restore normal Palestinian life."
"We shall continue to work for a Middle East that is free of strife and violence, living in harmony without the threat of terrorism or dangers of weapons of mass destruction," Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said, reading a statement on behalf of the leaders of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority.
Bush called on the Arab leaders to fight terror at every turn on the road to peace. "We meet in Sinai at a moment of promise for the cause of peace in the Middle East," Bush said, standing at the edge of the Red Sea, with Mubarak at his side.
Terror threatens the United States, Israel and the emergence of a Palestinian state, he said. "Terror must be opposed and it must be defeated," Bush said.
He said he had called on Israel "to respect the rights of Palestinians, including the right to live in dignity in a free and peaceful Palestine. I urged the Palestinian people to embrace new leaders who stand for reform, democracy and for fighting terror."
The Arab leaders embraced the "road map" for peace, which calls for an independent Palestinian state by 2005. "This vision means that alongside the existing state of Israel, a new state for the Palestinians will emerge," Mubarak said.
"We support the determination of the Palestinian Authority to fulfill its responsibilities to end violence and to restore law and order," Mubarak stated.
At the same time, Mubarak added: "Israel must fulfill its own responsibilities to rebuild trust and restore normal Palestinian life, and carry out other obligations under the road map."
Bush made clear that both sides must make concessions to build a lasting peace. "If all sides fulfill their obligations, we can make steady progress on the road towards Palestinian statehood, a secure Israel and a just and comprehensive peace," Bush said. "We seek true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intefadehs, but a permanent reconciliation among the peoples of the Middle East."
The Arab leaders firmly rejected terrorism "in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives," Mubarak said. "We will use all the power of the law to prevent support reaching illegal organizations including terrorist groups," Mubarak said.
He said they would help the Palestinian Authority fight terrorists "to allow it to consolidate its authority in democratic and accountable institutions" and would make sure that all aid to Palestinians goes to solely to their official leadership.
They also pledged their support of Iraqi citizens in the aftermath of the war there, and for "a government that represents the Iraqi people," Mubarak said.
Earlier, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV reported that the opening of Sharm el-Sheikh summit was delayed by about two hours due to Arab leaders' rejection of Bush's demand to advance the normalization of ties with Israel.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas met with Bush to discuss a peace settlement in the Middle East.
After the meeting started, Bush told participants that "a few people, a few killers, a few terrorists" cannot be allowed to prevent a settlement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Bush stated all sides must assume responsibly toward achieving peace. "I believe now is the time to work together to achieve the vision" of peace, he said.
Bush told those in attendance that Israel had to deal with Jewish settlements as part of the road map. "Israel has got responsibilities. Israel must deal with the settlements. Israel must make sure there is a continuous territory that the Palestinians can call home," Bush said in his opening remarks to the meeting.
Mubarak, who hosted the summit said that, "We convene today to examine the peace process in order to ensure stability in our region." He welcomed Bush's commitment to Palestinian and Israeli states existing side-by-side, each enjoying "peace and security." (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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