US President George W. Bush will make his first trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank next month to push Israel and the Palestinians toward peace and try to write his own chapter in the annals of Middle East diplomacy.
On a nine-day trip beginning on Jan. 8, Bush plans to stop in Israel, the West Bank, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. It will be Bush's first presidential visit to each of the countries, except Egypt.
Middle East peacemaking has been on the back burner during most of Bush's presidency, but he emerged from a high-stakes conference in Annapolis, Maryland, last month re-energized about assisting Israel and the Palestinians in forming an independent Palestinian homeland. The trip is aimed at helping the two sides gain traction in talks that got under way earlier this month.
"Part of it is to continue to keep the discussions going, to show the commitment and to remind the world that this is a moment that has presented itself, and it's time for everyone to seize the opportunity to make sure that the Palestinians and the Israelis are supported," Bush spokesperson Dana Perino said on Tuesday.
"In addition to that, the president wants to help try to increase Israeli and Arab reconciliation," she said.
Bush will focus the leaders on finding a long-term, sustainable peace, although it remained unclear whether he would engage in detailed negotiations. He is scheduled to meet separately with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. No three-way meeting is planned.
"The important thing is for the leaders to keep their eye on the big picture and to work with their staffs -- and trust their staffs -- who are going to work out these details," Perino said.
"And the president can help facilitate those discussions. I do not anticipate, although we can let you know as we get closer, whether there would be detailed discussions about a concession on one side or the other," she said.
The White House said the trip will also be an opportunity to reaffirm US commitment to the security of its allies in the Middle East, especially the Gulf nations, and work with them to combat terrorism and extremism. Iraq, Iran, regional security and economic ties also will be discussed on the trip.
In Jerusalem, Bush will meet with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and in the West Bank he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He will not meet with the Islamic militant group Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip in elections in June.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear