Upcoming visit to Israel aimed at encouraging progress – George Bush
The US cannot impose peace on Israelis and Palestinians, and therefore the upcoming presidential visit to Jerusalem is to "encourage" rather than demand progress, President George W Bush said in an interview with Israeli journalists published Monday, the dpa reported.
He added that he still believed that the parties could reach a peace deal by the end of 2008, fulfilling pledged made by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at last year's US-sponsored peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.
Top Israeli and Palestinian officials have been meeting regularly since the beginning of the year in an attempt to negotiate a final settlement. The talks have been held under a virtual media blackout, and Bush is not scheduled to hold a three-way summit with Olmert and Abbas while in the region.
Bush is scheduled to land in Israel on Wednesday, to attend a conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres, to mark Israel's 60th anniversary, which was celebrated last week.
He will also address the Knesset, visit the ancient desert fortress of Masada, and participate in a round-table discussion with young Israelis, before leaving Friday for Saudi Arabia.
On Saturday and Sunday he will meet Arab leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.