Rice heading to Middle East
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to the Middle East next week for discussions on the peace process with Israeli and Palestinian officials, the State Department said Thursday, reported dpa.
Rice will travel to the region on Wednesday, one day after the US presidential election, for meetings in Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt during the five-day trip, spokesman Sean McCormack said.
Rice plans also to meet with her counterparts in the Quartet, a group of international mediators consisting of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and United States, while in the region, McCormack said.
Rice is following up on the revived peace process launched by President George W Bush during an international conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed to reach a peace accord by the end of this year during the Annapolis negotiations.
The process got off to a bumpy start because of skirmishes of Hamas, which control the Gaza Strip, Israeli settlement activity and corruption charges against Olmert.
Olmert resigned in September and has been serving as the caretaker prime minister. His successor in the Kadima party, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, was unable to form a new government. Early elections were set for February 10, virtually ensuring a peace deal will not be reached before Bush leaves office.