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Bush: Israelis, Palestinians Agree to Launch Negotiations to Seek Peace Agreement by End of 2008

By VOA News
27 November 2007

President Bush says Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to launch negotiations in an effort to reach a peace agreement before the end of 2008.

Mr. Bush made the announcement as he opened a Middle East conference Tuesday in Annapolis, Maryland. He said Israelis and Palestinians agreed to a joint document in which they are seeking an end to decades of bloodshed and ushering in an era of peace.

He made the announcement flanked by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

But Mr. Bush acknowledged the path to peace would be difficult. He said the two sides must work together to create an independent and democratic Palestinian state.

Mr. Abbas called for the Palestinians to have East Jerusalem as their capital. He said the time has come for the bloodshed, violence and occupation to end. He said peace is not impossible if there is good faith.

Representatives from nearly 50 countries and international organizations are attending the meeting outside Washington. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack says the Annapolis conference will amount to an international endorsement of a negotiating process that is already under way.

The conference marks the first time in more than a decade that the Israelis are meeting with many of the Arab representatives and the Arab League. Among those attending are Saudi Arabia and Syria, both of which do not recognize Israel.

Mr. Bush met separately at the White House Monday with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. The leaders met earlier Tuesday in Annapolis for three-way talks.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.

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