Bush, PA officials hold surprise meeting
Palestinian delegation arrives in Washington for preparatory meetings ahead of Bush-Abbas meeting next week; U.S. president extends surprise invitation to Palestinian representatives. Abbas expected to ask for pressure on Israel over settlement expansion, Bush to demand action against armed factions
U.S. President George W. Bush held a surprise meeting last week with several aides of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian delegation arrived in Washington for preparatory sessions ahead of Abbas’ arrival for a White House visit next Thursday, but was not scheduled to meet with the president.
Abbas’ visit itself came as a surprise after Bush invited him for the October 20 meeting.
Details of the unplanned meeting between the president and Abbas’ aides were first revealed by Jewish news agency JTA. According to the report, Bush’s media advisor convinced him to call Palestinian officials and invite them for the meeting. The president called Abbas’ bureau chief, Rafiq Husseini, to invite him to the White House and quipped that “it’s on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Swiss cheese analogy
Husseini later said the meeting was a “pleasant” one.
“Bush expresses his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. He said he doesn’t want a state that would be like Swiss cheese,” Husseini said.
The meeting with the Palestinian delegation and the invitation for Abbas to come to Washington even before Palestinian general elections
scheduled for January are an indication that President Bush intends to act quickly in order to prevent a deterioration of the security situation.
During the summit meeting next week, Abbas is expected to demand U.S. pressure on Israel to refrain from settlement expansion. Meanwhile, Bush is expected to ask the Palestinian leader to disarm armed groups who freely roam the streets in the territories, starting with the Fatah’s armed factions.