WHO IS ATTENDING
- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the host.
- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
- United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
- European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
- Foreign ministers from European, Arab and other nations.
- Up to 30 delegations, including the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Arab League representatives.
The Middle East Quartet, comprising the European Union, the United Nations, Russia and the United States, will meet on the sidelines of the conference.
WHY IS IT HAPPENING?
With the focus on Palestinians, Israel is not attending. The meeting was a personal initiative of Blair, who started a push for Middle East peace after last November's reelection of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Any idea of a full-scale peace conference got short shrift from Israel and the United States, and the focus shifted to helping build Palestinian infrastructure before Israel's planned withdrawal from Gaza. Blair, eager to rebuild his global standing after the Iraq war and expected to call an election for May, announced the meeting on a visit to the Middle East in December.
Hopes for peace have been strengthened since Abbas agreed a ceasefire with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a Feb. 8 summit, but they took a knock after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed five Israelis in Tel Aviv last Friday.
WHAT WILL IT ACHIEVE?
- British officials say the meeting will produce statements from Palestinian leaders on their program for reform and from other nations supporting that agenda.
- It will focus on reforms of Palestinian security forces, political institutions and governance and financial aid.
- It may commit to hold a donor conference to be organized by the World Bank and there may be some short-term financial help to plug immediate cash flow problems.
- A U.S-led "Security group" may be established to give concrete financial and technical support to the Palestinian Authority.