WASHINGTON – The chances of a joint Israeli-Palestinian statement at the end of the Annapolis peace conference seem hazy at best, but US President George W. Bush has no intention of "offering ideas on outcomes on specific issues".
President Bush's National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley, said Monday that a joint statement is not as important as it may have seemed earlier, adding a declaration is no longer needed as a way to prod the two sides into talks, because they've taken the step of seeking negotiation.
Bush's view has always been that the US is not going to impose a negotiation or a timetable on the parties just to reflect American politics, said Hadley.
The Americans, he added, were very pleased with the Arab and Muslim nations' willingness to attend the summit, as it is seen as the first step towards peace between Israel and the Arab nations.
"An Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be a part of a broader, regional peace process," he said.
Syria's decision to attend the peace conference was taken as a positive sign as well, although Hadley stressed that "Syria was invited, as the other Arab nations were… they've decided to accept the invitation and we'll se what they have to say when they get here.
"The focus of the summit must remain the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and fast-tracking the implementation of the road map". The Golan Heights, he added, are not on the summit's agenda; but "all those attending will be free to raise any issues they feel are important."
"There are a lot of ideas that have been put out at various points in the negotiations that have occurred over the past 10 years,: said Hadely. "This is not a negotiating session; it is to launch negotiations, and for the parties, then, to take the lead and establish a schedule and beginning to grapple with these issues."
AP contributed to this report