WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush sought to boost the Middle East peace process Thursday by voicing fresh optimism about the creation of a Palestinian state. During a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he said he remained confident that the definition of a state for the Palestinian people would be reached before he leaves office in January.
"I believe it's in Israel's interests and the Palestinian people's interest to have leaders willing to work toward the achievement of that state," Bush said during the meeting held at the White House.
Abbas headed into the meeting with the goal of prodding the Bush administration to pressure Israel to stop settlement activities in the West Bank. He defined a halt on settlements as a condition of the map to peace.
Jordanian King Abdullah II, who met with Bush earlier this week, had also called for an end to all Israeli settlement activities, as well as the lifting of the blockades and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.
In a statement published by the Jordanian Embassy, he was reported to have told the US president that "it is important that Israel refrains from measures that would jeopardize negotiations with the Palestinians."
Abbas said Palestinian leaders are "doing everything we can" to reach a peace deal that would be satisfactory for his people and for Israel. "I cannot say that the road to peace is paved with flowers," Abbas said. "It is paved with obstacles. But together, we will work very hard in order to eliminate those obstacles and achieve peace."