WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Tuesday met privately with Jordan’s King Abdullah who pressed him to intensify U.S. efforts to jump-start peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
The two dined in the residence at the White House a week after Bush unveiled plans for a Middle East peace conference aimed at breaking the stalemate plaguing the region for years. The meeting will be held later this year in the United States.
“King Abdullah urged the U.S. to intensify its efforts in the coming weeks and months, particularly after Bush’s recent call for an international meeting to advance the peace process,” the Jordanian embassy said in a statement.
Bush has promoted a two-state solution but numerous issues and problems have stymied those efforts. And last month’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas militants has added new complications to peace plans.
“He remains committed to two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said after Bush’s dinner with the close U.S. ally.
At the meeting, Abdullah also urged Israel to take steps to build confidence that it was serious about peace, including ending all settlement activities as well as relaxing restrictions on the movement of Palestinians.
“The King said that a just and comprehensive peace to which the Arab people aspire should emanate from a solution that addresses all outstanding issues between the Palestinians and Israel, including final status issues,” the statement said.
Roughly 18 months before Bush’s term in office ends, U.S. allies such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt want the U.S. president to get more involved in helping broker peace in the Middle East.
At the same time, Bush has been pressing Abdullah as well as other Middle East leaders to continue supporting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of the secular Fatah party after it lost control of Gaza to Hamas.
Some $190 million in U.S. aid has been pledged for Abbas’ government through the end of September.
To try to boost peace efforts further former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was named a special envoy for the Quartet of Middle East mediators, which includes the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
Abdullah also spoke with Bush about the ongoing war in Iraq and bilateral economic relations, the embassy said.