WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President George W. Bush, who hosted a summit last week aimed at jump-starting Israeli and Palestinian peace talks, will visit the Middle East in January, the White House said on Tuesday.
Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, would not specify which countries Bush planned to visit. “The president will go to the Mideast region in early January. Details to come,” Johndroe said.
Israeli media reported earlier that Bush would visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the middle of January in his first visit there as president.
After the 44-nation gathering in Annapolis, Maryland, Bush assured Israeli and Palestinian leaders that the United States would actively engage in peacemaking. He met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas together and separately at the White House last week to emphasize his interest in helping them reach a peace deal.
Bush is seeking an agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis by the end of 2008 amid some doubts about his commitment to stay engaged on the issue during his last year in office.
Bush, who faced criticism for not taking a hands-on approach earlier, pledged that the United States would use its power to help the two sides reach an agreement.