AMMAN, Jordan (AP) – Jordan’s King Abdullah II will meet U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the Middle East peace process and U.S. efforts to establish an independent Palestinian state, a royal palace statement said Friday.
The White House later in the day confirmed that Abdullah will visit Bush on Tuesday, and would discuss Mideast, bilateral and regional issues.
During the White House meeting, Abdullah plans to explore ways to build on Bush’s recent call for an international meeting to push forward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to the Jordanian statement.
Bush has said the proposed conference will bring together Israelis, Palestinians and some of their Arab neighbors to discuss issues that have blocked the resumption of peace negotiations and the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The Jordanian king, a close U.S. ally, has praised Bush’s initiative, saying it will pave the way for real progress toward peace.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit said Thursday the meeting will likely be held in September on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in the U.S. Officials from the U.N. and the U.S. State Department could not confirm Aboul Gheit’s comments.
The U.S. president’s attempt to jump-start the peace process follows last month’s takeover of the Gaza Strip by the hardline Islamic group Hamas.
The power grab split the Palestinian leadership and placed yet another obstacle in the way of a broad Mideast peace deal. But it also prompted Israel and the West to seek ways to shore up beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
With international backing, Abbas now heads an emergency government based in the West Bank. Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, remains isolated in Gaza.
Hamas has rejected Bush’s proposal for the peace conference, and Syria said the offer may be “just words” for now. Washington’s close Arab allies welcomed the Bush proposal, but they stressed the importance of making an Arab land-for-peace plan first adopted in 2002 key to any talks.
A 1991 Mideast peace conference in Madrid, sponsored by former President George H.W. Bush, paved the way for the Oslo peace accords and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority. But repeated stalemates have since left many skeptical that a repeat of that gathering could lead to any enduring breakthrough.