Bush urges Israel, Palestinians to resolve differences over core issues

By Xinhua

Ramallah : U.S. President George W. Bush on Thursday urged the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve their differences over the core issues.

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Bush made the remarks while holding a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after their meeting at the headquarters of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA).

The U.S. president said he stood ready to provide both political and economic backing but underlined that Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert must “come together to make hard choices.”

Bush said he concluded that both the Israelis and the Palestinians are committed to peace, which gave him great confidence.

He expects that Israel and the Palestinians will reach a final peace treaty in 2008 before his term as president runs out, and “future Palestinian state must be made of contiguous territory.” “I’m confident that with proper help, the state of Palestine will emerge… I am confident that the status quo is unacceptable,” Bush said, pledging that his administration will remain “very much engaged” in peace negotiations.

Abbas, for his part, called on Israel to fulfill its commitments to a Middle East peace plan, and said he hopes “this will be the year for the creation of peace.”

“We have great hopes that during 2008 we will reach the final status and a peace treaty with Israel,” he said. Abbas said he was satisfied with the meeting he had with visiting Bush in Ramallah. “The talks have focused on all the issues, even those which you did not think about,” he said, adding that “we are agreed on all topics.”

Abbas also hailed Bush’s “commitment to achieve his vision of establishing an independent Palestinian statehood.” “Our people, who selected the peace as a strategic choice, want to see this vision coming into being by your support and commitment,” Abbas addressed Bush.

Bush and Abbas met for nearly an hour at the latter’s office in the first visit by Bush to the region as President of the United States.