Bush completes Mideast trip in Egypt with commitments to regional peace

By Xinhua

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Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt : U.S. President George W. Bush ended his Mideast tour on Wednesday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort Sharm el-Sheikh as both the United States and the northern African country made more commitments to promote the Mideast peace process.

At a joint press conference after his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier in the day, Bush expressed his optimism that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal can be reached by the end of 2008 amid deep scepticism from some Arab countries.

The U.S. president reiterated that he will be coming back to the region to help push the Israeli-Palestinian talks, expressing his confidence to get a peace deal done by the two sides.

For his part, Mubarak expressed his support to Bush’s goal to reach a peace agreement before the end of his term in January 2009,noting that Arab leaders had reiterated during Bush’s regional visit that the resolution of the conflict for Palestinians is key to a broader peace throughout the region.

Standing alongside Bush, the Egyptian president expressed Egypt’s keenness to support peace efforts and work hand-in-hand with the United States, the Quartet (the UN, the EU, the U.S. and Russia) and all other concerned parties to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and open new horizons in the Middle East to more peace and security.

During his eight-day regional trip, Bush had also urged Arab countries to “reach out to Israel” to help promote the peace negotiations which were reactivated by the Annapolis conference held in the United States in late November and overshadowed by the latest violent incidents in the Gaza Strip.

On the issue of Iraq, Bush noted that the Iraqi situation has been improved as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday paid a sudden visit to Iraq to see “progress being made on Iraqi political reconciliation”.

Rice saw the security has returned back to the streets of Baghdad and the Iraqi situation is improving due to the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, Bush added.

The U.S. president also expressed the continuing U.S. support to the Iraqi people on the road of democracy, which he said has already begun in the war-torn country.

Moreover, Bush urged Syria, Iran and their allies to halt interference in Lebanese affairs, agreeing with Mubarak on the importance for nations in the region to support Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Seniora.

“It’s important to encourage the holding of immediate and unconditional presidential elections according to the Lebanese constitution. And to make it clear to Syria, Iran and their allies that they must end their interference and efforts to undermine theprocess,” said Bush.

Experts and analysts had expressed different reactions as some highlighted the importance of Bush’s coming visit to the region, noting that the visit would add new thing for the relations between the United States and its Arab allies, while others termed the trip would be “useless”.

Before Egypt, Bush had already visited Israel, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, with the aim to affirm the U.S. commitment to its allies to realize security and stability in the region.