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IN THE NEWS  - June 7, 2003: Middle East Summit - 2003-06-06

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In the News.

On Wednesday, the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers met in Aqaba, Jordan, and promised to work for peace. Both sides have accepted an American-led plan for the Middle East known as the roadmap to peace. President Bush led the talks in Aqaba at the home of Jordan’s King Abdullah.

The roadmap to peace was approved in December by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. It calls for compromises by both sides. It is designed to end a Palestinian uprising against Israel and bring progress toward an independent Palestinian state in three years.

Attacks by Palestinians have killed more than seven-hundred-fifty Israelis since two-thousand. More than two-thousand Palestinians have been killed during the same period.

President Bush met separately in Aqaba with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, then all three met together. After the meeting, they made public statements.

Mister Abbas and Mister Sharon agreed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not be settled by violence or by military action. Mister Abbas called for an end to armed resistance against Israeli occupation. And he promised strong action against incitement and hatred against Israel.

Mister Sharon agreed to work toward the creation of a democratic Palestinian state. And he promised to remove Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza that were established without government approval.

President Bush said it was a good beginning.

The issue of Israeli settlements is one of the most serious disputes. The Palestinians want the Israelis to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza. These were seized in the Six Day War in nineteen-sixty-seven. An estimated two-hundred-thousand Israelis live there.

Mister Sharon’s government has agreed to remove some Israeli settlements built in those territories. But he wants to keep others. Stopping settlement building is a major part of the peace plan.

On Wednesday, thousands of Israelis opposed to the peace plan demonstrated in Jerusalem to stop the government from removing the settlements.

Both sides, however, say the plan does not go far enough to establish peace. Israelis wanted Mister Abbas to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. And Palestinians wanted Mister Sharon to remove all settlements.

The majority of Palestinians say they want peace. But many reject the plan because it fails to deal with ending Israeli violence against Palestinians, the issue of Palestinian refugees and the dispute over Jerusalem.

Palestinian militant groups have said they will not stop attacks against Israelis until Israel stops occupying Palestinian land. On Friday Hamas ended talks with Mister Abbas. Mister Abbas has appealed to the groups to give negotiations with Israel a chance to succeed.

This VOA Special English program, In the News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.