Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert greets U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2007.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert greets U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Jerusalem, Oct. 14, 2007. Moshe Milner/GPO via Getty Images
After a trip to Moscow, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heads to the Middle East, where she will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice is trying to lay the groundwork for a U.S.-sponsored conference on Middle East peace scheduled for next month in Annapolis, Md.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams have been meeting in advance of Rice's visit, and Michele Keleman, who is in Jerusalem and is traveling with Rice, tells James Hattori that Rice says the two sides are building up confidence, but still have a long way to go.
The secretary of state also says she hopes that the summit's framework deals in a substantial way with the core issues: the borders of a Palestinian state, the right of return for Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem. Keleman notes that the so-called final status issues have not been dealt with in a serious way since the Clinton administration.
Rice is downplaying expectations about the U.S. role in brokering a deal, saying that the talks are primarily about what the Israelis and Palestinians can do. As well, she is suspicious of setting timetables.
In addition to bridging the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians, Rice says the talks will also need to address institution-building in the Palestinian territories, if the Palestinians are to have a functioning state.
As well, Washington hopes next month's conference will bring key Arab partners and other international players to boost the bilateral development of a pathway to a Palestinian state.
Later in her trip, Rice plans to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo and in London with Jordan's King Abdullah.