Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama set to host Mideast leaders for talks on peace deal

By Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz Correspondent

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet separately over the next two weeks with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to discuss the future of the Middle East peace process.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in Washington on Monday, to be followed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on May 26 and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 28, the White House announced on Tuesday.

"The President looks forward to welcoming key partners in the effort to achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East to the White House later this month," the White House said in a statement.

"The President will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab states."

Obama met earlier this month with President Shimon Peres, and with Jordanian King Abullah II in late April.

On Monday, The Times of London quoted the Jordanian king as saying that the United States is promoting a peace plan for the Middle East involving a "57-state solution" in which the entire Muslim world would recognize Israel.

"We are offering a third of the world to meet them with open arms," the king said. "The future is not the Jordan River or the Golan Heights or the Sinai, the future is Morocco in the Atlantic and Indonesia in the Pacific. That is the prize."

But he warned: "If we delay our peace negotiations, then there is going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12-18 months."

The newspaper said the king had hatched the plan with President Barack Obama in Washington in April. Details are likely to be thrashed out in a series of diplomatic moves this month, including Obama's meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington next week.

"What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese," said the king.

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