13 June 2003
The United States is trying to salvage the latest Middle East peace effort, known as the road map, which has been undermined by a week of violence which has left dozens dead on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The United States says it will continue the peace process and that the road map is intact despite a week of continuous violence.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke by telephone with both the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers Thursday.
In an interview with the Associated Press shortly afterward, Mr. Powell said he urged Israel not to miss out on the opportunity for peace and he called on the Palestinian side to do more to stem the violence.
Whether the appeal will yield results remains to be seen.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom vowed that his country will not be part of any peace process as long as violence continues against Israeli citizens.
"There will not be any peace process while those attacks continue and the Palestinians have to understand that they have to take an immediate action in order to prevent it," he said. "More than that, until they will do it the Israeli government will continue to keep the safety and the security of the citizens of the state of Israel."
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with American Ambassador Dan Kurtzer, Mr. Shalom repeated the Israeli position that it reserves the right to use whatever force is necessary to protect Israelis.
"It means that we will do everything in order to prevent those attacks and I want to tell you that even now, we are facing more than 50 attacks that are planned by those terrorist organizations and it's something that we are determined to prevent with all the measures that we have," he said.
Israel radio reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has told President Bush that his government is continuing negotiations with all Palestinian militant factions to achieve a cease fire, in order to implement the road map. Mr. Abbas and Mr. Bush spoke by phone on Thursday.
An American delegation headed by special Middle East envoy John Wolf is to leave for Jerusalem Saturday in an effort to prevent a further deterioration of the situation.
Secretary of State Powell plans to meet in Jordan later this month with officials of three other members of the so-called Quartet that put together the road map, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
The plan calls for an end to 33 months of conflict, the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005 and other measures designed to settle the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.