President Bush opened the Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland today, stating formal negotiations to create a Palestinian state would begin next month. The diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East, made up of the United Nations, European Union, Russian Federation and United States, has voiced its full support of the conference.
The Quartet said that it "welcomed the commitment of the Israeli and Palestinians leaders to launch bilateral negotiations toward the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza and the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace."
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be attending the conference and voiced his hope that the talks will aid in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But in a briefing to an informal meeting of the General Assembly at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ban said he remained concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation inside the Gaza Strip, where the economy has deteriorated since many border crossings into Israel were closed earlier this year in response to intra-Palestinian fighting.
Still, the Quartet welcomed the parties' continuing efforts to fulfill their respective commitments under Phase One of the Roadmap, an outline peace plan, and urged the international community to continue its support. Principals took note of the broad international support for the Annapolis Conference, and looked forward to the December Paris Donors' Conference to muster international financial backing.