WASHINGTON – President Bush will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jordan next week -- "conditions permitting," the White House announced Wednesday.
Giving the administration some wiggle room, Deputy Press Secretary Scott McClellan said that if "conditions are conducive to productive talks," the president will add a stop in the port city of Aqaba to his planned trip to Europe that begins Friday. The meeting would take place June 4, after the president meets with Jordan's King Abdullah (search).
"The president very much looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Abbas for the first time as well as meeting with Prime Minister Sharon again," McClellan said. "Mr. Abbas is committed to reforms and moving the process forward as well as cracking down on terrorists."
McClellan said U.S. officials want to make certain the "environment is ripe" for Bush to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. But the spokesman said the White House expects the meeting to happen.
Bush will cut short his meeting at the Group of Eight summit in France to head to the Middle East, staying for one night instead of two.
The early departure from the Alpine town of Evian means Bush will miss perhaps a dinner and some of the final G-8 ceremonies on Tuesday, but will be there for all "the main events," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
He will still meet face-to-face with French President Jacque Chirac, with whom the president has had strained relations since the pre-Iraq war debate in the United Nations. Chirac led anti-war efforts. It will be the first meeting since November, though the two have spoken on the phone.
Chirac's office said he understood the need for the president's early departure.
"President Bush is compelled in order to respect his obligations to leave Evian in the afternoon of Monday," Chirac's spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said. "We spoke about this with the White House and indicated that we understood completely."
Bush will meet with Arab leaders at the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and stop at U.S. Central Command headquarters in Qatar on June 5.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said the president is seeking support from Arab leaders to "increasingly isolate those who support terror" and to help the Palestinians "restore their security" arrangements.
He added that the president "expects a solid expression of support" for the road map, which foresees a Palestinian state by 2005.
A three-way summit among Bush, Sharon and Abbas "would give some hope and inspiration to the people of the region that we are now moving forward on the road map toward the vision that the president had," Powell told reporters.
The summit will be the first time that Bush has met Abbas (search). Sharon and Abbas met for the first time earlier this month and were supposed to meet again Wednesday, but that discussion was postponed after Abbas sought consultation with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The May 17 meeting was the first time Israeli and Palestinian leaders met since violence erupted in September 2000. No agreements emerged.
One possible obstacle to the meeting is Arafat, who has insisted he lead Mideast peace talks.
The White House said it is not concerned that Arafat will put up roadblocks to Abbas' attending the meeting. Arafat was not invited to attend the talks.
Jordanian Ambassador to the United States Karim Kawar told Fox News that he thinks the talks will go on without a hitch.
"I think the president has been determined to move forward with the road map and I believe there is very little that could happen to stop him from moving forward," Kawar said, adding that the summit comes at a timely moment to bring the parties together after a long break between talks.
Fox News' Wendell Goler and the Associated Press contributed to this report.