WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) pledged Saturday that the United States "will not waver" in its determination to push for peace in the Middle East.
Despite fresh violence threatening the peace initiative President Bush (search) pushed on a trip to the region earlier this month, Powell called on both Israel and the Palestinians to stand firm with the United States in following the so-called road map to peace.
"The United States will not get weary, we will not waver, we will not stop, we will not step aside," he told a group of Arab-Americans.
"The parties must turn these courageous commitments into peace on the ground. This is no time for parsing promises. The two sides must now perform," he said.
"We must not let this new momentum toward peace lag," said Powell, acknowledging that "there will be bumps along the road."
Bombings, missile attacks and shootings have killed more than 60 people since the June 4 gathering with Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers in Jordan where they agreed to pursue the internationally sanctioned road map.
Despite that, Powell said, there is no viable alternative other than peace.
"If we don't move forward, if we don't take this opportunity, if we don't punch through this current wave of violence, then where are we?" he asked. "We're nowhere -- with two peoples killing one another day after day after day."
Powell said Israel must follow through on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's commitment to withdraw from Jewish settlements and to improve living conditions for the Palestinians.
As for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Powell said he must do everything he can to end the terrorist attacks against the Israelis.
The secretary of state was the keynote speaker at a dinner of the annual convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (search). Powell received a warm greeting as he opened his speech by saying, "I am your friend."
His address came amid a flurry of new meetings aimed at saving the peace process.
The Israelis and Palestinians held top-level security talks Saturday, even as more violence flared.
A high-level delegation of Egyptian security officials also planned to arrive in Gaza on Sunday to meet with Hamas officials to discuss a possible end to attacks. Hamas this month pulled out of cease-fire talks, and has said it does not plan to end the violence.
Meanwhile, the first contingent of U.S. monitors who will supervise implementation of the "road map" peace plan headed to the region Saturday. The team will be led by Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf.
Later this week, Powell and other senior representatives of the so-called Quartet -- the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union, which together crafted the road map plan -- are to hold talks in Jordan.