WASHINGTON – President Bush on Thursday asked Jordan's King Abdullah II (search) to visit Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to help advance the Middle East peace process.
"It will be very helpful to have your voice of reason there to talk to both leaders," Bush said after meeting with Abdullah in the Oval Office. The president said Abdullah "graciously agreed" to meet with Sharon and Abbas.
Jordan (search) has urged the United States and its diplomatic partners to help resume talks aimed at achieving Palestinian statehood now that Israel has pulled out of the Gaza Strip after a 38-year occupation. Abdullah has said he hopes the international community would devise a plan to rescue the Palestinian economy from the devastation of decades of mismanagement and conflict with Israel.
Sitting next to Bush in the Oval Office, Abdullah thanked Bush for his support for trying to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (search).
"I know that you want to find a solution that Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and harmony," Abdullah said. "I hope, if we can help in that respect, that is a great honor for us."
On Sept. 16, Sharon met with Abdullah, their first talks in months and a further sign of warming relations between the Jewish state and the Arab world after Israel's Gaza withdrawal. The meeting was on the sidelines of the U.N. summit marking the world body's 60th anniversary.
Earlier this week, Israel's foreign minister called on Arab states to open formal relations with his country, but the Arabs showed continued signs of division over whether and how far to go beyond symbolic gestures to reward Israel for its withdrawal. The Arab League still hasn't set a date for a summit to discuss the Gaza withdrawal or Iraq, apparently due to lack of consensus on the issues.