US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have pledged to work towards the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
The two leaders pledged to work with the new Palestinian leadership
Speaking at a joint press conference in Washington, the two leaders have also underlined the importance of the forthcoming democratic elections in Iraq, and of a close partnership between the USA and Europe.
Key extracts from the press conference follow:
George W Bush on the Middle East:
Prime Minister Blair and I... share a vision of a free, peaceful, a democratic, broader Middle East.
That vision must include a just and peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, based on two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
Our sympathies are with the Palestinian people as they begin a period of mourning. Yet the months ahead offer a new opportunity to make progress toward a lasting peace.
Soon Palestinians will choose a new president. This is the first step in creating lasting, democratic political institutions through which a free Palestinian people will elect local and national leaders.
We're committed to the success of these elections and we stand ready to help.
I look forward to working with the Palestinian leadership that is committed to fighting terror and committed to the cause of democratic reform.
We'll mobilise the international community to help revive the Palestinian economy, to build up the Palestinian security institutions to fight terror, to help the Palestinian government fight corruption, and to reform the Palestinian political system and
build democratic institutions.
We'll also work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to complete the disengagement plan from Gaza and part of the West Bank.
We seek a democratic, independent and viable state for the
Palestinian people. We are committed to the security of Israel as a
These objectives - two states living side by side in peace and security - can be reached by only one path: the path of democracy, reform and the rule of law.
I think it is fair to say that I believe we've got a great chance to establish a Palestinian state, and I intend to use the next four years to spend the capital of the United States on such a state.
I believe it is in the interests of the world that a truly free state develop.
Tony Blair on the Middle East:
We meet at a crucial time, where it is important that we revitalise and reinvigorate the search for a genuine, lasting and just peace in the Middle East.
I would like to repeat my condolences to the Palestinian people at this time.
As you will have seen, we have set out the steps that we believe are necessary to get into a process that will lead to the two-state solution that we want to see.
And I think those steps are very clear.
They are, first of all, making sure that we set out a clear vision... a two-state solution; two democratic states living side by side together in peace.
The second thing is we need to support those Palestinian
Thirdly, however, if we want a viable Palestinian state, we
need to make sure that the political, the economic and the security
infrastructure of that state is shaped and helped to come into
We will mobilise international opinion and the international
community in order to do that.
The fourth thing is that Prime Minister (Ariel) Sharon's plan for disengagement is important.
That disengagement plan is now going forward. It's important that we
And then on the basis of this, we are able, in accordance with
the principles of the roadmap, to get back into final status
negotiation so that we have that two-state solution.
And I think there is every possibility that we can do this with
the energy and the will, and the recognition that in the end it is
only if the two states that we want to see living side by side are
indeed democratic states, where the rule of law and human rights are
respected in each of them, that a just peace could be secured.
Mr Bush on Iraq:
Prime Minister Allawi authorized military operations to rid
Falluja of Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists, and American and
Iraqi forces have made substantial progress in the last several
British, Americans and other coalition forces are helping
provide stability that is necessary for free elections. And UN
officials are helping the Iraqi people prepare for those elections
to be held in January.
As those elections draw near, the desperation of the killers
will grow and the violence could escalate. Success of democracy in
Iraq will be a crushing blow to the forces of terror and the
terrorists know it.
Mr Blair on Iraq:
We have to complete our mission in Iraq, make sure that Iraq is
a stable and a democratic country.
And I have no doubt at all that whatever the difficulties the
terrorists and insurgents, supporters of Saddam Hussein may pose for
us, that we will overcome those difficulties, ourselves, the
multinational force together with the Iraqi government, and ensure
that Iraq can be that democratic, stable state that the vast majority of Iraqis I know will want to see.
Mr Bush on transatlantic ties:
All that we hope to achieve together requires that America and
Europe remain close partners. We are the pillars of the free world.
We face the same threats and share the same belief in freedom
and the rights of every individual.
In my second term, I will work to deepen our transatlantic
ties with the nations of Europe. I intend to visit Europe as soon as
possible after my inauguration.
America applauds the success of Nato and EU enlargement, and
welcomes the stability and prosperity that that enlargement brings.
We must apply the combined strength and moral purpose of Europe
and America to effectively fight terror and to overcome poverty and
disease and despair, to advance human dignity and to advance
Mr Blair on transatlantic ties:
I think there is a tremendous desire and willingness on the
part of certainly our partners in the European Union to make sure
that that alliance is strong.
It's necessary for the security of the world. It's necessary for us to be able to tackle
many of the problems that confront us.