Gulf News
October 30, 2008 - 8:00pm

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits the Middle East next week to try to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace despite the recognition that there is little chance of a deal this year, diplomats said.

The State Department said Rice would leave on Wednesday, the day after the US presidential election, and travel to Egypt, Jordan, the West Bank and Israel, whose parliamentary election has effectively put the peace process on hold.

State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Rice would "discuss efforts to achieve positive and lasting peace in the region" but he made no mention of US President George W. Bush's goal of securing a peace deal by the end of the year.

Wood acknowledged that an Israeli parliamentary election, which is expected to be held on February 10, had "complicated" the peace effort.

"The reality is Israel is going to have an election and that makes the search for an agreement on the calendar that we had hoped for probably not realistic," said the official, who asked not to be named.

"That does not mean you can make no progress ... We believe it's possible to continue to advance this," he added. "The principle here has to be to protect, sustain and try to advance the negotiations but not at any price."

The State Department said Rice was expected to meet the Quartet of Middle East mediators that includes the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017