US confirms upcoming Rice visit

Visit likely to occur in conjunction with another regional trip planned in April.

Condi Rice 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Condi Rice 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The US State Department confirmed Friday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit the Middle East in the near future for further talks aimed at advancing peace between Israelis and Palestinians. State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters that he would expect her to travel to the region again "in the next several weeks...on the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." He added that he also anticipates that Rice would "as it stands right now, meet with Israelis, meet with Palestinians" and perhaps other regional actors. He wouldn't provide further details and said no final decisions had been made regarding the trip. But one State Department source told The Jerusalem Post that the visit would likely occur in conjunction with another regional trip she has tentatively planned in early April regarding Iraq. Rice held a trilateral meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on February 19, at which time it was decided there would be a follow-up meeting. In the meantime, Abbas and Olmert are set to meet on Sunday. Rice's increased presence in the Middle East has been welcomed by critics who charge that the US has taken too hands-off an approach on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. King Abdullah of Jordan, a friend of Washington's, stressed the need for greater US involvement in address to a special joint session of Congress this week. Jordanian officials said the king saw an opportunity to make such a push given enhanced US engagement on the issue. Others, however, have said that no gains have been made from such US efforts, and argue that no movement can occur while the rejectionist Hamas plays such a large role in the PA.