Jerusalem, Jan.10 : Visiting U.S.President George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert have told reporters here that they discussed progress of the Middle East peace process and the situation prevailing in Iran during their more than two-hour-long discussions.
Addressing a joint press conference after their meeting, both leaders stressed on their mutual desire to pursue the peace process nitiated in Annapolis, Maryland and on the threat posed by Iran and its nuclear program.
Bush, who is making his first visit to Israel during his presidency, described the event as a historic moment and a historic opportunity.
Emphasising that the security of Israel and the Palestinian people was of utmost importance to the United States, Bush said: "We're in conflict with radicals and extremists who are willing to murder innocent people to achieve a dark vision."
"This is a historic opportunity for the world to fight that -- to fight those terrorists. It's a historic opportunity to spread freedom (inaudible) the great alternative to their ideology is a society based upon human rights and human dignity, a society in which every man, woman and child is free," he added.
Thanking the Israeli Government for being a partner in the peace process, Bush further said: "I believe that two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is in the best interests of America and the world. I believe it's in the long-term security interests of Israel, and I know it'll provide a more hopeful society for the Palestinians."
Lauding both Olmert and Palestinian President Mohammad Abbas for their vision for peace, he, however, said: "I'm under no illusions: It's going to be hard work. I fully understand that there's going to be some painful political compromises. I fully understand that there's going to be some tough negotiations. And the role of the United States is to help in those negotiations."
He said that it was essential that people understand America cannot dictate the terms of what a state will look like. The only way to have lasting peace, the only way for an agreement to mean anything is for the two parties to come together and make the difficult choices.
He said that during the rest of his trip, he would be talking about the opportunity for Middle Eastern peace, and remind people in the neighbourhood that if they truly want to see two states living side by side in peace, they have an obligation.
On Iran, he said it is a threat to world peace.
"Iran is a threat, and Iran will be a threat if the international community does not come together and prevent that nation from the development of the know-how to build a nuclear weapon," he added. Olmert expressed his delight over President Bush's visit to Israel, and said his meeting with the latter was very interesting and important for the future of the Middle East.
"To me, both sides, I believe, are very seriously trying to move forward with now in order to realize the vision of a two-state solution, a alestinian state for the Palestinian people and the state of Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people and a Jewish state," he said.
He also praised Washington for its leadership role in the Middle East peace process, both politically and financially.
"We (Olmert and Bush) discussed regional issues and the bilateral relations between Israel and America, and, naturally, of course, the progress that we envisage for the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," the Israeli Prime Minister told reporters here.
He hoped Bush realised that Israel is absolutely committed to carry on these negotiations in a very serious manner, to deal with all the core issues that we need to deal in order to bring about an agreement that will have to be implemented, subject, of course, to the implementation of the road map agreed with the Palestinians and announced in Annapolis.
"There will be no peace unless terror is stopped. And terror will have to be stopped everywhere," Olmert said.