Leahy says Israeli Palestinian conflict resolution is critical issue

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(Host) The War in Iraq isn’t the biggest threat to peace in the Middle East.

That’s what Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch are hearing during a visit to the Mideast.

Political leaders told them that the most critical issue is the Israeli and Palestinian conflict.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Leahy and Welch are part of a special bi-partisan congressional delegation visit to several countries in the Middle East.

The trip was set up to have members of the delegation meet with political leaders in the region.

Earlier this week, Leahy and Welch met with King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Leahy says he was surprised that the King identified the resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict as the single most important issue facing his country.

Leahy and Welch briefed reporters about these issues on a conference call from Jerusalem:

(Leahy) “That was the most important thing. Settle that and everything else is doable. But he says that goes beyond Iraq, goes beyond Syria, goes beyond the others. Settle this issue then the other things including Iraq will fall into place.”

(Kinzel) Welch says he received the same message from Israeli leaders.

(Welch) “I found this to be very sobering because just coming from Washington, where to me, the political energies in that city are absorbed with trying to make progress in Iraq, it highlighted the lack of engagement that the United States has had on focusing on the issues that were identified by the folks over here as the number one issue – the Israeli Palestinian issue.”

(Kinzel) Leahy believes it’s critical for the United States to help resolve this conflict before the situation gets totally out of control.

(Leahy) “Even though there’s only a year and half left in the president’s term, the new president coming in, they should be actively involved in this. Otherwise if this thing goes on much longer people lose all hope. And when people lose hope, desperation takes over.”

(Kinzel) Leahy and Welch plan to visit Lebanon before returning to the United States this weekend.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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