US President Barack Obama will urge Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders to take the steps necessary to achieve peace in the Middle East when they visit Washington this month.
The White House said yesterday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would visit on May 18, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on May 26 and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on May 28.
"With each of them, the president will discuss ways the United States can strengthen and deepen our partnerships, as well as the steps all parties should take to help achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the Arab states," Mr Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said.
Mr Obama has pledged to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a high foreign policy priority for his administration and has dispatched former US Senator George Mitchell as a special envoy to the region.
The Obama administration has also stepped up pressure on Israel's new government to accept the goal of a Palestinian state and halt expansion of Jewish settlements on occupied land. Since coming to power in March, Mr Netanyahu has balked at recognising the goal of Palestinian statehood.
That pressure increased yesterday when UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to "fundamentally change its policies" on settlements and prove its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Addressing a Security Council debate on the Middle East, Mr Ban also demanded an end to Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, and said the Palestinian Authority must develop an effective security structure.