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Rice Says Mideast Peace Process Can Defuse Palestinian Violence

02 February 2007

Secretary says possibility of statehood would give hope to Palestinians

Washington -- Movement toward resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could help defuse some of the daily turmoil besetting the Palestinian Territories, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

After meeting with members of the Quartet for Middle East peace February 2, Rice told reporters she thinks “the political horizon of a Palestinian state can help to show the Palestinian people what is possible.”  She said: “The Palestinian people have waited a long time for a state. … And so I don't think we want to delay any longer the development of a political horizon for these people, and I think it would give great cause for hope in this region.”

The Quartet, which is comprised of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, is working to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict based on the principles of the road map for Middle East peace.

The Quartet members issued a statement following their meeting in which they pledged support to “the goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and creating an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel” on the basis of U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 and 338.

The group welcomed the December 23, 2006, meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.  This was the first meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in six years.  The Quartet urged both sides to implement the initial steps set forth in the road map.  For the Palestinians, this means dismantling terrorist networks, and for the Israelis, this means freezing new settlement activity in the Palestinian territories and dismantling illegal Israeli settler outposts. (See road map.)

The group expressed concern at the growing internecine violence within the Palestinian Territories and urged Palestinians to unite behind a government that adheres to the demands of the international community: renounce violence, recognize Israel and respect all existing agreements.

The international community cut off assistance to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority a year ago because the party refused to adhere to these demands.  However, the Quartet established a “temporary international mechanism” through the European Union to continue providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.  In its statement, the Quartet called for the expansion of this aid mechanism to support governance, institution-building and economic development projects.

The principal Quartet members expressed differing views about the utility of engaging Syria as part of the peace process.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, “In principle … we are in favor of involving all those who can contribute to progress into this process, and definitely in this case Syria could play a constructive role.”

However, Rice remained skeptical about the usefulness of direct talks with Syria.  “I think Syria knows what it needs to do to be a stabilizing force,” she said.  “And Syria doesn't need the United States to tell it what it could do to be a stabilizing force.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, attending his first Quartet meeting as the representative of the EU presidency, echoed Rice’s position that Syria must demonstrate its willingness to engage constructively in the peace process.

Lavrov also said Russia believes the international community should engage directly with Hamas “to try to influence their position so that Hamas would accept those principles that were formulated by the Quartet.”  Russia maintains relations with Hamas, but the United States and most European countries refuse to deal with a group they consider a terrorist organization.

Steinmeier announced that the Quartet next will convene in Berlin after a trilateral meeting between Olmert, Abbas and Rice. (See related article.)

For more information on U.S. policy, see The Middle East:  A Vision for the Future.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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