FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thank you, Mr. President, and let me thank the Secretary-General for his report.
As much as I like Ambassador Churkin, Foreign Minister Lavrov, it is an honor to have you in the chair today. Thank you for convening this important session of the Council.
Our meeting today underscores the priority that the international community places on achieving a secure, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East. That includes a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security.
The United States has already revitalized its efforts to make real this vision of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, and we will continue to pursue it vigorously in the months ahead. President Obama is personally committed to this goal, and he continues to lead directly on the issue. As the President noted in his recent address to the Turkish Parliament, the parties have also committed themselves to these goals, in the Roadmap and at Annapolis.
Our interest lies not in a lengthy, drawn-out process but in real results. We must not tarry. Lasting progress can be made if we lift our sights and look to a future of peace—to a Middle East in which Israel lives in peace and security alongside its Arab neighbors, to a region in which the fruits of peace are cherished by all. As President Obama has noted, terrorism and rocket fire aimed at innocent Israelis is simply intolerable. And a future without hope and opportunity for the Palestinians is intolerable as well.
Toward this end, my government’s distinguished and determined Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, Senator George Mitchell, recently completed his third trip to the region. He is working intensively with our Israeli and Arab partners, as well as our friends throughout the international community, toward a clear purpose: to help create the conditions for a peaceful resolution to the conflict and for the establishment of an independent, viable Palestinian state. In addition to moving forward with the parties, his work is also designed to prevent any new outbreak of violence, which could further destabilize the region, hinder our efforts, and claim more innocent civilians.
To further advance this cause, President Obama will be meeting with key regional leaders over the next several weeks. We look forward to these constructive talks. And we look forward to discussing ways in which the international community can support these efforts with our Quartet partners and other friends and allies. The Quartet remains the most effective instrument for advancing the international community’s engagement in the effort to bring lasting peace to the Middle East.
Mr. President, as we move to create a climate for meaningful negotiations, all parties must meet their obligations under the Roadmap. The Palestinian Authority must combat terrorism and incitement directed against Israel. The United States and its partners have provided funding and training for a reformed Palestinian security force, which has recently provided impressive demonstrations of its professionalism and effectiveness. For its part, Israel must halt settlement activity and dismantle outposts erected since March 2001. Israel must also allow the Palestinians freedom of movement, increased security responsibilities, and access to economic opportunity.
All states in the region must consider steps that they can take to create an atmosphere that will help foster successful negotiations. This is one reason why we intend to integrate the Arab Peace Initiative into our own approach. In this spirit, we welcome the remarks made by King Abdullah of Jordan during his productive recent visit to Washington. As he noted, the United States cannot be left to do all the heavy lifting by itself, and other countries, including Jordan, must do all that they can to shore up our common efforts.
We must also work together to fully support the Palestinian Authority as it continues in its efforts to improve the lives of ordinary Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza. It is doing so through nonpartisan, transparent programs. Indeed, the World Bank and the IMF have endorsed the Authority’s budgetary and financial controls in accounting for the $1.7 billion it received from all donors in 2008.
The international community must continue to support the legitimate Palestinian leadership. States in the region have a particular responsibility here. President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and the Palestinian Authority must be able to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that negotiations, not terrorism and violence, are the path to an independent and viable Palestinian state.
In this context, let me turn to the Quartet principles: renouncing violence, recognizing Israel, and respecting past obligations. The United States hopes that all UN members, especially Arab states, will recognize what these principles represent: the essential building blocks of a future Palestinian state. Palestinian reconciliation on terms that do not uphold the Quartet principles would serve only to delay the day when the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for statehood become real.
All UN member states, including those in the region, must also work to ensure the end of the illicit smuggling of arms and ammunition into Gaza, lest Hamas restock its arsenal and spark further conflict. We strongly support reopening Gaza’s border crossings in a controlled, sustained, and continuous manner—with an appropriate monitoring regime involving international and Palestinian Authority participation. This can be achieved through dialogue focused on meeting humanitarian needs; it will not happen through terrorist intimidation and violence.
Separately, we also look forward to the upcoming elections in Lebanon, which must be free, fair, and unmarred by violence, intimidation, and outside influence. We need to continue to support the full implementation of Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701 to protect Lebanon’s hard-won sovereignty and independence. And we must continue to insist on an end to weapons smuggling and on the disarmament of all militias in Lebanon, including Hizballah.
Mr. President, it should be all of our roles to help the parties move forward in pursuit of peace—and to do nothing to hinder their efforts. We must look beyond the smoke of war and avoid the easy temptations of recrimination and rancor. Together, we must focus on a shared vision of peace and security.
The stakes are high. Our actions will help determine what kind of future the children of the Middle East will inherit—whether they will be able to look ahead to hopeful, prosperous lives, or whether they will be forced to endure round after dismal round of bloodshed, crisis, instability, and terror.
In the past, visionary leaders such as Anwar al-Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin, and King Hussein of Jordan have bravely and selflessly devoted themselves to the cause of peace. The question for our generation is simple and stark: whether history will consign us to the ranks of those who let hatred and grievance linger, or whether history will honor us with a place in the camp of the peacemakers. The United States has made its choice. We ask you all to stand with us. Together, let us stand for peace.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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