Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Mr. Secretary General for your important remarks. Mr. President, let me begin by thanking you for your recent visit to Washington, DC. Your visit highlighted the enduring strength of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Lebanon, as well as the many common goals we share, including reaching a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The United States continues to strongly support Lebanon’s independence and sovereignty and the full implementation of Resolutions 1559, 1680, and 1701.
There have been two rounds of proximity talks between Israelis and Palestinians already. We believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can agree to an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and Israel’s goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israel’s security requirements.
The United States recognizes that Jerusalem is a deeply, profoundly, important issue for Israelis and Palestinians, for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. And we believe that through good-faith negotiations the parties can agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties for Jerusalem and safeguards its status for people around the world.
We call again on our international partners—both inside and outside this Council—to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties. We renew our call for Arab states to advance the promise of the Arab Peace Initiative and take steps that show Israelis, Palestinians, and their own citizens that peace is possible and will bring tangible benefits.
Mr. President, let me thank you for convening the Council today to discuss the importance of promoting dialogue across cultures. As the world is woven closer together by technology and trade, new ways of thinking are replacing old lines of division. The United States supports frank and open dialogue in the spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect, rooted in the belief that the cultures and faiths of the world need not be in conflict. Indeed, despite the great diversity of the human family, cultures the world over share common principles of justice, progress, tolerance, and belief in the dignity of all human beings.
Exchanges such as this one help leaders share perspectives and views directly. But we should also not neglect the importance of direct person-to-person dialogue and cooperation. Cross-cultural exchange is a task for citizens, not just officials. International exchange and training programs have long been important components of U.S. foreign policy and outreach, but their role is now being expanded. These programs serve as concrete vehicles for cooperation that can have a lasting impact. The United States currently funds exchanges for more than 2.4 million people a year, and while each program is unique, they all advance our goal of promoting understanding among peoples. Millions of Americans—through schools and universities, religious institutions, youth groups, and other organizations—help build the close ties with peoples all around the world through their own informal exchanges.
Diversity and intercultural dialogue are very much a part of America’s history and identity. What President Obama calls “our patchwork heritage” is an abiding source of national strength. The United States has, in many ways, been a long experiment in bridging cultural divides. The United States is a diverse and pluralistic society, one that people of all religious and cultural backgrounds call home. It is very much the American way to celebrate the different ways in which we have been created.
Mr. President, the United States recently decided to join the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations. Over the last five years, the Alliance has grown into an important global network of partners that fosters dialogue and encourages grassroots projects in the areas of youth, education, media, and the successful integration of migrants. We support the Alliance’s mission and we believe that by joining, we can further the innovative, inclusive approach of this promising cultural initiative.
With his historic address in Cairo last year, President Obama called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. As he said, “In order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.”
Not all differences can be easily bridged; not all disputes will vanish simply from dialogue. But the United States firmly believes that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that would drive us apart. Frank, respectful, and open dialogue strengthens those who would resolve disputes through negotiation and nonviolence and weakens those who would replace argument and civility with rage, terrorism, violence, aggression, and hatred. Those who seek a partner for respectful dialogue and those who work for just and lasting peace will always have a friend in the United States.
Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Our words must be matched with action—because more and more, the challenges of our interwoven age are common to all of us, from climate change to nuclear proliferation to pandemic disease. We need global solutions to global challenges, and we need the respectful dialogue that helps us find peaceful solutions to even the most intractable problems.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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