December 17th, 2006 03:58 EST
Rice Says, Despite Palestinian Conflict Peace Opening Remains
Washington – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that despite recent tensions between Palestinian factions there still is a chance to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. She added, however, that there has to be “some resolution of the Palestinian internal conflict.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for new parliamentary and presidential elections and said he has the right to dismiss the Hamas-led government in response to recent tensions and street clashes between the supporters of his Fatah party and of Hamas. Hamas officials rejected the move and called it a coup attempt.
Tensions between the two main Palestinian parties have been rising after a series of armed attacks by unidentified gunmen on Palestinian politicians and their families, including a December 14 assault on a convoy of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas called the attack an assassination attempt by Fatah. President Abbas strongly denied the allegation.
Speaking in an interview with Reuters December 15, Rice said she thinks “Israelis and mainstream Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas” want to move the peace process forward. She also blamed the recent violence on Hamas’ “inability to govern.” “And their inability to govern, of course, comes from their unwillingness to meet international standards,” Rice said.
It is a matter for the Palestinians to resolve the conflict, she said, “and we are trying to support Mahmoud Abbas in doing that.” (See related article.)
Rice mentioned that the United States is trying to help Abbas to restructure the Palestinian security forces. “[W]e … are working hard on the reform of his security forces even in the absence of a political resolution of the conflict among Palestinians,” she said.
Since November last year U.S. security envoy Army Major General Keith Dayton has led an effort to train and equip Palestinian security forces controlled by President Abbas. Rice said the U.S. administration will request additional funding to support Dayton’s plan and will “adopt extremely concrete and tight measures to make sure that the money is going to the right places.”
Turning to Iran, Rice reiterated that the United States would talk with Iran only if Tehran meets conditions set forth by the international community. “We created a circumstance in which Iran can talk to us anytime that they meet the condition that the international community has set out of concern for their nuclear program,” she said. (See related article.)
On the question of Sudan and the human rights abuses in Darfur, Rice noted that “the best outcome” for Sudan would be for its government to accept the framework agreement by leaders from the Arab League, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, the European Union and other nations. The agreement affirmed the major elements of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706. (See related article.)
Secretary Rice also spoke about the situation in Iraq, saying that “the center of gravity about stabilization in Iraq is in Iraq.” It starts “with the Iraqis dealing with the most recent problems of sectarian violence that have arisen and a number of problems dealing with their own political reconciliation and then dealing with people who are killing innocent Iraqis.” (See related article.)
Commenting on the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear program, scheduled to resume next week, Rice said that “there have to be concrete steps that demonstrate that the North Koreans are serious about denuclearization.”
When asked about how the United States will deal with the Cuban government after the passing of President Fidel Castro, Rice said, “The first thing we are going to make clear is that the Cuban people deserve to have free and fair elections just like every other country in the Western Hemisphere.” She added that the United States would be ready with humanitarian assistance and that the U.S. government recognizes that “the future of the Cuban political system rests with Cubans on the island.” (See Cuba and the United States.)
The full transcript of Rice’s interview is available on the State Department Web site.
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By Melody Merin
USINFO Special Correspondent