December 20th, 2006 13:40 EST
Rice Supports Palestinian Efforts To Resolve Political Crisis
Washington –- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has thrown her support behind Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his efforts to restore stability to the Palestinian Territories and resolve the political crisis between his Fatah Party and the ruling Hamas Party.
“The violence needs to stop,” she told the cable news network Al Arabiya December 18. “But the political crisis also has to be resolved, and it needs to be resolved with the Palestinian people getting a government that can be acceptable internationally, so that the difficulties that have been there in terms of resources for the Palestinians can be resolved.”
Tensions between Fatah and Hamas have grown increasingly lethal as economic conditions deteriorate in the territories as the result of an international aid embargo against the Hamas government. Hamas has refused to respect international demands that it recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence and adhere to previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas attempted to create a national unity government that would comply with the international demands, but Hamas has refused to cooperate. Clashes between partisan militants became particularly acute after Abbas announced December 16 that he would call for early elections to resolve the crisis. According to news reports, a one-day-old cease-fire between the two factions appeared to be holding December 20.
Rice offered support for Abbas’s electoral initiative. “This is something that I think Palestinians will decide, but he is the Palestinian leader elected by his people as president. He has the will and the desire and, in fact, the obligation to help the Palestinian people find a way out of the crisis. And so we will support him as he tries to do that,” she said.
During a December 19 roundtable discussion with Washington-based reporters, Rice said the current political impasse is not preventing the United States from actively engaging with the Palestinians. She said the United States is helping Abbas build up his security forces and supporting Palestinian political institutions.
“We are going to continue to work with the presidency under any circumstances because we think the presidency is a responsible Palestinian voice,” she said.
Rice said she sees a possible opening in the Middle East peace process, given the recent cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians and following conciliatory statements from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and she committed herself to pursuing that opening.
“It is something that would finally give to the Palestinian people the kind of dignity that they deserve,” she said. “We'll do everything we can to deliver as quickly as possible, but we need, of course, the parties themselves to be both committed and to be effective in moving forward on their obligations.”
Transcripts of Rice’s interview with Al Arabiya and her roundtable discussion are available on the State Department Web site.
(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
By David Shelby
USINFO Staff Writer