July 17th, 2007 11:46 EST
Mideast Conference Targets Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
High-level peace talks are designed to support Palestinian statehood
At a July 16 State Department briefing, Assistant Secretary C. David Welch said the United States is supporting three efforts -- continued direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, enhanced regional security and international support to resolve a nearly 50-year-old conflict peacefully.
"We believe that this is a moment for everybody to push the `go` button and try and make this work," Welch said.
President Bush announced a diplomatic and financial commitment July 16 to resolve the long-standing conflict." He said this move is intended to show U.S. support for the Palestinian leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and the new interim government. (See related article.)
However, Bush acknowledged that for peace to work, everyone involved has to want peace.
The conference, which will be chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would be held this fall in the region with senior envoys from Israel, the Palestinian West Bank and their neighbors." Bush said those invited to attend would have to be committed to finding a "two-state" solution to the present conflict, meaning that Israel and a Palestinian state will be living peacefully together.
Welch, who is responsible for Near Eastern affairs, said the United States is not trying to make specific demands of the participants attending the conference, but instead is asking them to view the conference as a time to take stock of where conditions are and where the current situation will lead." He said the participants have to accept certain fundamental principles -- support for a two-state solution, reject further violence and terrorism, and recognize the right of Israel and Palestine to co-exist.
Included in the financial package outlined by Bush July 16 is $144 million for food assistance, education, health and social services this year for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria." The United States also is providing $50 million in assistance for Palestinian basic human needs, democracy and civil society, and private sector development through the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In addition, Bush authorized the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to support a program that will generate $228 million in lending to Palestinian small and medium-sized businesses." The United States also is providing additional food assistance to the Palestinians.
Welch said these steps underscore the U.S. commitment to providing vital financial assistance to the Palestinian people.
Rice will be returning to the region along with Defense Secretary Robert Gates in late July to work on broader regional security issues, "but also will devote her presence, again, to advancing the Israeli-Palestinian track," Welch said.
Later in the week of July 15, the Quartet -- which includes the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia " is scheduled to meet in Lisbon, Portugal, to discuss the Bush peace initiative and to welcome the Quartet`s new envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who will be instrumental in any peace negotiations.
The terrorist group Hamas won control of the Palestinian legislature in early 2006 and forcibly seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, at which point President Abbas dissolved the coalition government and since has installed a moderate interim government.
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan has condemned the proposed peace conference, according to Agence France-Presse.
For more information on U.S. policies, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)