July 17th, 2006 02:30 EST
Bush Calls upon Hezbollah to End the Violence
President Bush has called upon the Lebanese Hezbollah to stop the violence, saying that the organization is responsible for the increased tension and hostility in the Middle East. Bush has also called on Lebanon’s neighbor, Syria to influence an end to the fighting.
On July 15, following President Bush’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the two leaders spoke in a joint press conference. Citing the rocket attacks from Lebanon on northern Israel as well as the July 12 attack and capture of two Israeli soldiers, Bush placed the blame for recent violence directly upon Hezbollah.
Consequently, Bush announced that "The best way to stop the violence is for Hezbollah to lay down its arms and to stop attacking. And therefore, I call upon Syria to exert influence over Hezbollah."
Before the fighting began, Bush had noted that there was “good progress” in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the form of the two-state solution. Unfortunately, Bush remarked, "As the vision was progressing, certain terrorist elements began to act to stop the advance of democracy," referring both to the Lebanese Hezbollah as well as the radical Palestinian Hamas, which, on June 25, raided Israel and kidnapped a soldier.
As only a short-term solution, Bush said that Hezbollah must stop attacking Israel, but as for long-term goals, he asked the neighboring communities as well as the international community to stand with leaders who "support the advance of democracy."
Although President Putin remarked that he believes Israel’s security problems “to be justified,” he also called for the violence to end “as soon as possible,” saying that, "the use of force should be balanced."
Putin said that he would like to work with the United States on a "concrete solution," for the short-term violence as well as a longer-term solution for the Middle East.
Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, explained that the Bush administration has been in contact with Israel, urging it improve the humanitarian condition of the crisis, while steering clear of harming innocent civilians as well as the destruction of civilian infrastructure.
Hadley noted that, of course, “it is difficult when Hezbollah conducts activities that are terror-related in settings where innocent civilians are held at risk."
He also called upon Israel to doing anything that might destabilize the Lebanese government, saying that Prime Minister Fouad Siniora hopes to deal with the situation caused by Hezbollah. Hadley also noted that Hezbollah’s activities indicate the need to fully implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which states the organization should be disarmed.
Hadley said he hopes that the upcoming Group of Eight summit will find a strategy to deal with the situation, recognizing that Hezbollah is at the very "root" of the problem, as well as dealing with Iran and Syria, who, as suppliers and facilitators of Hezbollah, are "very much involved."
RUSSIAN WTO ACCESSION DEAL "ALMOST REACHED"
According to President Bush, U.S. will drop its opposition to Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), due to a deal which "was almost reached." Although "there's more work to be done," recent discussions show that the two sides have agreed on many of the areas.
Bush explained that "We're tough negotiators, and the reason why is because we want the agreement that we reach to be accepted by the United States Congress," speaking of the need for intellectual property rights and other bilateral trade issues to be fully completed between the two governments before Congress can approve of the deal.
He assured, "I believe we're fair negotiators, and our negotiators come to the table trying to achieve the objective that I set out." Affirming that "We want Russian accession to the WTO," Bush said that the negotiations to reach this goal would continue "in good faith."
After the press conference, Susan Schwab, U.S. Trade Representative said that the talks produced "significant progress," mentioning agreements over industrial tariffs as well as an agreement over the financial and other services sector which as almost reached. In terms of intellectual property rights, Schwab noted “excellent progress” and she said that the two sides are “very close” to making an agreement over U.S. access to Russia’s agriculture market.
Schwab explained that "We are putting together a blueprint to finalize our negotiations,", and that is possible that a deal can be reached within "the next couple of months," after which Russia's WTO accession will move on to a multilateral process.
Putin observed the process to be "complicated," saying that the failure to reach an agreement so far has not been surprising, but that "We will continue to work further, pursuing our interest and the interest of our developing economy."
U.S. AND RUSSIA TO SEND A "CLEAR MESSAGE" TO IRAN AND NORTH KOREA
After his talks with Putin, President Bush said that the conflicts over North Korea’s and Iran’s nuclear programs have been made “less difficult.” The U.S. and Russia are to send a “clear message” to both countries, saying that "their nuclear weapons ambitions are not acceptable."
Russia and U.S. are working together on United Nations Security Council resolutions that will send a clear message," to both countries, Bush said.
Bush further explained, "I think it's indicative of the strength of our relationship that we're able to agree on non-proliferation matters". Since both countries have suffered from terrorist attacks, they understand that terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction would create a "greater catastrophe" and are therefore both "taking the lead on this issue."
Bush said the two countries will send a message together to North Korea and Iran, saying that, "there is a better way forward," as well as conveying "the seriousness of our intent."
President Putin assured the collaboration with the U.S. does not signify a "plot against a particular country," but is simply a search for solutions to help with economic matters and to find a way for their legal access to nuclear technology for only peaceful purposes.
"It is not in Russia's national interest to see a proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, especially in such an explosive region as the Middle East," Putin explained, also mentioning, "This is something we tell our Iranian partners directly."
BUSH AND PUTIN TO COOPERATE AGAINST NUCLEAR TERRORISM
In a joint statement, Presidents Bush and Putin announced the "Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism," which asks the international community to help in preventing "the acquisition, transport, or use by terrorists of nuclear materials and radioactive substances or improvised explosive devices using such materials," while also protecting against hostile actions targeting nuclear facilities.
According to a fact sheet released by the White House, under this initiative, countries will try to combat nuclear terrorism "on a determined and systematic basis." The fact sheet makes clear that initial partner nations have been invited to meet in the fall of 2006, while the International Atomic Energy Agency will observe the proceedings in order to "elaborate and endorse" a statement of principles for the initiative.
SOURCE: U.S. Dept. of State