Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom told U.S.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice today (Sunday, Feb. 6) that as important as the new optimism is concerning Mideast peace
developments, "the real test is of actions and not declarations. The real test is of, let’s say, moving toward peace and not only of ceremonies."
He added during a joint appearance with Rice at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem that "I believe the United States has a crucial role to play in our region in order to bring peace and quiet after so many years, and the Secretary’s visit to Israel can help us to ensure that the infrastructure of terrorism is removed and in order to enable us to build an infrastructure of peace."
Rice replied that it is indeed a time of optimism.
"It is a time of optimism because fundamental changes are underway in the Middle East as a whole," she said. "Fundamental changes are underway in the
Palestinian territories and the new leadership in the Palestinian territories has expressed its desire for a peaceful future with Israel, and of course we are supportive of the Israeli government’s decision to engage in a disengagement plan from the Gaza and four settlements in the West Bank."
Rice added: I think all of these elements give us the possibility to get back onto the Road Map and to move toward the President, President Bush’s vision, which he articulated in June of 2002, of two states, two democratic states living side by side in peace.
"There is much work to do in between, of course. We will have to, all of us, make certain that there is an effective fight against terrorism, because security and terrorism are at the core of peaceful existence. We will ask of our partners and our friends here in Israel that Israel continue to take the hard decisions that must be taken in order to promote peace and to help the emergence of a democratic Palestinian state, and we will ask the parties in the region to be supportive of these elements.
"And in this regard, we want to thank very much the Egyptian government for the decision to hold on Tuesday the summit between Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas in [Sharm el-Sheikh] and for the attendance there of the
Jordanian government, because the regional support for peace must be strong. Incitement must be stopped by all parties. There is a need to help the Palestinians with the development of the democratic institutions that will form the foundation of statehood and to make certain that we are all doing what we can for peace."
Shalom also took the occasion to thank the Egyptians for hosting the summit at Sharm el
Sheikh, noting: "I raised the idea only about a month ago to have a new summit like we had in
Aqaba, and I am very happy that we have the opportunity to have this kind of summit in Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday. It is very important that this summit will be fruitful and will be a turning point in order to enable us and the Palestinians to move together toward peace. And, of course, we will need, once again, your assistance, Madam Secretary, and I am sure that we will get it."
Earlier on Sunday, Rice and Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke briefly to the news media following their meeting.
"Dr. Rice knows Israel very well, its problems, and I am sure that her visit here will contribute both to advancing relations between the two countries, of traditional friendly relations over many years," Sharon said. "And her visit, I believe, will contribute to the peace process, that we so much want to advance in the region. So again, welcome. Madam Secretary, you are among friends here."
Rice responded that she brought "greetings to you from President Bush, and I just want to say that of course the relationship between the United States and Israel is based on such a firm foundation because we share not just interests but values. I look forward to working with you to try to advance the cause of peace and to overcome the scourge of terrorism. I will of course travel tomorrow to meet also with President Mahmoud Abbas, and I look forward to working with him. And we are very glad that you will meet with him in [Sharm el-Sheikh] on Tuesday. This is a hopeful time, but it is a time also of great responsibility for all of us to make certain that we act on the words that we speak." (see previous story)
Asked by Udi Segal of Israel Television Channel 2 if she really thought the
Palestinians would dismantle terror organizations, Rice replied: "
I do think that we have a new opportunity. We have new leadership in the
Palestinian territories. We have the very bold, and potentially historic
decision of the Prime Minister and the Israeli government to disengage from Gaza
and the four settlements in the West Bank. This is a different time. Actions
will be important, and we must all fight terror, and the Palestinians, I think,
understand their obligations to fight terror and to make certain that they have
security forces that are part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that
they do everything that they can to make certain that those who would frustrate
these efforts cannot do so."
Rice also indicated the roles that she would hope various nations would play to
help the unfolding peace dynamic in the Middle East.
"Europe clearly has a role to play in supporting the peace process,"
she told Ayala Hasson of Israel Television One. "It has a role to play in
helping Palestinian reconstruction. It has a role to play in giving very strong
signals to the Iranians and to the Syrians
who support those who would try to frustrate the process, that is the
rejectionists, that this is not going to be tolerated.
"We of course through the Quartet, the European
Union, Russia, the United
Nations and the United States, are parties to trying to help the parties
progress on the Roadmap. And so there is a major role for the international
community. But there is also a very important role for the regional states. It
is one reason we are very pleased that Egypt and Jordan are doing what they will
do in Cairo, but other Arab states also need to look to see what they can do to
support progress toward peace that they have always said that they want to
She said Russia should refrain from selling missiles to Syria,
as has been reported to be its intention. "We’ve made very clear to
the Russian government that we think it would be a mistake and indeed
potentially destabilizing to have sales to Syria," Rice said.
"At this point the Russians say that there is no such thing that they are
going to do, and we hope that that is indeed the case.
"We understand that Russia has relations with Syria. A lot of people have
relations with Syria. But what really needs to happen now is that all who have
relations with Syria need to use those relations to convince the Syrians that it
is time for them to end their support for terror; it is time for them to end
their interference in the affairs of Lebanon;
and it is time for Syria, if it wishes to be a member of the international
community, to be more responsible in its behavior in international politics
including in Iraq, where we are very
concerned about support for the insurgency in Iraq that is coming from