Jewish Sightseeing HomePage Jewish Sightseeing
  2005-02-08-U.S. reaction—Sharm-el-Sheikh
Harrison Weblog

2005 blog


White House lauds Mideast cease fire:

Rice and Barnier look toward next steps
,  Feb. 8, 2005

The White House today (Feb. 8) congratulated Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the announcement of their ceasefire, while, in Paris, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and France's Foreign Minister Michel Barnier were outlining some of the next steps in the unfolding Middle East peace process.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan  said "the cessation of violence and terrorism is an important step on the path to ending terrorism in the region, and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure--which is called for under the road map.

Also congratulating Egypt and Jordan for their role in the Sharm-el-Sheikh summit, McLellan told reporters traveling with President Bush to Detroit for a speech on the economy that "the United States will continue ...doing its part to help the parties move forward on the President's two state vision of Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace." 

In Paris, where she spoke to the Institut d'Etudes Politique about repairing French-U.S. relations which had been stressed by the war in Iraq , Rice said helping to bring about a genuine peace between Israelis and Palestinians was one area where the two countries can and should cooperate.

"Today's meeting of the Palestinian and Egyptian Presidents, the Israeli Prime Minister and Jordan's King was clearly an important step forward," she said.  Noting that she had just come from a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, she added:  "The United States and the parties have no illusions about the difficulties ahead. There are deep divisions to overcome.  I emphasized to both sides the need to end terrorism; the need to build new and democratic Palestinian economic, political and security institutions; the need for Israel to meet its own obligations and make the difficult choices before it; and the need for all of us—in America, in Europe, in the region—to make clear to Iran and Syria that they must stop supporting the terrorists who would seek to destroy the peace that we seek."

Rice said that in London next month, Britain's "Prime Minister Tony Blair will convene an important conference to help the Palestinian people advance democratic reform and build their institutions...A G8-Arab League meeting will also convene in Cairo next month. This meeting has the potential to broaden the base of support for Middle East peace and democracy.  The Tunis Declaration of this past May's Arab Summit declared the 'firm resolve' of the Arab states to 'keep pace with the accelerated world changes through the consolidation of democratic practice, the broadening of participation in political life and public life, and the reinforcement of all components of civil society.'"

The Secretary of State noted that France and the United States had jointly sponsored Security Council Resolution 1559 "to restore full sovereignty to the Lebanese people, and to make possible the complete return of what was once vibrant political life in that country.  The next step in that process should be the fourth free democratic election in the region (after Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq)--fair and competitive parliamentary elections this spring, without foreign interference."

At a joint news conference with Foreign Minister Barnier, Rice underscored the importance of France to the various peace making efforts, particularly as a principal in the European Union.

"The European Union has been a major contributor," Rice said. "The Gulf States need to pay...the pledges that they've made so that reconstruction (in the Palestine territories) can go forward. We need to support the Israeli disengagement plan from the Gaza...and the four settlements in the West Bank because if you think of it, what is different now is that the parties have made some fundamentally difficult choices.  The Palestinian leadership today talked about an end to the armed Intifada, talked about the need to live in peace with Israel. The Israelis recognize that they cannot stay in all of the territories that they have occupied, and you have now a new dynamic with the new Palestinian leadership and with the Israelis having made some pretty fundamental choices on disengagement."

Turning to the situations of Lebanon and Syria—two former French colonies where France still has considerable influence—Rice said:  "Lebanon is a situation in which there is the potential for a very fragile democratic situation to be stabilized and supported by us. And that's why France and the United States sponsored Resolution 1550.  There should be a very clear message to the  Syrians that it is out of step with where the rest of the region is going to interfere in the democratic processes in Lebanon, and that these elections should go forward..

"The Syrians also, of course, need to stop supporting from Lebanon the rejectionist groups that are a threat to the very peace process that we all want to see go forward. The United States has already used the Syrian Accountability Act to levy sanctions against Syria. We are constantly looking at what more needs to be done in that regard because it is just not acceptable that Syria would continue to be a place from which terrorists are funded..."

Barnier said he believes that France and the United States together should "contribute to peace in the Middle East since this conflict is a key one.  And the fact that it hasn't been resolved for so many years has consequences not only in that region, but in all our societies.  It encourages fear and insecurity in Israel, and despair and humiliation on the Palestinian side. We must get out of that situation, which is possible today thanks to the dialogue which is being renewed between Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon at Sharm-el-Sheikh....

"And peace requires direct dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, which is what's now happening. Peace requires that we should support the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, who are showing courage, both of them...Finally, peace demands that the members of the Quartet should be involved—the Americans, Europeans, Russians and members of the U.N.—as well as the countries in the region.  It's a fragile thing, as Condi (Secretary Rice) said, but it is possible in 2005."                       Donald H. Harrison