Rice Traveling to Middle East To Support Two-State Solution

By Vince Crawley
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, prior to traveling to the Middle East to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, joined international diplomats in expressing hope that the newly formed Palestinian government will help ensure peace.

During her trip, Rice will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other moderate members of the Palestinian government. Rice leaves for the region March 23.

“It is extremely important to continue to show American commitment to the development of a political horizon so that their future rests with moderate forces like Abu Mazen [President Mahmoud Abbas], and not with forces that are extreme,” the secretary said March 21. She said her trip would begin “at the end of the week.”

Testifying before a House appropriations subcommittee, Rice said the new Palestinian unity government, formed March 17 and led by Hamas, “has provided something of a challenge.” The new unity government has not renounced terrorism and does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

“But there are people in the Palestinian political leadership, and indeed in this government, who have themselves personally accepted those principles and lived their lives on that basis,” Rice said.

The United States continues to encourage the international community to provide direct aid to the Palestinian people while trying to support moderates within the Palestinian government. Rice told the congressional panel there has been an increase in U.S. humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people over the past year. (See related article.)

The United States will “not suspend our contacts with those in the Palestinian government who have a record of fighting for peace,” Rice said. “That keeps a way to continue to influence the development of this Palestinian unity government. And we will, of course, continue to work with Abu Mazen, who is himself committed to this cause.”

Rice also plans to meet with Egyptian and Israeli leaders.

Representative of the European Union (EU), Russia, the United Nations and the United States, collectively known as the Quartet, discussed the new Palestinian government by telephone March 21. The discussion included: Rice; Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov; U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana; German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier; and Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European commissioner for external relations.

“The Quartet reiterated its respect for Palestinian democracy and the agreement reached in Mecca [on February 8], which laid the foundation for Palestinian reconciliation,” the U.S. Department of State said in a media note. “The Quartet expressed hope that the establishment of a new government … would help end intra-Palestinian violence and ensure calm.”

Also, the media note said, “The Quartet expressed its expectation that the unity government will act responsibly, demonstrate clear and credible commitment to the Quartet principles, and support the efforts of President Abbas to pursue a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, thereby achieving the peace, security, and freedom the Israeli and Palestinian people desire and deserve.”

A transcript of Rice’s statement to the House subcommittee and the full text of the media note on the Quartet telephone conference are available on the State Department Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies, see The Middle East: A Vision for the Future.