Rice Calls Upon All States To Advance Mideast Peace Process

By Howard Cincotta
USINFO Special Correspondent

Washington – The leadership and commitment of every nation in the region is vital to advancing the Mideast peace process and making the vision of a two-state solution a reality, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during her third trip to the Middle East in 2007.

Rice called upon every state in the region to "search very deep to see what it can do at this crucial time to finally end this conflict," during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit in Aswan, Egypt, March 24.

Rice also met with President Hosni Mubarak in Aswan and later with representatives of the Arab Quartet. The Quartet members are Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The secretary then traveled to the West Bank city of Ramallah and Jerusalem for meetings with Palestinian and Israeli officials.  She is also scheduled to hold discussions with King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman, Jordan, during her trip.  (See related article.)

In a March 25 press conference in Ramallah with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Rice stressed the importance of establishing a "common agenda" that will allow forward movement toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"We have to begin a discussion of the political horizon so that we can show to the Palestinian people as well as to the Israeli people that there is indeed hope for the kind of peace that will come when the Palestinians have their own state ... and when the Israeli people have the peace and security that can only come from having a democratic and stable neighbor," she said. (See related article.)

In Aswan, Rice praised Egypt's historic role as a leader in the search for peace. She also noted that Saudi Arabia's peace initiative, which has evolved into a broader Arab one, is a useful step because it establishes the vision of an overall Arab-Israeli reconciliation as integral to any Israeli-Palestinian settlement.

Rice said in Ramallah that the United States is hoping for the reactivation of the Arab initiative, but it is not calling for amendments to it. "I hope that it will become a platform, a way for active diplomacy," Rice said. "But it is an Arab initiative; others will have other views and other proposals."

Asked how the current "common agenda" approach differs from the failed peace efforts of 2000, Rice pointed to the intervening progress in establishing the broad principle of a two-state solution as the way to peace and a political settlement. "That had not been established in 2000," she said. "And so I think we now are dealing from a framework that is different."

President Bush "considers the establishment of a Palestinian state and peace in the Middle East to be among one of his highest priorities," Rice said, "and as his secretary of state I intend to pursue that."

Commenting on U.S. criticism of Egypt's constitutional referendum, Rice stressed that because Egypt is a leader in the Arab world, many people are interested in its internal developments.

"It's not a matter to try to dictate to Egypt how this unfolds, but it is a matter to say that Egypt is an extremely important country – that when Egypt leads, people listen," Rice said in Aswan. "And so that's the spirit in which the democracy agenda has been followed by the United States."

The full transcripts of Secretary Rice's remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas can be found on the State Department Web site.

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