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Statement at the Open Debate on the Situation in the Middle East

Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Remarks to the Security Council
New York City
August 29, 2007


(As Prepared for Delivery)

Mr. President, on July 16, President Bush called for an international meeting this autumn of nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements among the parties.

This meeting on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will aim to support discussions and negotiations between the parties and achieve meaningful progress on the path to peace, Palestinian statehood, and an end to the conflict.

We believe the government of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad can be a partner for peace. The international community has recognized this, and is responding by re-establishing diplomatic and economic ties with the Palestinian Authority government. As President Bush has said, the international community must work with the PA to develop a solid institutional and economic foundation for a future Palestinian state.

In that vein, Secretary Rice and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad signed an $80 million assistance package aimed at supporting efforts to reform and professionalize the Palestinian security forces. The Framework Agreement formalizes the intention of the United States to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority to promote law and order by strengthening and reforming the Palestinian security sector. We believe the ability to provide security for the population is a core responsibility of any functioning government. The rule of law and security must be the foundation of any successful Palestinian government.

We believe that this assistance package will help improve the Palestinian Authority's capacity to deliver security for the Palestinian people and fight terrorism, build confidence between the parties, and ultimately help to meet the security needs of Palestinians and Israelis alike. The United States and the Palestinian Authority have worked together closely to design this program and will continue to cooperate in its implementation. This security assistance package is in addition to more than $190 million in U.S. assistance to the Abbas government this year. We encourage others, particularly regional parties, to step forward with additional support at this critical time.

We continue to call on all Palestinians to reject terror, and on the PA government to arrest terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons, and confront corruption. We remain deeply concerned by the continued intransigence and illegal occupation of Gaza by Hamas, including recent moves to crackdown on freedom of speech there. We are very concerned about Hamas' provision of safe haven to fellow terrorist organizations operating in Gaza, and strongly condemn the continuing acts of terror, such as recurring indiscriminate rocket attacks, being conducted from Gaza against civilians in Israel.

We welcome the August 6 and 28 meetings between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, the second and third since late June. We strongly support direct dialogue between the parties. The United States remains committed to working with Israel and the Palestinians on day-to-day issues that affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as a political horizon for Palestinian statehood.

We have always said that bilateral dialogue between the parties is the key to realizing the two-state vision. We will continue to work with the parties and the international community to this end.

The development of a viable Palestinian economy and institutions remains crucial to the success and prosperity of a future Palestinian state. The United States looks forward to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting in New York next month, and to the Quartet meeting, where we expect to hear about Quartet Representative Tony Blair's travel to the region to lay the foundation for President's vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

Mr. President, we welcome the unanimous decision of the UN Security Council to extend UNIFIL's mandate for one year. We remain committed to a sovereign, democratic, and prosperous Lebanon and continue to call for the full implementation of all Security Council resolutions pertaining to Lebanon, including 1559, 1680, and 1701.

While we commend the work of UNIFIL in south Lebanon, we remain deeply concerned by persistent reports of breaches of the arms embargo along the Syria-Lebanon border and the continuing failure of militias to disarm. These issues, along with the fate of the two abducted Israeli soldiers, must be addressed if efforts to achieve peace are to succeed.

We applaud the peaceful and transparent parliamentary by-elections in Lebanon this month and congratulate the winners and the Lebanese people on the process. We look forward to similarly free and fair, and peaceful presidential elections this fall that are held in accordance with Lebanon's constitution and are free of foreign intervention.

Released on August 29, 2007

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