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Statement on the Situation in the Miiddle East

Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN
Remarks to the Security Council
New York City
January 22, 2008

January 22, 2008

(As Delivered)

Thank you, Mr. President,

I would like to thank Under Secretary-General Pascoe for his briefing, and for the UN's continued support to achieve peace in the Middle East.

Mr. President, the United States shares the concerns of the international community about the current very difficult situation in Gaza and the plight of the Palestinian people, a plight that warrants our attention. As we do so, we should not lose sight of how that situation came to be, nor of what we are working to achieve, that is, Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian state.

I want to make clear that the United States will not abandon the people of Gaza. We will continue to provide humanitarian aid to help meet the basic needs of the Gazans. But we believe the current situation is the result of Hamas' policies and actions, especially the ongoing rain of rockets into southern Israel despite a complete Israeli withdrawal in 2005. Therefore, Hamas is ultimately responsible for the current situation.

The United States condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel by terror groups. These attacks on innocent Israeli civilians must stop.

We expect the Government of Israel when responding to these attacks to take all possible steps to avoid civilian casualties and to minimize the impact on innocent civilians in Gaza.

The Government of Israel has stated that it will not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza, and has said that it will ensure the continued flow of humanitarian supplies so that the most basic needs of Gazans will continue to be met. The Israelis have said that they understand the need to permit fuel and electricity in Gaza. In our private discussions with the Israeli leadership we have reinforced the importance of avoiding a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We do not want the innocent Gazans to suffer. We also believe that Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s idea of allowing the Palestinian Authority to have more of a role at the border crossings could be examined.

Hamas, which violently seized power in June, is seeking to exploit the current situation, a situation of its own making. The Council should not fall into that trap.

If Hamas cared more about the well-being and the future of Gazans than it did about its own political agenda, it would put an end to the ongoing rocket attacks on Israel and relinquish its illegitimate control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority, under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

We look forward to Gaza being reunited with the West Bank under the legitimate and responsible leadership of the Palestinian Authority. Until that time, the international community should focus its efforts on supporting the legitimate leaders of the Palestinian Authority -- President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

The aspirations of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples for peace and security will never be realized through violence. A better future for both peoples can only be realized through negotiations and peaceful means. That is why President Bush just completed a trip to the Middle East, in order to reinforce the full support of the United States for a negotiated peace settlement.

Mr. President, as we deal with the current situation in Gaza, we must maintain focus on the long-term goal of establishing a Palestinian state that is democratic, contiguous, independent and viable. Achieving this goal is so important to the United States that we have invested a significant amount of political capital. In addition to the personal efforts of President Bush and Secretary Rice, the President has appointed Lieutenant General William Fraser to monitor and facilitate progress on the Roadmap, Lieutenant General Dayton to help the Palestinians as they work to professionalize their security forces, and General Jones to work with the parties and regional partners to develop some ideas for a security concept for a future Palestinian state.

Mr. President, it is our judgment that efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians must progress along four tracks:

First, both sides need to fulfill their commitments under the Roadmap, as the parties reaffirmed at Annapolis. For the Israelis, this includes ending settlements expansion and removing unauthorized outposts. For the Palestinians, this includes confronting terrorists and dismantling their infrastructure.

Second, the Palestinians need to build their economy and political and security institutions with the help of Israel and the international community. Quartet Special Representative Tony Blair is making important progress on Palestinian economic reform and institution building, and has established good working relationships with Prime Minister Fayyad and Israeli Defense Minister Barak.

The third track is the international track. The international community has shown, in both Paris and Annapolis, that they fully support this effort. The United States appreciates the Arab Peace Initiative, and believes that Arab states that are committed to regional peace should reach out to Israel.

Finally, the parties' bilateral negotiations are essential in establishing a peace settlement that ends the occupation that began in 1967. The only way to have a lasting peace is if both sides come together to make difficult choices and implement them to establish trust. The United States believes President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert will make these choices because they both value the importance of democracy to create conditions of security and stability. It is our hope that their teams negotiate seriously and touch upon all of the core, difficult issues between them.

Mr. President, it is important to sustain the momentum for the two-­state vision generated in Annapolis in November and further built upon in the donor conference in Paris in December. We remain committed to the creation of a Palestinian state. A Palestinian state will enhance stability in the Middle East and contribute to the security of the people of Israel. And, as President Bush said, "the establishment of the State of Palestine is long overdue. The Palestinian people deserve it."

We know the members of this Council share this vision, and we will look for your support as we continue our work to realize a better future for the Palestinians, Israelis, and all the peoples of the Middle East.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Released on January 22, 2008

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