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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2004 > December
Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Oslo, Norway
December 8, 2004

Assistant Secretary of State William J. Burns' Opening Remarks at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Meeting

Following is the text of remarks delivered today, December 8, by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and North African Affairs William J. Burns at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee Meeting in Oslo, Norway.

Good morning. My colleagues and I are pleased to be in Oslo to represent the United States at a moment of renewed opportunity for peace. Let me repeat once again, Mr. Minister, our appreciation for the superb leadership and hospitality of the Norwegian government.

Over the past three years, the AHLC has met regularly, often in hard times. The themes of our discussions became depressingly familiar. All of us have seen the toll taken on both sides in lives lost and families shattered. And all of us have seen something less tangible, but no less troubling the loss of hope, the erosion of the dream of peace and reconciliation, the collapse of faith in a better future, a future in which two states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace, security and dignity.

We meet today in much more promising circumstances. Palestinians deserve credit for their careful management of a difficult leadership transition, and their commitment to the electoral process. Israel has been commendably clear in its commitment to facilitate elections. Israel's initiative to withdraw settlements and military installations from Gaza and parts of the northern West Bank offers an historic opportunity to revive progress toward a two state solution, and to resume movement along the roadmap.

I doubt that any of us around this table has illusions about the difficulties that lie ahead. The World Bank has laid out for us, admirably and clearly, the hard choices that must be addressed to promote economic recovery in Gaza and the West Bank. There are no shortcuts here, no evading plain truths about either the problems or the solutions. Both sides have obligations. For Palestinians, performance on security is absolutely essential. So is renewal of the democratic reform process, a serious drive against corruption and continuation of an already exemplary set of financial reforms. Such efforts are not a favor to donors; they represent goals deeply in the self-interest of Palestinians preparing for statehood. For Israelis, bolder measures to ease the movement of people and goods are vital. So are many other steps to create a sense of economic and political hope for Palestinians.

If Palestinians and Israelis approach these challenges with a new spirit of determination, they will find a donor community equally determined to do all it can to help. All of us must act with a real sense of what's at stake at this enormously promising but fragile moment, and with a real sense of urgency. As President Bush has made clear, the United States will do its part.

  • First, we will continue to provide a substantial overall package of assistance for Palestinians, which in 2004 has totaled about 200 million dollars.

  • Second, we are providing 2.5 million dollars in technical assistance for Palestinian Presidential elections and another 1 million dollars to fund international observers for those elections.

  • Third, we are announcing today 20 million dollars in direct budgetary support to the Palestinian Authority, reflecting our confidence in the direction of the PA's reform program, their fulfillment of the mid-2004 World Bank Reform Trust Fund benchmarks for financial management, and our expectation that reform will continue to be implemented energetically.

  • Fourth, we urge the wider donor community, particularly those who have made pledges to the PA in the past but not yet fulfilled them, to maximize their contributions in the weeks and months ahead, as the PA undertakes vigorous reform. The World Bank Reform Trust Fund provides an excellent vehicle for such assistance.

  • Fifth, we support the convening of a carefully-prepared Consultative Group meeting and formal pledging session as early as possible in 2005, building on the positive momentum generated by this AHLC and continuing steps by the parties themselves.

  • Finally, we will work actively to encourage direct coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on implementation of Gaza disengagement. Such coordination is essential, and can help rebuild the habit of direct dialogue so critical to future negotiations.

Mr. Minister, ladies and gentlemen, we have before us a rare moment of opportunity. We all know how fleeting they can be, especially on this complex but profoundly significant issue. Let's all of us take full advantage of it this time. Let's all of us not miss this moment. Let's all of us act with the urgency and determination and generosity that can turn today's fragile opportunity into the brighter future that Israelis and Palestinians so richly deserve, and that is so much in our common interest.

Thank you.


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