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Stakeout after Signing Ceremony with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Treaty Room
Washington, DC
January 9, 2009

SECRETARY RICE: I promised I would come back and take some questions because I did not want to take Gaza questions during the Georgian (inaudible).

QUESTION: Madame Secretary?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes.

QUESTION: Why should the – why should the U.S. abstention on the Gaza resolution not being taken as ambivalence about the terms?

SECRETARY RICE: The U.S. abstention was principally because we believed that it would have been useful to have a little bit more time for the Mubarak initiative to mature. There was, in fact, just yesterday, a delegation from Israel to Egypt. And because sustainability and durability is so important for this ceasefire, knowing better the terms of durability is very critical. And we are working to support the Mubarak initiative, including offering to do whatever we can to help with the smuggling and the illegal arms trafficking. And so it was simply believed that this might have been a little premature.

But for the Council to address that there should be a condemnation of all acts of terrorism, we thought was an important feature. For the Council to express that a ceasefire, while there’s a desire for an immediate ceasefire, it needs to be a durable ceasefire and one that will be fully respected. For the Council to express that this all began with the refusal of Hamas to actually extend the tahadiya that Egypt had negotiated before, we thought these were important points, and given the situation in Gaza, that it was acceptable for the UN to speak.

I just want to say one other thing. We also – and I expressed this to my colleagues – had reservations that no one would think that there was any equivalence being drawn here between Israel and Hamas. This is not like 1701 with Lebanon, where you had a member-state, Lebanon, and a member-state, Israel. Here, you have a terrorist organization and a member-state, Israel, and there isn’t any equivalence here. Israel was defending itself because of these rocket attacks, yet we are concerned about the suffering of the (inaudible) people, the humanitarian situation, and we’re doing everything we can to alleviate that as well.

QUESTION: Do you expect to (inaudible) to push along the Mubarak initiative?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: I don’t – I don’t have a timeframe (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: It’s a very good security cooperation component, and we already had an extensive security cooperation (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the humanitarian obligations (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: It is very difficult in a circumstance like Gaza, which is a very densely populated area. I might note it’s also an area in which Hamas participates in activities like human shields and using buildings that are not designated as military buildings to hide their fighters. So it’s hard.

But I was encouraged that Prime Minister Olmert, after an extensive conversation that we had, agreed to open a humanitarian corridor. And we’re going to continue to pass the Israelis information about what we’re hearing about the humanitarian situation on the ground, and to try to support in any way that we can the efforts through UNRWA and other nongovernmental organizations which are in a very difficult environment in which to work.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks, guys.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you.

2009/029


Released on January 9, 2009

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