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Cablegate: Guidance: Middle East Briefing, September 17

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: UNSC PREL LE IS SY
SUBJECT: GUIDANCE: MIDDLE EAST BRIEFING, SEPTEMBER 17

1. (U) This is an action message. USUN is authorized to
draw from the points in para 2 below during the Middle
East Briefing scheduled for September 18.

2. (U) Begin points:

-- I thank Under-Secretary Pascoe for his briefing on the
situation in the Middle East. Today, I would like to make
four points with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process and then turn to the situation in Lebanon.

-- First, we remain strongly committed to achieving a
peace agreement. The ongoing bilateral
Israeli-Palestinian talks are sincere, substantive
negotiations that are addressing all issues without
exception. They remain confidential at the parties'
request.

-- Secretary Rice's intense personal engagement on this
issue demonstrates our commitment to achieving a peaceful,
two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as
quickly as possible. The Secretary traveled again to
Jerusalem and Ramallah on August 26 for tri-lateral talks,
as she has almost every month since the conference in
Annapolis last November.

-- Separately, Israel and Syria are continuing indirect
peace talks under the auspices of Turkey. While the United
States will continue to focus on the Israeli-Palestinian
track, we support efforts to bring peace and stability to
the region. Such a goal cannot be achieved, however,
without addressing the breadth of Syria's activities of
concern, including its support for terrorist groups, its
facilitation of foreign fighters entering Iraq, and the
shipment of weapons across its border into Lebanon.

-- Second, Palestinian capacity building is key to the
success of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Supporting Salam Fayyad's Palestinian Reform and
Development Plan remains a top priority of the U.S.
Government and the international community.

-- Total U.S. assistance to the Palestinians in 2008 will
surpass our pledged level of $555 million, including $264
million in project assistance, $150 million in direct
budget support, and $184.6 million for the UN Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
(UNRWA). Recently, the U.S. Congress approved an
additional $150 million in direct budgetary assistance for
FY09, and $50 million in project assistance. The United
States is the largest bilateral donor to UNRWA and our
$184.6 million in assistance for 2008 represents a 20
percent increase over 2007, aiding a total of more than
4.6 million Palestinian refugees.

-- We commend the assistance provided to the Palestinian
Authority by our European partners. We also recognize
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Kuwait
for their support of the PA, and continue to urge regional
governments to provide additional support and fulfill all
outstanding commitments, including pledges of budget
support made at the 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut.
The Palestinian Authority is in dire straits financially
and urgently needs additional international support. We
look forward to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison
Committee scheduled for September 22 which will address
this situation.

-- We are also working to support the parties' efforts to
improve security. At several previous briefings, I have
highlighted progress being made in Jenin towards
Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. While efforts
in that city will not lead to an instantaneous
transformation, there is cause for optimism, as
U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces gradually assume
greater responsibility to uphold law and order, and crack
down on terrorism. This opens up new possibilities for
economic and social advances.

-- Third, we remain committed to a Palestinian state in
the West Bank and Gaza. We will never abandon the people
of Gaza, and urge all parties to adhere to the period of
calm that began on June 19 as a result of Egypt's efforts.

-- We condemn the violent efforts by Hamas and other
groups to usurp the lawful authority of the Palestinian
government in Gaza. The Quartet's principles remain
determinative: renunciation of violence and terror,
recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous
agreements between the parties.

-- Finally, we reiterate our deep concern at continuing
Israeli settlement activity, and call on Israel to freeze
this activity and dismantle outposts erected since March
2001, consistent with its Roadmap obligations. Settlement
activity has a negative effect on the atmosphere for
negotiations with the potential to harm them going
forward. In this regard, we do note recent deliberations
within the Israeli government on future compensation for
settlers to leave settlements voluntarily.

-- There have been calls for this body to address the
issue of settlements in resolutions or senior-level
meetings. However, a debate at this time can damage the
sensitive process of confidential, bilateral negotiations
addressing all issues without exception, in which the parties
are intensively engaged. To ensure the greatest possibility
for a final resolution of the settlement issue, the United
States remains firmly opposed to the Council taking up
this question at this time. The Quartet continues to be
the pre-eminent mechanism for coordinating international
support for the peace negotiations.

-- Turning to Lebanon, I wish first to convey again our
condolences for political leader Saleh Aridi, struck down
by assassins on September 10. We strongly condemn this
cowardly terrorist attack, as we do all such attacks. We
are deeply concerned about this development, and urge the
parties to carry on nonetheless, despite the dangers, with
their historic national dialogue talks scheduled to start
this week.

-- The United States views full implementation of UNSCRs
1559, 1680 and 1701, and fulfillment of the pledges made
in the Doha Agreement, as essential to safeguard Lebanon's
sovereignty and security. We look forward to speedy
implementation of the August 14 announcement by Syria and
Lebanon that they will establish full diplomatic relations
with the exchange of missions at the ambassadorial level.
Full normalization must also include other measures aimed
at ending Syria's continuing interference in Lebanon,
including the delineation of the Lebanese-Syrian border.
We call on the Secretary-General to engage with Syria and
Lebanon to encourage immediate progress on this issue.

-- We remain concerned, however, at persistent reports of
breaches of the arms embargo along the Lebanon-Syria
border, and note the Secretary-General's observation of
full implementation of the embargo as an indispensable
provision of resolution 1701 that must be observed
immediately, comprehensively, and without exception.
Unfortunately, the August 27 report of the Lebanon
International Border Assessment Team shows no progress at
all over the past two years on interdicting arms smuggling
across this border. The report concludes that "the
present state of border security is insufficient to
prevent smuggling, in particular the smuggling of arms."
Regional parties maintaining ties with Hizballah and other
groups in Lebanon, especially Iran and Syria, are obliged
to respect and abide fully by the arms embargo on Lebanon.

-- We strongly support the Lebanese Armed Forces and
Internal Security Forces in their courageous efforts to
restore calm. As provided in resolution 1701, there must
be no unauthorized weapons in Lebanon. The international
community must stand with Lebanon's government to insist
on the authority of the state and the illegitimacy of all
other armed groups, including Hizballah, that undermine
the government's authority and the resolutions of this
Council. Two years after the conflict instigated by
Hizballah, this remains the most important matter for the
Council to consider with regard to its responsibility to
safeguard international peace and security.

-- We welcome the Secretary General's intention to
strengthen the diplomatic process aimed at dealing with
the issue of the Sheba'a Farms. We urge him to engage
directly with Israel, Lebanon, and Syria on this issue,
including via a technical mission that would visit the
three countries to discuss the cartographers report and
next steps in detail, and report back to the Council. We
also strongly support the work of the UN Independent
Investigative Commission and look forward to the
establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

End points.
RICE

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