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Support For Mideast Peace Goes Beyond Annapolis

Support for Mideast Peace Goes Beyond Annapolis Conference

Expect continued intensive diplomacy from Washington as Palestinian and Israeli leaders build on the success of the U.S.-sponsored Annapolis Conference, says a top U.S. diplomat.

"There are a lot of historical reasons to be skeptical, but we see this as an unprecedented moment of hope and opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians," Thomas Goldberger, director of the State Department's Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, said in a December 6 USINFO webchat.

At the November 27 conference held at the U.S. Naval Academy, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced they would restart talks on December 12, with the goal of a peace treaty by the end of 2008 that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, living together with Israel in peace and security.

"Those are nice words," said Goldberger, whose office supports U.S. efforts to help the peace process, "but more interesting is where we go from here to get to the creation of a Palestinian state."

The first component of the way forward is the political process, he said, where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will confront the thorniest issues at the heart of a half-century of conflict: the borders of a new Palestinian state, the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees, security guarantees to safeguard people on both sides of the border, equitable distribution of scarce water resources, the status of Israeli outposts and settlements and the status of Jerusalem.

"It may not be the best way of thinking to talk about concessions," Goldberger replied when a participant in Malaysia asked him to speculate on how both sides will bridge these issues. "Instead, they need to be thinking together about how they can build a better future for Israeli and Palestinian people in which both are better off, safer, and happier than they are today."

Senior U.S. officials will be traveling to the region to help the leaders as the talks progress, Goldberger said, and the Quartet for Middle East Peace (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations) will continue to meet frequently to provide political support.

On December 4, the White House announced that President Bush would travel to the region in January 2008.

Next, Goldberger said, is the confidence-building process enshrined in the Quartet's "road map" -- a comprehensive plan to resolve political, economic, security and humanitarian issues to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Annapolis, both sides agreed to continue implementing the plan, and asked the United States to take on a new role as "monitor and judge" of their progress.

Finally, Goldberger said, is the need for a continued international support for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Goldberger said 90 countries are expected to take part in an international donors' conference in Paris December 17.


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