|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation
New York, New York, September 24, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, very, very much for those generous comments, and thank you to the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation for hosting me today and for all the very fine work in support of peace.
I want to thank my very good friends, Foreign Ministers Levy and Moussa, and all of our audience, for braving the early hour to be here today. But I must also apologize that several of us will have to talk and run -- to a meeting of the Partners in Peace, which will bring together ministers from Middle Eastern states and their colleagues from North America, Europe, Russia and Japan.
Thanks to the Center for Middle East Peace and Economic Cooperation, though, we will leave here with more full stomachs. Also -- you have given us the boost of energy that comes from knowing that the quest for peace has such fervent supporters here in New York.
Let me begin my comments on this new and hopeful phase of the peace process by saying that organizations such as this have really a critical role to play in the whole process. And every member of the audience -- Arab-Americans and Jewish Americans, academics and members of the business community -- can do the same.
Your public support for the peace process will send a strong message as the parties work to end the Arab-Israeli conflict once and for all.
Your involvement in economic development and people-to-people exchanges will break the down barriers.
And your support for America's leadership in the process will make sure that we have the resources we need to stand with those who take risks for peace.
Make no mistake, the time is now. There is a new sense of opportunity, and a new urgency towards the peace process, shared by all the parties. And most important, there is a renewed sense of trust. For the first time in several years, Palestinians and Israelis are making commitments to each other, not to third parties. The Sharm El-Sheik commitments were negotiated directly.
Even better, they are being implemented rapidly. Less than a week after the signing, Israel made further redeployments from the West Bank and released 199 prisoners. The Palestinians provided Israel with a list of members of their police force.
And, as you know, permanent status negotiations resumed on September 13th. The parties agreed to conclude a framework agreement within five months, and to finalize a comprehensive agreement within a year.
The same can-do spirit is evident around the region. Egypt played a critical role at Sharm El-Sheik. President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Moussa's personal involvement marked a renewed spirit of cooperation between Israel and Egypt, and a renewed partnership with the United States.
I have also sensed a new commitment to trying to restart negotiations between Israel and Syria, and between Israel and Lebanon. The United States is working with the parties to make this possible. If we did not think it was possible to reach an agreement, we would not be making the effort. And I have met with Foreign Minister Shara and will be meeting with Foreign Minister Levy this week in New York. And I continue to believe that the effort really is worthwhile. There seems to be, to me, a new seriousness of purpose.
This is only one of the immense challenges ahead. Israelis and Palestinians must confront the fundamental issues of Jerusalem, borders, settlements, and refugees. Others in the region must find the courage to support the parties as they make these tough decisions. And all of this is to happen in the next twelve months.
Now, this sounds like a very ambitious timetable. But I believe Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat are truly determined to meet it. For our part, President Clinton and I are committed to seeing the process through to a successful conclusion.
We are ready to do whatever is needed to help bring the parties together, and to facilitate the negotiating process if that becomes necessary. I know that President Mubarak and King Abdallah are determined that Egypt and Jordan will do their part as well.
The coming year is going to be challenging for all of us. Sometimes, we have to put aside our own ideas and preconditions, remembering that only the parties -- not their friends outside --can make the tough decisions ahead. Other times, we will have to summon our own strength and stamina to be leaders for peace -- and to make sure that Americans understand that in supporting this process, we are acting in our nation's finest traditions, and promoting our long-term interests.
I look forward to working with all of you over the next year as we approach the long-sought, hard-fought prize of a comprehensive Middle East peace. And your help, I firmly believe that we can get this done. Thank you all, very, very much for your friendship and for your support.
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