"It is time for a new Middle East," declared US Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice at her meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem today.
Rice stressed the full backing of the US for Israel in its campaign in Lebanon. She came to Israel from Beirut, as part of a lightning visit to the Middle East. At the beginning of their meeting, Rice and Olmert held a press conference, at which the atmosphere was markedly warm and friendly.
"We cannot return to a status quo ante, in which extremists at any time can decide to take innocent life hostage again, by using their missiles or using their capabilities," Rice said, and added, "That is why we have, and the president, President Bush, has talked about an enduring ceasefire, an enduring cessation of violence, which would, indeed, make the security situation better than it was before… I have no desire to be back in three weeks or 3 months or 6 months when, once again, extremists have decided to use their advantages to destabilize the peace."
Rice stressed that any ceasefire had to mean that extremists could not again fire missiles at civilians. "It is time to say to those who do not want a different kind of Middle East that we will prevail, they will not," she said.
"We have a framework for a way forward," Rice went on, "which is of course Resolution 1559, which was also expressed in the G8 Statement. That is, after all, a Security Council Resolution. Its implementation will help to bring stability, and it will help to bring peace, and it will help a democratic Lebanon to fully emerge. I have no doubts that there are those who wish to strangle a democratic and sovereign Lebanon in its crib, and we must not let that happen either."
Rice stressed the need to find solutions for alleviating the humanitarian situation in Lebanon arising from the conflict. "There is increasingly a displaced persons problem, we need to be able to deal with that; for the future reconstruction of Lebanon; but also what we can do to begin to really lay the groundwork for an enduring peace in this region," she said, adding "The Lebanese people and their government deserve a better future."
Olmert stated that Israel was exercising its right to defend itself. "We are using the basic, elementary rights of self-defense against terrorist organizations, both in the south and in the north, and we will have to continue to fight against these terrorist organizations," he said, adding, "For over 12 days, more than 15% of the population of Israel has been forced to live in shelters because of the continuous rocket and missile attacks coming from Lebanon into the major cities of Israel, and into almost every village and township in the north part of our country. All this is perpetrated by a brutal terrorist organization."
Olmert too commented on the plight of the Lebanese. "We are aware of the humanitarian needs of the population in Lebanon as a result of the brutality of the Hizbullah. I think, in complete sincerity, that I can say that the Lebanese and the Israelis are the victims of this brutal terrorist, murderous organization, the Hizbullah."
Olmert called on the Lebanese people to dissociate themselves from Hizbullah. "The Lebanese government, I hope, will make efforts to distance themselves from Hizbullah and from the terrorist organizations, and once they do it, they will find in us partners for all kinds of accommodations that will make life for the Lebanese easier and better, and certainly will help facilitate an arrangement that will end the war… Israel is determined to carry on the fight against Hizbullah. We will reach out for them, we will stop them, and we will not hesitate to take the most severe measures against those who are aiming thousands of missiles and missiles against innocent civilians for one purpose to kill them," he said.
Olmert's meeting with the Secretary of State lasted about two hours, and was reported to have been conducted in a very cordial atmosphere. The meeting was also attended by the Prime Minister's chief-of-staff, Dr. Yoram Turbovitz, his diplomatic adviser, Shalom Turgeman, his military adviser, Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni, and his media adviser, Asaf Shariv, US Ambassador Richard Jones, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs C. David Welch, National Security Council Director for Near East and North African Affairs Elliot Abrams, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dr. J.D. Crouch II.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on July 25, 2006
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