Secretary of State Colin Powell is calling for an immediate end to violence and terrorism between Israel and the Palestinians, and he says the Bush administration will step up direct U.S. diplomatic involvement in the region.
In an escalation of the administration diplomatic role in peace efforts, Mr. Powell is sending Assistant Secretary William Burns for talks in the region this week, and has assigned retired U.S. Marine General Anthony Zinni to expedite a cease-fire.
In a policy address in Louisville, Kentucky, Mr. Powell said General Zinni, a one-time commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, will stay in the area indefinitely to work with newly-created Israeli and Palestinian committees on a truce that could open the way to renewed peace talks.
"I've asked General Zinni to go to the region, and remain in the region to work with these two committees and to lend our strongest efforts to the establishment of a cease-fire. Get that cease-fire in place, and other things can start to happen," he said. "Without that cease-fire, we are still trapped in the quicksand of hatred."
Mr. Powell repeated administration support for Palestinian statehood, and urged an end to Israeli settlement activity in West Bank and Gaza, which he said undermines Palestinian trust and hope and "cripples" chances for real peace and security. "Israel must be willing to end its occupation consistent with the principles embodied in Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and accept a viable Palestinian state, in which Palestinians can determine their own future in their own land, and live in dignity and security," said Colin Powell. "They, too, will have to make hard compromises."
Mr. Powell said the Palestinians must end anti-Israel violence and incitement, and "eliminate any doubt, once and for all that they accept the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish State."
The much anticipated Middle East policy statement, postponed after the New York and Washington terror attacks in September, contained no new specific proposals for reviving the peace process.
Mr. Powell said the roadmap for that already exists, through the cease-fire plan worked out earlier this year by CIA Director George Tenet and the recommendations of the fact-finding commission of former Senate Majority leader George Mitchell.
He did say the United States is prepared to "contribute actively" to a cease-fire monitoring force acceptable to both parties. Once a successful truce is in place, he said, the United States would work "urgently" with other donor countries on a reconstruction package to help rebuild the Palestinian economy.