A senior U.S. diplomat is playing down reports that Washington has a breakthrough initiative to get the Middle East peace process back on track. He made the remarks at a conference on U.S. policy in the Middle East in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield lowers expectations of a major Bush administration peace initiative. Instead, he says it is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to come up with their own vision of peace.
"What's the role of the United States? What's the role of the international community in all this? Well, it must be to nurture, to facilitate, to sustain and encourage this process but we cannot substitute for courage, determination and vision by the parties themselves." said Mr. Satterfield.
Mr. Satterfield told a conference organized by the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine that peace talks cannot move forward until confidence and trust are restored between Israel and the Palestinians. And that, he says, will not happen until the violence stops.
"Use of violence is not a tool, which can in any fashion whatsoever advance the interests of either side," he said. "The intifada, whatever its origin, has become an ongoing process of calculated terror and escalation, reciprocated by actions which all too often by Israel proved inflammatory and provocative. Steps must be taken to bring this to a halt."
The State Department official has tough words for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, calling on him to take action against Palestinian extremists. At the same, time, Mr. Satterfield says Israel must also end its provocative actions.
Hisham Shirabi, who chaired the daylong conference on U.S. policy, says Washington needs to take some concrete action too. "What is required is a determination by the Bush administration to uphold, in a consistent and coherent fashion, past U.S. commitments on the central issues of the Israeli-Palestinian-Arab conflict," he said
Mr. Shirabi says Washington needs to push for implementation of agreements already reached on Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, the dismantling of Jewish settlements, recognition of refugee rights and self-determination for the Palestinians.