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United States of America
26 April 1998
Excerpts from remarks by the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright
at the “Seeds of Peace” anniversary dinner
New York, 26 April 1998
The following are excerpts from remarks made, on 26 April 1998, by the United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright at the “Seeds of Peace” programme’s sixth anniversary dinner:
We look forward to the Seeds of Peace Summit in Geneva next month and to the unprecedented summer sessions planned in Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan this summer. And most of all - most of all, we look forward to the day not far off when graduates of this programme will begin to take their place in Governments, on university faculties, and in businesses, social and religious institutions. And we can hope that the currents of tolerance and understanding they unleash will gather first into a mighty stream and then an unstoppable tide.
Sadly, the year since we gathered last spring to honour His Majesty King Hussein has been disappointing for friends of peace in the Middle East. A crisis of confidence has eroded the spirit of partnership between Israelis and Palestinians. We've witnessed horrible incidents of terror, seen unhelpful unilateral actions and heard both sides employ harsh accusations that have undermined the spirit of partnership necessary to advance peace. Last September - and then again in February - during visits to the Middle East, I saw firsthand the divisions and the deep sense of disappointment and uncertainty that exists in Israel, on the West Bank, and to an extent throughout the region.. Because of these divisions, we have entered a period of grave danger.
We face the possibility that the momentum that had been built in the direction of peace will snap back and begin to run in reverse. If that happens, we may see a future in the Middle East that mirrors the grim and conflict-ridden past. We cannot let that happen - I repeat - we cannot let that happen. The leaders on all sides in the region know the history. For better or worse, they will one day be chapters in it. They also know that their peoples have gained much from the progress already made. Because of past breakthroughs strongly supported by the United States, Israel is at peace with Egypt and Jordan when in past decades they engaged in bitter war. As the State of Israel approaches its 50th anniversary this week - an event that Vice President Gore will be helping Israelis celebrate - Israel has an opportunity to obtain the security is has for too long been denied.
The United States understands how important this objective and is unshakeably committed to helping Israelis achieve it. The way is now open if the will to resume negotiations is there for a comprehensive peace that includes Syria and Lebanon. A road map has been set out for regional cooperation on everything from water to the environment to refugees. The international community - including the United States - is working with the Palestinian people to relieve poverty, build infrastructure and create jobs.
And as a consequence of Oslo, Israelis and Palestinians have reached a series of agreements that if properly implemented will leave Israel more secure, Palestinians with real self-government and real responsibility for their own affairs, and create for both a chance to negotiate the core elements of a permanent peace. These are historic achievements that should not dismissed, underestimated, or forgotten. They provide the foundation for a future in which every people in the region could realize its hopes, in which every people could live free from the threat of terror and war - in which every people could exist in dignity and in which each could have the skills and the opportunity to participate in the global economy.
Ecclesiastics tells us there is a time to every purpose under Heaven. Tonight, the children of the Middle East have told us that this is the time for peace.
When I leave here tonight, I will fly to the Pacific Rim. And after my business there is done, I will fly further west until - in a week - I arrive in London. I will meet there separately with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. We will see then whether the two leaders are prepared to make the tough choices required to move the peace process along.
My message will be straightforward. It is no longer enough just to talk, or to talk about having more talks. We have been going around in circles for far too long.
Under Oslo, an agreement on permanent status should be reached by 4 May, 1999, exactly one year from our meeting in London. The United States takes that date very seriously. Every effort should be made to meet that target. It will be difficult. But, as Ruth Ratner Miller would have reminded us, anything is possible if the will is there to get the job done.
What is needed is a recommitment to the spirit of partnership; a determination to work not against, but with each other; a willingness to agree to concrete steps; and the vision and courage sufficient to seize the strategic opportunity for peace that past progress has created.
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7. US Department of State, Secretary of State, via the Internet at <