World Bulletin / News Desk
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice addressed US policy in the Middle East Thursday, saying that the US would continue to support those “who share our fundamental interests and values”.
“In the Middle East too, change will come and eventually come to stay. But, we must recall that lasting change can only be forged by those who own it, by the people of the region. And yet, through their long and arduous journey, the United States will stand fast with those who share our fundamental interests and values,” said Rice while speaking at the Middle East Institute’s annual banquet and conference.
US fully invested in Middle East peace
Following the resignation of the Palestinian negotiating team from peace talks with Israel, Rice said that the US is “fully invested” in negotiations.
“We are fully invested to give these negotiations their best shot to succeed, because failing to resolve this issue would have profoundly negative consequences over the long term—for the United States, for Israel and for the Palestinians,” she said.
Rice attributed some of what she termed “tensions on the ground” to recent announcements of new settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.
"We have seen increased tensions on the ground. Some of this is a result of recent settlement announcements. So let me reiterate: The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity," she said.
Her remarks to a conference of the Middle East Institute drew applause from an audience that included former and current U.S. officials, foreign diplomats, some from Arab countries, and regional experts.
Rice's criticism echoed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who urged Israel on a visit to the region last week to limit settlement building in occupied territories - an activity he called "illegitimate" - to help push peace talks back on track.
The disclosure on Tuesday that Israel's Housing Ministry had commissioned separate plans for nearly 24,000 more homes for Israelis in the two areas raised U.S. concern and drew Palestinian condemnation.
She added, “Ending this conflict surely will not solve all the region’s challenges, but a peaceful resolution would go a long way to anchor stability, undermine extremism, and recast relationships between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Syria “among the most serious challenges” US faces
Resolving the Syrian conflict continues to remain a top foreign policy objective for the US, according to Rice. She maintained that the over two and a half year conflict cannot be resolved militarily.
”The only way forward is through a negotiated political settlement that will end the violence and protect the rights of all Syrians,” she said. She hailed the decision of the Syrian National Coalition to attend the Geneva II peace talks.
Still, Rice maintained that the Syrian opposition “must understand that no one benefits from a collapse of state institutions.”
Iranian initiative must be tested
“We owe it to ourselves and to the world to test—to test— whether they are, in fact, serious,” said Rice of the Iranians.
Rice maintained that talks in Geneva over this past weekend were “substantive”, despite the fact that they failed to reach an accord.
“The latest round of talks in Geneva was substantive, and the P5+1 stood united. But, we have not yet reached a deal. And that is because the P5+1 will not accept anything less than concrete, verifiable terms that ensure that Iran’s nuclear program will be entirely peaceful,” she said.
Negotiations between world powers and Iran will reconvene on November 20.