US assistant secretary of state says this is a crucial time for peace
Regional, Politics, 5/9/2000
The next six to eight weeks "could be crucial to the [Middle East] peace process," says Edward S. Walker, Jr., assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.
In remarks Yesterday Walker said, "While tremendous progress has been made over the past several years, gaps remain on all tracks, some more serious than others."
"Israelis and Palestinians are committed to reaching a framework agreement as soon as possible and a comprehensive agreement on all permanent status issues by September 13," said Walker, who sees more Arab countries supporting the peace process.
"Both sides are going to have to make tough decisions on the most fundamental issues -- those that have resisted resolution for the past fifty years," he said. Regarding a final agreement, Walker reminded the audience that "neither (side) can expect to get 100 percent of what it seeks. And that fact entails risks for both sides."
"Despite difficulties, we have not given up on the Syrian track," Walker said. He noted that the U.S. is committed to Israel's security and that only an agreement addressing Israeli security concerns will be acceptable to Israel and the United States.
Walker said that it is in everyone's interests to support Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon under the sponsorship of United Nations resolutions 425 and 426.
He also said that he places great hope in the people-to-people exchange programs that have occurred between Israelis and Palestinians.
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