Round table negotiations at the American center
Regional-USA, Politics, 11/7/2001
" I am not very encouraged about the current situation. It is very hard for the parties, Israelis and the Palestinians to back away from the current position. And it seems to me that without a true position from the United States it will be very hard for the parties to work on their own," said ambassador Edward Walker, President of the Middle East Institute in a round table negotiations with Syrian journalists at the American Cultural center in Damascus on November 3rd.
Ambassador Walker who became President and CEO of the Middle East Institute on May 14, 2001 added replying to a question:" I would like to see more progressive approach by the American administration to work with parties and bring them away from violence and back to Michael committee process that leads to situations and negotiations that are more practical.." Walker, who since assuming his new position has traveled to the ME region to emphasize the need for restraint on both sides of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, to advocate for a return to peace negotiations and to maintain the ongoing dialogue and co-operation between the institutes and various governments said.that the American position towards the Middle east has not changed especially in terms of representation of two Palestinian and Israeli states in Jerusalem, the position towards UN resolution 242, concerning security and the refugees issues. He continued that the US previous administration was clear and behind the progress attained in the recent camp David and Taba negotiations, but he indicated that with the election of the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon it appears that many principles that have been established by Israel and the Palestinians are in doubt now." He said:" I do not see how the parties can get together and have a hope in each side and also have a way clear that meet each other's aspirations." Ambassador Walker added that there have been upsurge of interests, to have desire and information about the Middle East and particularly Islam, noting that " not every body in the US is interested to be informed, so there is a vacuum of knowledge." He explained:" Now I tell you frankly that right now the American people are not particularly interested in this subject because they are focused on and galvanized by the events of the World Trade Center, by terrorism, by the efforts to seek redress for the loss of 3,000 plus lives and the events that are taking place in Afghanistan. If you look at our major news papers coverage and TV, you will not see a Palestinian town blown up by an Israel tank. You will see the front pages and TV headlines and so on taken up by the bombardment in Afghanistan and meeting with the northern leaders in Afghanistan.." He continued that there is a vacuum of knowledge and right now the question is who is going to fill this vacuum. If the vacuum to be filled on traditional lines " you" will not going to come up with any thing different from what you had.
He urged that to eliminate stereotyping and to make a change is a responsibility that:" partially depends on you, the media. It also depends on the country and the region. It depends on those of us in Washington who seek to have a balance opinion of question about the region and seek to inform the American people of that balance." Noting the US position against the Israeli practices in targeting civilians, Walker said:" this attitude is a long history of the US in statements and actions, going back to 1967, in Lebanon and current to the present day. He elaborated that the Israeli action is not only contrary to the International laws but also to the interests of the US in the ME. He continued that the US strongly call for the withdrawal of the Israeli troops. We condemn the Israeli policies in Bethlehem. We oppose such action, as counter of the norms of civilized nation. He commented that the only answer to all these is to move to negotiations and that is what the US is concentrating on,now For his part US Senator W. Fowler, who is chairman of the board, the Middle east Institute and the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1996- 2001 said that a country or a government's highest responsibility is the protection of its people.
He added that the priorities of the American government is the priority of the American people's democracy. He said that the people who are murdered in the attacks did not have any political position, nor part of any debate. They are innocent and the attacks could happen to any people in the world. He continued so the US and its people considered these attack to demand justice because next time it would happen in any place, and this is why bringing the attackers before the court is the priority of American people.
"I would suggest that stereotyping of Arabs because of Hollywood films of the 1950 s, depicting Arabs as terrorists and this is an opportunity for the Arabs and Muslims to stand together to eliminate this stereotyping to stand together side by side, " he indicated, replying to a question put by one of the journalists.
He continued that Islam prohibits this image of terrorism and it is a chance right now to reverse the stereotyping, to go a long way to stand with civilized people.
On Arab participation in the US- led coalition to fight terrorism Fowler said that Saudi Arabia is an excellent example of an Arab and Islamic government that determined to help the US in fighting terrorism, because it is also in their interests to do so. He added that there two bombardments in Saudi Arabia in 1995- 1996 in which 24 Americans and many Saudi were murdered. He added:" So Saudi Arabia got the wake up call before us in September 11. So they determined to root up terrorism in their own country. They are working together to eliminate future attacks."
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