Remarks by Vice President Biden and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
PRESIDENT ABBAS: In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, it is our pleasure to welcome the Vice President, our friend, Joseph Biden, here in Ramallah. This visit comes as an expression of the interest that President Obama’s administration has according to the peace process and to achieve the two-state solution.
The establishment of the Palestinian state and the 1967 borders -- the decisions that the Israeli government has announced over the past two days and the establishment and the construction of thousands of new units in the Palestinian territories constitute an undermining of the confidence and all the efforts that were exerted over the past months to launch the indirect negotiations. The decision to approve these negotiations was taken with great difficulties within the Arab Committee and the leadership entities of the Palestinian people. And in order to reiterate our intention to support the American efforts to launch the peace process, to revive the peace process, the Israeli resettlement policies and particularly, in Jerusalem, threaten these negotiations and we ask that these decisions are revoked.
I reiterate, Mr. Vice President, our commitment to peace as a strategic option, just and comprehensive, a permanent peace on all tracks, including the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks that would lead to ending the Israeli occupation that started in 1967, based on the roadmap plan, including the Arab Peace Initiative. I would like to address the Israelis’ settling. The time has come to make peace, peace under a two-state solution -- based on the two-state solution, the state of Israel that lives in peace and security alongside the state of Palestine on the borders of the 4th of June 1967 with its capitol East Jerusalem. And here it is important to speak about the siege that is imposed on Gaza strip that should be lifted in order to provide for the basic needs of our people in Gaza strip in addition to the construction materials that are necessary, because there are 25,000 houses that are in debris and there are hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who live without shelter and need houses. And, therefore, we ask that the Gaza strip is provided with construction materials.
Again, I would like to call out to the Israeli government not to waste this opportunity to make peace. I call upon this government to stop its settlement policies and to stop imposing fights on the ground and to give the efforts of President Obama’s administration and Representative Mitchell’s efforts the opportunity to succeed. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. President, thank you very much for your hospitality and for the opportunity to be with you again. I greatly appreciate the time you’ve given me, you and the Palestinian Authority. I also had the pleasure of meeting earlier this morning with your Prime Minister Fayyad in -- here in Ramallah. I must say I admire the courage and conviction of the two of you, whom President Obama and I consider willing partners in the quest for a lasting peace in the region.
Our administration is fully committed to the Palestinian people and to achieving a Palestinian state that is independent, viable, and contiguous. Everyone should know -- everyone should know by now that there is no viable alternative to a two-state solution, which must be an integral part of any comprehensive peace plan. The United States considers the goal to be not only in the interest of the Palestinians and the Israelis, but in the United States’ interest as well. We also believe that the divide between the Israelis and Palestinians can only be resolved by negotiations. The indirect talks being launched should lead to direct negotiations, which will necessarily reach -- which would be necessary to reach an agreement on the permanent status -- status issues which you referenced, Mr. President, such as borders, security, refugees, and Jerusalem. And the United States pledges to play an active as well as a sustained role in these talks. It’s incumbent on both parties to build an atmosphere of support for negotiations and not to complicate them.
Yesterday -- yesterday, the decision by the Israeli government to advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem undermined that very trust, the trust that we need right now in order to begin as well as produce -- have profitable negotiations. That is why I immediately condemned the action.
As we move forward, the United States will hold both sides accountable for any statements or actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks, as this decision did. The United States strongly supports the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to build as well as strengthen its institutions and develop the economy of a state, including Prime Minister Fayyad’s two-year institution building plan.
We must find a way to improve the lives of Gazans, as well. The Palestinian Authority offers the possibility of a peaceful, independent, and more prosperous future rather than the false promises of extremists. A historic peace is going to require both the Palestinians as well as the Israelis, as well as their leaders, to be historically bold.
And I promise you, Mr. President, the United States will always stand with those who take the risk that peace requires. Again, Mr. President, I thank you very much for the courage you’ve shown in moving forward. I thank you for the hospitality you’ve extended to me and my delegation. And I look forward to seeing you many more times.
PRESIDENT ABBAS: Thank you.