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November 06, 2002

State's Burns Says U.S. Working to Finalize Action Plan for Mideast

If at first you don't succeed...
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns says the Bush administration is pressing to finalize an international plan of action during the first half of December to resolve the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians within three years.
"The President wants us to get from the very difficult situation that the Palestinians and Israelis find themselves in right now, to the realization of the permanent two-state solution over the next three years, a goal that he laid down in his speech on June 24," Burns said in Bahrain October 29. "[W]e feel a strong sense of urgency about this."

During a recent trip to Europe, Burns conferred with representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, Russia in Paris, then visited numerous countries in the Middle East to develop what he called a "practical pathway" to peace.

"Both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, deserve security and we are committed to doing everything we can to help achieve that," Burns said.

Burns said the plan involves establishing trust between Israelis and Palestinians to stabilize the situation, creating a Palestinian state "with many of the attributes of sovereignty, but whose final borders are not yet determined," then moving to "permanent status" negotiations.

Burns praised Bahrain for holding its first national elections in 30 years and said the Bush administration is strongly committed to its "partnership" with Bahrain, "a major non-NATO ally" of the United States.

Burns said the United States supports Bahrain's political and economic reforms, saying the country sets "a very important standard for the rest of the region."