THE PALESTINE issue might have dropped off the front pages of late, but it remains fundamental to peace in the region, a top US official has said.

Talking to a select group of mediapersons in Muscat yesterday (June 21, 2011), Jeffrey D. Feltman, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, said a two-state solution was not only in the interest of the Middle East, but for the United States as well.

“But we have to overcome a lot of mistrust, a lot of history for that,” he said, while adding that the solution has to be eked out through negotiations only.

“The Israelis need to recognize the Palestinians’ concerns on territory and the Palestinians need to understand the Israelis’ concerns over security.”

In Oman for consultations with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and Omani government officials on issues of mutual interest, Feltman waxed eloquent on the constructive way in which the Sultanate had dealt with the aspirations of its people.

“We recognise that, in Oman, the prospects for continued development and advancement are bright as they are guided by a positive vision.


Against violence

“I had the opportunity to hear the Omani perspective on regional issues, and I look forward to conveying it to my government.

“Oman is an old and important ally in this part of the world, and we seek its values,” he said.

Picking the regional issues, especially in the context of the recent developments, he made clear the US does not condone violence, neither from the protestors, nor from the governments.

While noting his country’s support for the universal principles of freedoms and human rights for people across the world, Feltman stressed Arab Spring was not about the US.

“When people gathered at Tahrir Square, it was not because the US had told them to. They may have been angry with US policies, but that was not the reason why they had assembled there.

“People in this part of the world or elsewhere want to feel that they have a say in the decisions that affect them… their economic future, their political future.”

He, however, agreed there was no one size that fitted all solutions. “Every country has its own uniqueness, its unique history, unique circumstances.”

On Libya, he noted how there had been a healthy debate in the US on exercising the quantum of firepower. “But the Gaddafi forces are getting weaker every day,” he pointed out, while revealing about talk of some countries replacing others for a period of time in the Nato operations.

“In Bosnia, it took two-and-a-half years.

“In Libya, it took 33 days,” he said of the time it took the international community to start operations to stop the massacre of people.

“I was in Benghazi a month ago. The contrast with atmosphere in Tripoli is remarkable. There is fear in Tripoli.”

(This article first appeared on the Front page in the Times of Oman newspaper on June 22, 2011. Click the link to the PDF below to view the page)

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