The Annapolis-Conferences is an important step for peace in the Middle East. It offers the parties to the conflict an opportunity to overcome their differences in direct, bilateral talks, with unique support from the international community and regional players. I would like to thank President Bush and Condoleezza Rice for their initiative and for all their hard work over the past few weeks.
Ladies & Gentlemen,
the weeks and months after Annapolis will be a crucial time during which the success of this conference must be secured and built upon. Again, the USA will have a vital role to play. But all of us assembled here today must also do our part to make the follow-up to Annapolis a success.
Over the past months, Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas have consistently pursued the path of reconciliation. Germany will help them continue down this road with courage and determination, by providing political support and promoting concrete projects.
I am convinced: The post-Annapolis process will turn on three key issues:
- direct substantive negotiations between the parties,
- joint efforts by the international community,
- and the immediate stabilization of the situation in the Palestinian territories - parallel to the negotiations.
To pick up on the first point – only if Annapolis signals the beginning of negotiations will we get any closer to our goal of revitalizing the peace process. Annapolis must mark the start of substantive and meaningful negotiations on the creation of a viable Palestinian state that lives side-by-side with Israel in a spirit of peace and security.
As to my second point – Annapolis has already had a positive impact on the situation in the region as a whole. Mutual relations between Arab countries have deepened, for their shared desire to end the deadlock in the Middle East has grown stronger. I welcome that Arab partners have decided to participate in this meeting in Annapolis.
This unity must be sustained after Annapolis. It must also be embedded in a supportive international environment. Here in Annapolis, we stand united in our aim of securing peace in the Middle East. This will enable the parties' negotiations to advance and we will in this way successfully defy all those who oppose peace.
In this context, it is an encouraging sign that Syria is here today. Syria is important for regional stability. However it's relationship with it's neighbours is still unresolved – the Golan Heights being a key issue.
We have always made it clear that any negotiated peace in the Middle East must encompass all the issues, but that this presupposes a constructive attitude on the part of Syria. I hope that the chances of this happening have been improved today.
Regarding my third point – we have in the past weeks observed how a positive momentum has developed in the run-up to Annapolis. It has led to a tangible although not yet sufficient improvement in the situation in the Palestinian territories. President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert have agreed a number of initial steps, such as the release of Palestinian prisoners, the improved security cooperation in Nablus, and - especially important: the question of settlement-freeze.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
we must actively improve the security environment and foster economic reconstruction in parallel to the negotiations after Annapolis.
A few weeks ago I suggested that the EU should outline the support it is willing to provide during this phase. I am delighted that my colleague Javier Solana and Commissioner Ferrero‑Waldner have prepared an EU action strategy that outlines key contributions of the EU for the challenges that face us now. We are prepared and able to act.
I am convinced:
The post-Annapolis process will determine whether peace comes to the Middle East. If we manage to sustain and increase the momentum provided by the broad agreement today around this table, the parties will succeed. That is why we should not hesitate to meet again in this configuration when the time is right. We need a framework to focus the political energy of the post-Annapolis process. Germany is ready to actively contribute to this process.
The message from Annapolis must be that peace is possible in the Middle East; the work begins today for all of us.