Monday, January 5, 2009

Zalmay tells it like it is!

After a grueling two hour meeting with the Foreign Ministers of the Arab League, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad spoke to the UN press corps on the situation in Gaza and the prospects of getting a Security Council resolution passed to resolve the conflict.

I have provided a transcript of Zalmay's comments below. Note the Ambassador's refusal to couch his statements in diplomatic lingo, his blunt style, and his determination not to hedge, prevaricate, or repeat vague assurances.

Zalmay, in his own words:

We had a good meeting with the Arab Ministers. We heard from them the message of the urgency of the situation, the need for an immediate ceasefire. We said that we share their concern about the urgency situation, that we see the suffering, the fighting, the loss of life on both Israeli and Palestinian sides. We want this conflict to end as quickly as possible. But in order to get an enduring solution, because we all want that, an enduring solution, an enduring ceasefire, that practical arrangements have to put in place in which everyone has confidence that it will be maintained, it will be respected, it will be observed, and that people will have confidence in the arrangement or arrangements that have to be put in place, that while we share the goal of moving rapidly, as quickly as rapidly as possible, that has to be balanced by the consideration to have an arrangement that is workable, that is durable, that there is confidence in, and that our people, the Secretary of State, of course the President, and others are working very hard with some of the people sitting across the table, or others in the region and around the world to bring that about, and that we are very much committed to bringing that about as quickly as possible, but I didn't want them to have any false expectations about how those practical arrangements in which one could have confidence, that could bring about a durable solution, could be arrived that in the next few hours in terms of immediate time frame of the next day or so. So that's, we got their message and we provided our response, but we are very much committed to working with them, as we are committed to working with others, with Israel, to get to an acceptable arrangement as quickly as possible.

Now that, my friends, is what we call "telling it like it is." Naturally, the UN press corps was interested in one or two of the finer points. To wit:

Q: What does that mean in practical, tangible terms? What are you asking for?
Khalilzad: There are issues, first with regard to the ceasefire, so there has to be a ceasefire that both deals with the rockets and with military operations, and there are issues with regard to the humanitarian situation in Gaza, including the crossing, that allows for only legal humanitarian and legal trade, and therefore there has to be an issue of not allowing for dealing with the issue of smuggling and the kind of issue we face in Lebanon in the aftermath of that process where the rearming, rebuilding took place, and how a practical arrangement can be made to deal with that issue, and lastly is the issue of course of confidence, how those arrangements could be made in a way that people can have confidence in, and of course we want the situation to help to move towards an enduring peace process, which is the ultimate solution to these problems.

Q: You warned against false expectations and warned of not having a solution in hours or the next day. Does that mean that it'll take days, within this week? And secondly you spoke of an enduring solution. Explain that?
Khalilzad: On the second issue, what we're looking for is an arrangement that works in an enduring way over the longer term, not something, an arrangement that can easily fall apart. The prospect of it lasting is not very high. So that would be the definition of wanting and enduring, an arrangement that can endure, that can work for the longer term. As far as the timeline is concerned, I'm not in the business of signaling anything in terms of that, but we would like to, obviously, get all of this done as quickly as possible.. No one should go away from here assuming the US, or Israel for that matter, or others, would want this problem to go on and on. No. We want this, we see the television screens, we see the suffering of the people in Israel and in Gaza. We want this thing to end as quickly and rapidly as possible, but as responsible leaders you want to get an arrangement that can improve the situation so that the prospects of it collapsing quickly, or a return to these kinds of problems, is minimized if not altogether eliminated. So therefore we are saying that we're working very hard, as quickly as possible, to get to those arrangements.

Got that? It means that the US will leave no stone unturned in its eternal quest for Mideast peace. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

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