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OPT: Excerpt - U.S. remains committed to two-state solution in Middle East

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State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher told the press on February 19 that the United States remains committed to a two-state solution in the Middle East. He urged Israel to take steps to prevent civilian casualties, and he pressed the Palestinians to end terror and violence. Boucher was speaking at the regular noon briefing at the State Department.
"Our focus is on moving forward in a way that makes possible implementation of the President's June 24th vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," Boucher said.

Boucher said Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns has been in London February 18-19 for talks with representatives of Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations on promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The four parties are known as the Quartet when dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

Boucher added that the U.S. is very concerned about civilian casualties among Palestinian children and young people, resulting from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. He also called upon the Palestinians to stop using terror and violence as political tools.

Following is an excerpt from Boucher's February 19 State Department noon briefing containing his remarks about the Middle East peace issue:

(begin excerpt)

Q: Do you have anything about progress or lack of progress at the Quartet talks in London?

And are there any comments about what is happening in Gaza?

Boucher: I don't have anything brand new about London. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns is in London for meetings with his Quartet counterparts yesterday and today. Our focus on moving forward in a way - our focus there remains on moving forward in a way that makes possible implementation of the president's June 24th vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. As the secretary stated in his February 6 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he and the president remain committed to the road map as the best means of achieving that goal. I can give you the remarks that Assistant Secretary Burns gave at the conference. I think we find this to be an important meeting. The ad hoc liaison committee was meeting there as part of these activities with the Quartet counterparts and the others involved in this process.

As far as the ongoing violence, we remain very concerned about civilian casualties that have arisen from the ongoing violence, especially among Palestinian children and young people. These casualties continue to result from Israeli military actions in the West Bank and Gaza. We've continued to urge the Israeli government to take appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. We've also urged the Israeli government to facilitate the movement of humanitarian personnel and supplies and provide medical attention to those in serious need as expeditiously as possible. We remain in close communication with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to calm the situation and prevent further bloodshed.

At the same time, as we've made very, very clear before, we recognize the need for Israel to take legitimate anti-terrorist actions. There can be no excuse to the violence and the terrorist attacks the Israeli people have been forced to endure.

We're pressing the Palestinians to do all they can to end immediately the terror and violence, and work to restore active security contacts, to - and to dismantle the infrastructure that supports terrorists and violence. Progress towards the realization of Palestinian aspirations and the president's vision is simply impossible while violence and terrorist attacks continue unabated. And you'll see, in the statement that Assistant Secretary Burns had, he made very clear any workable diplomatic approach must be predicated on an end to violence and terror as a political tool, period.

(end excerpt)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)