13 December 2006 - Former US envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross briefs NATO parliamentarians [press communique]
Ambassador Dennis Ross, former US special envoy to the Middle East, strongly advocated a re-engagement of the US administration in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process in front of some 70 members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Washington DC. "But we should do it for good reasons", Ross stressed, "not simply because we believe it would help to solve the situation in Iraq".
Ambassador Ross reiterated that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, besides imposing great sufferance to these two peoples, was gravely souring the overall situation in the region, damaging the image of the US and "sending a message of indifference" to the peoples of the Middle East. He indicated that any new initiative on the part of the US in the region, including a "Madrid 2" conference, should be carefully prepared, diplomatically and politically.
The former US envoy offered three possible steps to be pursued by the US together with its allies. Firstly, imposing a serious ceasefire, whereby Palestinians stop all attacks against Israel, and Israelis stop military incursions and targeted killings. "Israeli and Palestinian security services", said Ross, "need to work together on this". Secondly, launching a national referendum among Palestinians on a 2-state solution. "A solution", Ross explained, "that cannot be taken for granted anymore in the Middle East", given the positions of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran on Israel. Thirdly, negotiating with Syria a cut-off of its support to Hezbollah and Hamas in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
With regard to Syria and Iran, Ambassador Ross also commented on some of the recommendations of the recently published Iraqi study group report. "The US", he warned, "should negotiate with them with open eyes", because concessions would have to be granted to them on other issues. "They can be spoilers rather than fixers in the region", Ross stressed.
Ambassador Ross played a leading role in shaping US involvement in the Middle East peace process during the first Bush and the Clinton administrations. He delivered his comments at the Transatlantic Parliamentary Forum organised by the NATO PA, the Atlantic Council of the United States, the National Defense University and gathering legislators from NATO and partner countries on a yearly basis to discuss transatlantic security issues with US administration and Congress representatives, as well as the policy community in Washington, DC.