shapiro - Natasha Mozgovaya - February 22 2011
Dan Shapiro. Photo by Natasha Mozgovaya
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The United States' ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, on Monday urged Israel and the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table before the instability in the Middle East spiraled further out of control.

"Negotiations based on the goal of a two-state solution must be resumed, and we are confident that bilateral negotiations are the only way to reach a lasting peace," Shapiro told participants of the International Conference on Economic Regional Cooperation in Tel Aviv.

"While reaching peace will not ensure stability by any means, the lack of peace will decrease stability dangerously," Shapiro warned. "Absence of peace will strengthen leaders who are hostile to peace."

Shapiro reiterated in his address President Barack Obama's commitment to Israel's security, declaring that the U.S. leader had not only "continued" his country's support but also "expanded it".

"This is also in America’s strategic interest in the Middle East," said Shapiro.

 

The U.S. ambassador said that in pushing for a peace agreement, Israel and the Palestinians must build a "strong foundation" to ensure a viable accord.

"As we all know, peace requires more than just an agreement on paper," said Shapiro. "Peace must be built on strong foundations."

Shapiro lauded Israel for its "strong history of reaching beyond its immediate neighborhood", adding that "as the region’s oldest and most established democracy in the region, Israel upholds the values that the protesters in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria are pushing for."

He also said that the U.S. was pushing Israel and Turkey to reconcile amid the recent crisis between the once close allies.

Regional cooperation is necessary for regional stability, Shapiro said, declaring: "Cooperation forms a foundation for peace between people, not just governments." 

In addition to Shapiro, speakers at the conference in Tel Aviv on Monday included Special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, Tony Blair, Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, President Shimon Peres, and opposition leader Tzipi Livni. Defense Minister Ehud Barak was also supposed to address the conference, but canceled at the last minute.