WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department said Tuesday that it will continue to encourage states to normalize ties with Israel, but any normalization deals, as the ones signed with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, do not substitute Israeli-Palestinian peace.
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In his first official press briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price reiterated U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's previous praise of the normalization pacts, adding that "the United States will continue to urge other countries to normalize relations with Israel."
However, Price said, normalization is "not a substitute for Israeli-Palestinian peace... We hope that Israel and other countries in the region join together in a common effort to build bridges and... contribute to tangible progress towards the goal of advancing a negotiated peace between Israelis and Palestinians."
Price also confirmed that the United States intends to restore aid to the Palestinians "very quickly," saying that it was "in the interest of the United States to do so."
"The suspension of aid to the Palestinian people has neither produced political progress nor secured concessions from the Palestinian leadership. Of course it has only harmed innocent Palestinians," he said, adding that the United States will strive to "galvanize the international community to meet its humanitarian obligations, including to the Palestinian people."
On Iran, Price said that neither newly appointed special Iran envoy Rob Malley nor any State Department official has had contact with Iran yet, reiterating the Biden administration's strategy on containing Iran's nuclear program will be based on closely consulting with U.S. allies, partners and members of Congress.
"If Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same. We would then use that as a platform to build a longer and stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern. Of course we are a long way from that," Price said. "Iran has distanced itself from compliance on a number of fronts, and there are many steps in that process before we're reaching the point where we're going to engage directly with the Iranians and willing to entertain any sort of proposal – especially since we've been very clear about the proposition we have put on the table."
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Price noted that Malley has "hit the ground running," and is in the early stages of calls with U.S. allies, partners as well as members of Congress. He highlighted the sense of urgency with which the United States was approaching the broader challenge of ensuring that Iran is not in the position to develop a nuclear weapon, particularly concerning reports of Iran's planned uranium enrichment.
Price praised the newly established diplomatic relations between Israel and Kosovo. "The United States congratulates Israel and Kosovo on formally establishing diplomatic relations,"calling it "a historic day."
"Deeper international ties help promote stability, peace and prosperity in both regions. When our partners are united, the United States is stronger. The United States will stand by Kosovo, as it continues to move forward on it's Euro-Atlantic path," Price said.