U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrapped up her first official trip to Israel Friday, acknowledging that she had made little progress at reviving the near-dead Middle East peace process.
Albright said the next moves were not up to the United States, but to the parties directly involved. “I’ll come back when the leaders have made hard decisions,” she said. “But I will not come back to tread water.”
After a stopover in Damascus, Syria, where she met with Syrian President Hafez Assad about the status of negotiations between Israel and Syria, she arrived in Egypt, where she will meet today with President Hosni Mubarak.
Announcing a series of “small steps,” Albright said senior advisers to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat would be meeting in Washington, D.C., the week after next.
And a week later, she said, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy would meet at the United Nations with Mahmoud Abbas, a top Palestinian negotiator.
“I have no illusion about the size of these steps; they are small,” Albright said. “I’m not going to pretend to you here that I’ve accomplished a great deal.”
During her visit here, Albright emphasized that Arafat must undertake a sustained and concerted effort to battle Palestinian terrorism before he can expect Israel to move forward in the peace process. She also suggested, somewhat less forcefully, that Israel should refrain from taking “provocative” actions, such as building new settlements or confiscating Palestinian land.
Israel rejected her proposal.