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APN Commends Rice for Engaging Syria and Iran; Says U.S. Veto on Israel-Syria talks is Hypocrisy

APN commended Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's decision to participate in talks with Syria and Iran and urged the administration to make this the first step toward a broader policy of regional engagement.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - February 28, 2007
CONTACT: Ori Nir - (202) 728-1893

Washington, D.C - Americans for Peace Now today commended Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's decision to participate in talks with Syria and Iran and urged the administration to make this the first step toward a broader policy of regional engagement.

APN expressed hope that the decision to engage with Damascus and Teheran in a multilateral forum on Iraq indicates a new approach from the Bush administration that would lead to a broader policy of U.S. regional engagement and to the lifting of the administration's veto on Israeli-Syrian peace talks.

"This welcome policy development would be truly significant if followed by a nuanced policy of engagement with key regional players, as recommended by the Iraq Study Group three months ago. Adopting the ISG recommendations could open the door to a dramatic transformation of the current diplomatic stalemate in the region. It could allow for a resumption of an Israeli-Palestinian as well aw an Israeli-Syrian peace process and would give the international community more tools to curtail Iran's nuclear quest," said APN's president and CEO, Debra DeLee.

"One thing is clear: when the Bush administration is politically engaging Syria, it has no business keeping Israel from taking up Syrian president Bashar Assad's offers to resume peace talks without preconditions. Standing in the way of Israeli-Syrian talks was unjustified all along. Doing so now would add hypocrisy to folly," DeLee said. "If the Bush administration wants to be a real friend of Israel, it would facilitate such talks rather then impede them," she added.

Last week, according to Israeli press reports, Secretary Rice's reply to questions by Israeli officials about exploratory talks with Syria was: Don't even think about it.

APN applauded the administration for acting on a key recommendation of the Iraq Study Group and reminded the White House that the report's authors urged the administration not to "cherry-pick" from their set of recommendations. A key recommendation was a "renewed and sustained commitment by the U.S. to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts." Another was that America's engaging with Syria would be supplemented by a resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria.

APN, a Jewish, Zionist organization whose mission is to enhance Israel's security through peace and to support the Israeli Peace Now movement, has long called on the administration to reverse its opposition to Israeli-Syrian peace talks and engage on the Israeli-Palestinian track