In a conference call with reporters from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, July 9, U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) shared details about his trip to Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank this congressional recess. The purpose of the trip was to assess security, military, and political developments in the Middle East.
"The vast array of challenges in the Middle East are complex, but near universal agreement exists in the region regarding two key issues," Sen. Kaufman said. "First, Arab states and Israel share a common desire to stop Iran's illicit nuclear weapons program, and agree that a nuclear armed Iran would further destabilize the Middle East. Second, all parties support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and hope a comprehensive agreement is reached soon.
"While there may be different views on how to reach these outcomes, there is no question that a strong regional consensus exists which gives me great hope for the future."
Since he arrived on Friday, July 2, Kaufman has met with foreign leaders, and U.S. military and civilian leaders and troops. Some of the key meetings Kaufman attended included: Vice President Joe Biden, General Ray Odierno, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and President Jalal Talabani in Iraq; Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni in Israel; Prime Minister Salem Fayyad in the West Bank; Prime Minister Saad Hariri in Lebanon; Speaker of the Shura Council Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Sheikh in Saudi Arabia; Foreign Minister Prince Muhammad As-Sabah in Kuwait; and Lt. General Omar Suleiman in Egypt.
On the conference call, Kaufman said he stressed to officials the importance of international cooperation in stopping Iran's nuclear development and supporting a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. Kaufman said he found near universal support for these objectives during his trip.
Regarding Iran, Kaufman expressed confidence that the comprehensive web of sanctions being put in place now by the United Nations, United States, Europe, and like-minded countries, will have a noticeable impact.
Kaufman also said he stressed strong Congressional support for a two-state solution between Israelis and Palestinians. In his meetings, foreign officials showed complete support for a two-state solution, and expressed a desire to see a comprehensive agreement reached soon.
While in Israel, Kaufman also visited the Kerem Shalom checkpoint into Gaza where new procedures are being implemented to allow for greater free flow of goods into Gaza. He also visited the city of Sderot; a frequent target of Hamas-instigated rocket-fire from Gaza.
Kaufman told reporters that he conveyed to leaders in Iraq the importance of successfully reducing the United States' military presence and implementing a lasting strategic partnership in the region.
Kaufman is a member of the Armed Services Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, and has been traveling with Sens. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). This is Kaufman's fourth trip to Iraq and Kuwait, and third trip to Israel and the West Bank since assuming office in January 2009. Kaufman will return to the United States before Monday, July 12.