Recently I was honored to accompany several of my colleagues on a bipartisan mission into the heart of the Middle East. During our time in Egypt, Israel, and Turkey, we were offered not only a chance to promote a deeper understanding of the region but also to learn about the complex security issues facing this area of the world.
There are extraordinary forces shaping these nations and to hear firsthand about U.S.-Israel relations, the Middle East peace talks, and the status of economic and political trends in the area was as informative as it was sobering.
Egypt, Israel, and Turkey are important and necessary allies of the United States in a region which plays an increasingly important role in the world today. America's national security interests are directly tied to developments in the Middle East, as recent history has shown. The Middle East peace process has a profound impact on American policy objectives, and it is our responsibility to learn as much as possible about the situation confronting leaders in these regions and to be a part of it by remaining actively engaged with the area to promote peace and stability.
During our time in the Middle East, we met with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, to discuss Egypt's role in the ongoing peace process, the fight to combat terrorism, and efforts to improve the quality of life for the Egyptian people.
We visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, where we laid a wreath at the stone crypt containing the ashes of Holocaust victims brought to Israel from concentration camps. The crypt sits before the Eternal Flame in the Hall of Remembrance and commemorates the 6 million Jews who lost their lives in one of the most horrible times in our world's history.
I was able to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni to discuss the mutual security concerns of the United States and Israel, the ongoing cooperation between our two countries, and the desire of both nations to find a lasting peace in the Middle East.
We next traveled to Ramallah, where we met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other officials to discuss security and economic issues in the West Bank. We traveled to the Golan Heights, on the border with Syria, and met with the Israeli Defense Force and United Nations officials to discuss regional security issues.
We concluded our trip in Turkey, where we met with President Abdullah Gul to discuss the country's role in regional stability.
This is an extremely important time for the Middle East. America has the responsibility to be a constructive, effective partner in the peace process. To accomplish this goal, we must remain engaged with these countries and continue to advance diplomacy by fostering new technologies and economic advancement.
As my colleagues and I saw firsthand, finding a lasting peace in the Middle East will not be an easy process -- nor will it be a goal quickly accomplished. However, through outreach, engagement and continued understanding, I have confidence we can advance the peace process to ensure stability in the region for generations to come.