Colin Powell BriefingOn Aircraft en route to Egypt
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release June 27, 2001
Press Briefing by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell Aboard Aircraft en route Borg El-Arab, Egypt
June 27, 2001 Alexandria
SECRETARY POWELL: Making progress by inches, the President says, he expects to make a couple of more inches of progress. I hope to make progress, whether it is by inches, feet, meters, miles, or whatever. Though I hope we'll make some progress. I just checked in with the State Department, and it has been a fairly quiet night with no casualties, so that is always another day that is better than the day before. And so, what I hope to see in this trip is first of all, an opportunity to talk to the leaders in the region, get their assessment of where they are, get their assessment of how far along we are in the Tenet plan, get their assessment of the prospects for moving through and beyond the Tenet plan into the cooling off period. I hope to talk to both sides about the differences that exist between them, and about the irritations that are on both sides and about complaints on both sides, and see if we can be of some assistance in resolving them.
The reason I decided to come at this time, it has been four months since my last trip, and it is about six weeks since we released the Mitchell report and just about two weeks after the Tenet report, and it seems timely to come over and just take a look at it all. Also, I wanted to again give the message that the Mitchell Committee report remains the only item that is on the table and it enjoys the support of the entire international community. I think that there is one thing we have all been successful in doing recently is for the United Nations, the European Union, and a number of the other major interested parties, the Sharm-el-Sheikh partners are all behind the Mitchell Committee report, and I just want to make sure that is once again understood, and this is the way through this crisis for us all. So, that's the point I want to make.
QUESTION: At the White House yesterday, Ariel Sharon seemed pretty adamant he wants "ten days of total quiet" before the cooling off period begins. Is that also the U.S. position or are we going to be able to make some headway on that?
SECRETARY POWELL: The U.S. position is that we want to see, as the President said, the cycle of violence broken and get down to a point where both sides feel comfortable that the violence has reached the level that will permit a cooling off period to begin and we can start rebuilding confidence between the two parties. It is not the U.S. position nor do we have the authority or the power to tell either side when they think the cooling off period should begin. Mr. Sharon has been rather clear on his view of that, and the President, as he said yesterday, indicated that we have to take a realistic look at that. And so I think over the next two or three days, I'll have a chance to discuss this with both sides and see what we can do to put forth a maximum effort to get maximum results to get the level of violence down. We all would like to see it go to zero, and the President's comment yesterday was "sure, we would all like to see that go to zero, but what is realistic, what can we get to?" It is the two sides that will have to make a judgment, both of them will have to make a judgment individually and then it becomes a collective judgment that we can now move forward into the cooling off period.
SECRETARY POWELL: I am not coming on this trip with the expectation of that happening, that is not a marker for this trip.
QUESTION: Are you bringing any ideas with you? You said "that is not the marker" of this trip. What is it that you hope to accomplish on this trip, and what ideas are you bringing with you?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not bringing any brand-new ideas that are outside the Mitchell report. The Mitchell report is the Mitchell report. That is what I will be pressing, and the corollary to it and the codicil to it, and the Tenet workplan. Frankly, I think it would be not useful at this point for other ideas to come floating in. Now, if I can talk to the leaders and have some new thoughts, or in our conversations we come up with new ways to get through the workplan and new ways to lay out a timeline that would link it into the Mitchell Committee report, that's fine. So, it's not as if we're just going to talk past each other. We'll be looking for things to do and ideas, but not a new plan.
Let me make one observation. A lot of questions I get over time usually relate to a level of involvement, if we're coming with a plan or not coming with a plan. It really makes it a little different from the situations that have existed in previous administrations, where there was a peace plan that somebody had tabled that now required intense negotiation on a peace plan of the kind that you might have seen in all the many long negotiations that have been held in peace plans over the course of a number of administrations. I can go back to my days as National Security Advisor with George Shultz. Many of you remember going back and forth. But this time it is a little different. It is not a peace plan that requires a new implementation. There is a peace plan at the end of the Mitchell Committee report. What is needed now is to deal with the situation that we found on January 20, in that trust had broken down, the last effort had not succeeded, and a new leadership, a new administration had come into Israel that said "security before anything else." Those of you who were with me on the first trip, you heard the same thing " it wasn't the Mitchell Committee report then, but it was security, get the violence down, then we can move to confidence-building, and then get back into the negotiations of the peace plan. When and if we ever get to that third stage, and I have every hope and expectation we will, that's when we'll see a different level of involvement, when you are trying to put the pieces of the final settlement or final status negotiations together.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, [and] Shaath, both were making the point that the cease-fire would break down unless the Arabs see something that they could bank on, some hope. Are you going to try to elaborate on a freeze for instance, or a lifting of the economic restrictions?
SECRETARY POWELL: I will discuss all of those issues with both sides, and I will reinforce that we expect to see the Mitchell Committee report, which contains a lot in it of interest to the Palestinian side, to be executed in full, as it was written and as it was published. As the Government of Israel has said on a number of occasions, they plan to comply and follow with the Mitchell Committee report, as I have heard it quoted to me on a couple of occasions, without a change in a word.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Arabs, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Nabil Shaath, other Arabs have said that the Mitchell plan has got to be taken as a package, it all has to be implemented or it doesn't work. The Israelis have said it is a sequence that has to go in order. Mitchell, at the Press Club Friday, seemed to be indicating that he thought it was a package, that it all ought to be taken at once. What's your view on that?
SECRETARY POWELL: It is a package, but it is a sequence package. You can't take it all at once. I mean, there is no way to take it all at once.
SECRETARY POWELL: But it is a package that is sequenced. So, when you start down the road of getting the violence under control, you are on a road that we hope the next stop is the confidence-building measures, and then the next destination are the final status negotiations. If anyone thinks that you can essentially say let's do all this at once, then you really haven't been reading the tealeaves or listening to the very clear statements that have been coming out the region.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate a little bit more on why, I know you have told us a couple of times now why you chose right now to come - and it's been four months, and that all seems very positive. But, you also come at a time when things were really falling apart, and it was all very sudden, and in the interim between those four months you've said again and again that you didn't think high-level officials should really go in and out like this.
SECRETARY POWELL: I've been under quite a bit of pressure, frankly, for the last several weeks from my colleagues within the international community and others to go to the region. And I kept watching events unfold with George Tenet doing a fine job over there a couple of weeks ago, there was no need for me to be there. And so I was looking for not only an opportunity, but something that made some sense, and it seemed to me that George's timeline and his workplan were about nine or ten days. So two weeks after that plan was put down seemed like the right time to come. And also, to come after Mr. Sharon's visit with the President. That's the nature of the timing, and it isn't more magical or profound than that. It is not that things are falling apart - there have been no deaths since Saturday. So it's a slight improvement. The President said yesterday there has been some progress. It hasn't been enormous, but there has been some progress. The level of violence has gone down slightly, and I'm not claiming success yet, but as the President said yesterday, I think we can claim a little bit of progress. This is going to be going up a hill very, very slowly, one step at a time. It isn't a long ball going deep and suddenly somebody catches it in the end zone, and we have final status negotiations that everybody's agreed to. This is going to be a long, difficult process.
I'll see you again, I'm not going anywhere -- I'm sure we will discuss with the Egyptians, and we will discuss Iraq...
QUESTION: Just one more... Are you concerned that the Israelis will drag this out so they never get to implementing Mitchell. I mean is that a real worry in the administration when we hear these statements from Sharon about absolute quiet, complete calm?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Israelis know that they can't continue in this situation of violence forever. It is taking quite a toll on them. As Prime Minister Sharon said to the President the other day the five lives that were lost in the last couple of weeks, if you translated that into American terms it'd be two hundred and fifty Americans. It is a very, very severe burden and it's a burden that I think he wants to alleviate. He's shown some restraint and the President noted that yesterday, and I think in showing that restraint he is indicating that he wants to find a way to move this forward. He has expressed his total commitment to the Mitchell Committee report as well. And I don't think the situation that exists now is stable either for him or for the Palestinians. Thank you.
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