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Powell Briefing On Middle East Peace Speech

On-The-Record Briefing In Route From Louisville, Kentucky,To Washington, D.C.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release November 19, 2001

On-The-Record Briefing By Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell In Route From Louisville, Kentucky, To Washington, D.C.

November 19, 2001 Aboard His Plane

SECRETARY POWELL: We'll do this briefly, because they're serving lunch and it's a short flight. I'll just take a couple of questions if there is anything you need to know.

QUESTION: Sir, you said that you would move quickly to resume the discussion, the negotiation. How quickly? As we know, Sharon insisted on seven days.

SECRETARY POWELL: Keep in mind that, for the last several months, we have always had security consultations going on, trying to get a cease- fire, even while we had the seven days over our head. And so I hope that these committee meetings will start quickly.

Now, I will have to wait for both sides to make an announcement of who their committee members are, but I expect that to happen rather quickly. And Burns and Tony Zinni, I hope to have in the region sometime over the weekend. And so, I believe these meetings will start quickly.

Remember, in the cease-fire, a point that's often overlooked, when Sharon said seven days when I was there with many of you, Arafat also told me that same day that he would work for seven days of quiet. So both sides were trying that. We didn't get it. And now we're going to take the security consultations for cease-fire up to a higher level.

On the Israeli side, I expect it to be led by Mr. Peres and Mr. Sharon, with a day-to-day head of it. I know who it is but I will wait for the Israelis to announce it. But it will be a senior, responsible official with authority to act on behalf of the Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you think the President will personally engage at a later stage in the process?

SECRETARY POWELL: President Bush?

QUESTION: Yes.

SECRETARY POWELL: The President is personally engaged. He and I talk about this every day. At our meeting when we get together on Afghanistan, we always take a few minutes at the end to talk about the Middle East. I don't see him going to any meetings right now. He will continue to stay engaged with the visitors who come to Washington, and with our daily contacts and with his phone calls.

QUESTION: Is it possible to make parallel diplomatic discussions and successful discussions?

SECRETARY POWELL: Everybody wants to come in with a new plan, with another way to get to diplomatic discussions. There is no other way to get to negotiations on a political settlement until you have a cease-fire and trust and confidence has been restored to a level that existed a year or so ago.

QUESTION: For how long, sir? For how long is this fight?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. It remains. It is for the two sides to decide, not me. It is not an arbitrary thing. The two sides will have to sit down, discuss with each other how they can put a cease-fire into place, and they will have to make the judgment with our presence. We will be facilitators. We'll help. We'll have to make a judgment as to when we can get into the Mitchell plan unfolding.

QUESTION: You've talked about political steps, of signed agreements you'd like to see? Political components of signed agreements that you thought should be implemented. Can you be any more specific?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are a number of agreements that are out there, whether it's Sharm El-Sheikh and other agreements from the past that have political and economic features to them. And the reason I had that sentence in there, just to reflect, there are a lot of other things waiting there to happen, once we get started.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a third redeployment? A third redeployment by Israel has always been one of those steps --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to get into the details of what might happen. But if you look at the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell Committee plan, all of those items are in there. Withdrawals, redeployments, getting rid of the barriers, economic assistance, return of revenue, settlements, all of that is in the Mitchell plan and all of it happens on the way to negotiations. It is a process to get to negotiations. The process has to be gone through where you won't get to negotiations.

My ultimate interests are the negotiations, not just a process of getting there. We've got to go through this process, and there is no deep pass that takes you over this.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in your speech you used the phrase, "we will push and we will prod."

SECRETARY POWELL: That's us.

QUESTION: Now, what does that mean? How much are you personally or how much is your team willing to do things that prior --

SECRETARY POWELL: I will do whatever is necessary. I talk to the parties regularly. I haven't been to the region in a few months because there was no reason to go to the region. You'll see what pushing and prodding is when Tony Zinni gets on the ground.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is closure -- the lifting of closure something that is a step to the cease-fire? Does the cease-fire come first and then --

SECRETARY POWELL: It is all laid out in the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell plan. You've got to take one step at a time and there has to be reciprocity as you start moving into the plan. You can't just say, you do everything and then we'll do something. There has to be reciprocity.

QUESTION: But, sir, in the speech --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to prejudge what the two sides, these two committees agree upon with respect to the pace or what steps come when. That's what --

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in the speech you said -- you mentioned the Gulf war and then how that then led into progress in the Mid-East. Do you see the progress in Afghanistan as similarly leading into somehow progress in the Mid-East?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I kind of drew that parallel that there are new opportunities as a result of this campaign against terrorism. And we felt we should try to seize those opportunities. I gave this speech in the middle of a rather hectic period, the UN, President Putin in town, and also Afghanistan still ongoing. But I thought it was important to put down what we believe about all of these issues in a comprehensive way for the first time and then charge both sides to get moving and then to use what Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat I think both are ready to do with respect to elevating the level of security consultations, because it wasn't happening at the lower levels.

QUESTION: Can you please say how the roles of -- what the role of Burns is going to be and how you see the role of Zinni? And can you tell us what we should call General Zinni? Special envoy --

SECRETARY POWELL: The role of Burns and Zinni. Bill Burns, of course, is my principal person on this and he will be orchestrating all of our efforts, as he has been. Tony Zinni will be a special advisor to me and, of course, to all of my colleagues in the Department. And he will focus on that cease-fire and the security issues. And he will stay in the region. He will come out from time to time. But I want Tony to stick in the region for a while and get this thing started. And he will report back to me through Bill Burns.

Bye, guys.

###


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