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Remarks after Meeting Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

Remarks after Meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah

Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release

April 8, 2002 REMARKS

Remarks By Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell After His Meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah Casablanca, Morocco

April 8, 2002

(6:35 p.m. EDT)

SECRETARY POWELL: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I just had a very productive two-and-a-half hour session with Crown Prince Abdullah and Foreign Minister Saud and other Saudi officials, to include Prince Bandar. And as you would imagine, our discussions focused mostly on the situation in the Middle East. I reviewed my mission with the Crown Prince. I also thanked him for the excellent work that he did at the summit meeting in Beirut which produced the declaration out of that summit meeting where all 22 Arab states would recognize and have normal relations with the State of Israel at the end of the negotiating period. I also said that the President was very much looking forward to his visit at the end of April.

Obviously, I got a great presentation of Saudi views on the situation we now see before us. I told them that the President was firm in his request to the Israeli Government that the withdrawals begin immediately, now. I am pleased to hear that some instructions have been given to move Israeli Defense Forces out of a couple of the towns in the West Bank. And I hope this is the beginning, I hope this is the start of the withdrawal, because I am troubled, as I know that our President is, and many other leaders by the deteriorating situation caused by the incursion, however justified some might think the incursion was. And certainly Prime Minister Sharon believed he had to do what he did, but it's created a new dynamic which is damaging the strategic situation with Israel as we see it, as well as our own strategic situation.

So my mission remains to encourage the Israeli Government to do as the President suggested to them, and then hopefully when I complete my consultations with the other leaders in the international community tomorrow, and visit with President Mubarak and with King Abdullah, I'll be in a position to visit Jerusalem and meet with Prime Minister Sharon. And as the President has requested, hopefully I will have a chance and am looking forward to seeing Chairman Arafat.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, they seem to be pulling out of a couple of towns, but at the same time maybe forging ahead in other areas. Do you have a sense of what their real intentions are? Could this be a little bit of this, a little bit of that, but no satisfactory --

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen their operational plans. I can't answer that question for you. Prime Minister Sharon has always said he had no intention to remain in these cities and towns, and that he would pull back in due course. He said he would try to finish it as quickly as possible. After his discussion with the President, he indicated he would try to expedite his efforts. And so let us hope that this is not a little bit of this and a little bit of that, but getting a pullback.

The President believes strongly that this withdrawal needs to begin. It's hard to get something like this started, of course. The momentum is going forward, and then you have to bring that momentum to a halt, and then start to pull things back. And it doesn't all halt at the same sequence as well. So we hope that this is the start of the pullback, and we'll just see what happens in the days ahead. But it is an encouraging sign, and I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made this decision, and I hope it is the beginning of a full withdrawal.

QUESTION: On the Arab side, sir, in practical terms, what is it you can tell us you're asking the Arabs to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have been saying to all my Arab interlocutors, today both Saudis and Moroccans, that if we reach a point where we have a cease-fire and we can engage again with the Palestinian leadership in a productive way, I need their help to take the message to all of the Palestinian leaders, to the Palestinian people, and to the Arab street, that violence is not the way to achieve the mutually desired goal of a Palestinian state; and that I will need help with this, not only talking with Chairman Arafat, but to other Palestinian leaders, those in charge of these various organizations. And so we have to move forward together. It isn't going to be enough to say the United States has to get in the middle and solve the problem. We're there. We're here. I'm here. I need the help of the international community. I need the help of all our Arab friends in order to move forward in a coherent, coordinated way, which is why I thought it was important for me to first come to this part of the world and meet with international leaders tomorrow in Madrid, to bring this all together in a coherent way so that I would have a more comprehensive and coherent message to take into the Middle East.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, advisors to the Moroccan King said that first Israel had to completely withdraw from the areas that it had reoccupied before one could expect that kind of message. I would assume the Saudis said something similar. Is that your understanding, that an Israeli withdrawal --

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that everybody would like to see a complete withdrawal, but I don't think that is a reason to say we can't do anything, we can't speak up, till we see that withdrawal. Now that the operation has entered a new phase and we're beginning to see some withdrawals, this is the time to get engaged. And that is why I am here in the region, and that is why I'm going to Madrid tomorrow. And I have to share what I have learned today with Secretary General Annan and the presidency of the European Union and Foreign Minister Ivanov and others who might be there, and to come out with a coordinated position within that group. And I think I will also benefit from the wisdom of President Mubarak tomorrow as I head to Madrid (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Arab leaders with whom you're visiting (inaudible) but with whom spoke today, said nothing is possible until there is a withdrawal and that by the time you get to Israel, many more people will have died and much more will have concluded that the discussions that you're having as sensitive as they may be are giving Sharon and Israel a chance to --

SECRETARY POWELL: The President said -- the President did not say begin the withdrawal when Powell gets there, or be partially (inaudible) when Powell gets there. He said last weekend very clearly begin the withdrawal now. He did not link to my arrival and for me to have gone directly there without having spent some time consulting, just to show up in Jerusalem without a concept in mind and without having coordinated all the various parties. I don't think that would have been the way to go about it.

So he has not been given a free ride, so to speak. The President spoke clearly, and I think if you had a chance to hear the President in Tennessee today, it was hard to mistake his meaning, he was rather direct. He means now. And I think he made that clear to Prime Minister Sharon in their conversation on Saturday afternoon in the statement with Prime Minister Blair in Crawford, and I think he did it again today in Tennessee.


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