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Remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release

April 12, 2002

Press Availability With Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon

Prime Minister's Residence Jerusalem April 12, 2002

(6:39 a.m. EDT)

PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I would like to welcome the Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell. You are here among friends. You are a friend of Israel and you are among friends. I send my regards from here to President Bush, who is courageously leading the free world in the war against global terror. He is a true friend of Israel. Mr. Secretary, I am very happy for the opportunity that I had to talk with you this morning. It was a very good conversation - a conversation between friends. We discussed the situation on the ground; we discussed the dangerous situation in the north; and we discussed possible solutions. Israel is waging a war against the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism, and Israel hopes to conclude this war very soon. Terror cannot coexist with peace. The terrorism of suicide bombers represents a danger for Israel and for the entire free world. Israel is the only democracy in the world in which there are guards in every school and in every kindergarten in order to protect children against Palestinian terrorists. The friendship between the United States and Israel has been in existence for many, many years, and it is based on the values that we share, the values of freedom, liberty and democracy. This friendship will continue forever. I thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your efforts and I welcome you to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the State of Israel.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your very warm welcome. I am indeed here today, as a friend of Israel, and a personal friend of yours. I value our relationship, and the many conversations we have had over the length of your prime-ministership. I look forward to many such conversations in the future.

I am pleased to be here representing President Bush, also a strong friend of Israel, and beyond that, the American people. The American people have stood by and with Israel for many years, and as you noted earlier, it is a friendship that cannot ever be broken.

I come on a mission of peace. I enjoyed and treasured very much the conversation we had earlier. I take away from that conversation your commitment to peace, your commitment to finding a way forward that will

result in a peace so that these two peoples can live together side-by- side.

I welcome the efforts that you are making as part of the campaign against terrorism, and I know what a difficult time and situation this is for Israel. And as President Bush has said on a number of occasions, especially in his speech on the fourth of April, "terrorism is something that must be fought, must be destroyed." But at the same time we recognize that eventually to reach the kind of solution that is needed, the parties must talk, the parties must begin negotiations. I am pleased that we have a mutual commitment to get to that point and find a political solution.

The Prime Minister and I had good discussions on the nature of the operations that are underway. He understands President Bush's position. We had a chance to exchange those positions. I am pleased that he is anxious to bring these operations to an end as soon as possible, and I hope that in my stay here, we will have time to discuss this at some greater length.

Mr. Prime Minister, I hope that in the course of my visit, my conversations not only with you and members of your government, but with Chairman Arafat and other Palestinian authorities, a way can be found to move forward. I also want to share your concern about the situation on your northern border. I think this is the time for all parties in the region who have a commitment to peace, who truly believe in peace, and want to see the end of violence to play a role to restrain any aggressive activities across Israel's northern border. We have been in touch with governments in the region on this subject, and will continue to press that point with them.

Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to our further discussions over the next several days.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, many people in Israel say that the United States has a double standard. While the United States is entitled to and has the right to fight terrorists in Afghanistan for seven months, the United States demands that Israel stop fighting terrorism after only seven days. How do you explain this to the people of Israel?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President and I have spoken about this. We understand the need for Israel to defend itself. We understand that Israel is under threat from terrorist attack and we have been supportive. But at the same time, we believe, as a friend of Israel, we have to take note of the long-term strategic consequences of the incursions that are under way, and their effect on the nations in the region and the international climate. And so, I think in the conversations with the Prime Minister, I have explained our position to him and he has explained to me what he feels has to be done. And I hope we can find a way to come to an agreement on this point of the duration of the operations, and get back to a track that will lead to a political settlement, because I think that is uppermost in everyone's mind - how can we go forward?

We do understand what terrorism is, and as we have responded to terrorism, we know that Israel has a right to respond to terrorism. The question is how do we get beyond just the response? What is the next step? How do we get past that? And that has been the subject of our conversations this morning.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it sounds as if you didn't get a timetable for Israel to pullback. If that's so, please verify that. Has the Prime Minister convinced you of the efficacy of the operation, the need to do this to protect Israel's survival? And do you have a commitment from the Prime Minister to get engaged in the political process that is part of your agenda...the political process that you have said could give the Palestinians hope for a state?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the last point, the Prime Minister has indicated his support for a process to move forward politically through his acceptance of the Mitchell Report and we have talked about ways to move forward. With respect to specific discussions on timetables and the like, we shared and exchanged views and I look forward to further exchanges of views in the next couple of days, but don't have a specific answer on timing.

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