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ME Quartet Press Conference At UNHQ

Press Availability at United Nations Headquarters


Press Availability with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of the Russian Federation, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller of Denmark in the capacity of EU Presidency, Chris Patten, European Commissioner for External Relations,Javier Solana, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU

Secretary Colin L. Powell United Nations Headquarters New York, New York September 17, 2002

(11:55 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. As you know, we have been in a series of meetings this morning and we will be issuing a communiqué. This should reach you shortly. And I can assure you that it was a historic meeting, in the sense that this is the first time the Quartet has met by itself with five Arab states and then with the Israeli and the Palestinian, with the Israeli and the Palestinian team. And you should be receiving the communiqué, as I said, later.

What I want to do, instead of summarizing the communiqué as we did the last time, is to give you the highlights of what we agreed on. The Quartet is continuing to work with the parties and key regional actors on an implementation roadmap to achieve final and comprehensive settlement within three years. Comprehensive security performance is essential, as is an end to the morally repugnant violence and terror. But we are all in agreement that the overall plan must address political, economic, humanitarian and institutional dimensions. It should spell out reciprocal steps to be taken by the parties in each of the phases. In short, we need a process that is both performance-driven and hope-driven, because we need both performance and hope.

The implementation roadmap will be in three phases. Progress between each phase will be based on the parties' compliance with performance benchmarks to be monitored and assessed by a mechanism of the Quartet. The first phase will see a Palestinian security reform, Israeli withdrawals, and support of Palestinian elections to be held in early 2003. There will also be an ad hoc liaison committee meeting in November to review the humanitarian situation and identify priority areas, including the reform process for development assistance in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In the second phase, during 2003, our efforts should focus on the option of creating a Palestinian state with provisional borders and based on a new constitution as a way station to a permanent status settlement.

In the third phase, from 2004 to mid-2005, we envision Israeli-Palestinian negotiations aimed at a permanent status solution. Both the Palestinian reform effort and political progress must include Israeli measures to improve the lives of Palestinians, to allow the resumption of economic activity and the movement of goods, people and essential services; to ease or lift curfew and closures. Israel must also return the tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority, and all Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territory must stop.

The Palestinians must work with the US and regional partners to reform their security services and combat terrorism, and both sides should work to allow policing and law and order for the civilian population of the West Bank and Gaza. Israelis and Palestinians should reestablish security cooperation.

The Quartet is continuing to discuss the timing and modalities for an international conference. As you know, the Quartet also had two other meetings this morning, and I think I have indicated that to you, and the Quartet remains committed to the search for a just, lasting, comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, including the Israeli-Syrian and the Lebanese-Syrian tracks.

I would now open the floor for questions, but I have one appeal. If we can focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and then at the end, when we have time, we can talk about other things on your minds. So the floor is open.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, you talked about performance-driven and hope-driven. Now, is there -- this mechanism, you know, about this mechanism, my question is whether the parties can have any hope at the end that the mechanism will not be derailed, as it has happened in the past.

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: We intend to be steadfast and of course we'll be working with our regional partners and the parties. But in the end, real success will depend on the will and the actions the parties take, but we are going to stick with them and monitor performance. And as I have also indicated, there has to be hope, the hope of a political future, a hope of the solution to keep the process alive and to give the Palestinians an incentive to do what is necessary for us to get to where we want to be.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, acknowledging that all of your efforts in the Middle East are going to be overshadowed by the other issue, if I could encourage you, while there is time, to permit me to ask you and your colleagues to all comment on the letter from Iraq and how it might affect the timetable, frankly, how it might complicate what is the obvious American concern from this administration that much more than disarmament is at issue, that there are 15 other -- or 16 resolutions, I should say, as the President explained in his speech, and that, to be frank, the administration does not think that this letter accomplishes what it needs and that there still has to be Security Council action and enforcement in a timely manner on Iraq before a lot of these other issues can be dealt with.

I would welcome Minister Ivanov's conclusions as to whether this changes the timetable or the urgency of the Iraqi question, and obviously Secretary Powell and our European contributors as well.

SECRETAR GENERAL ANNAN: This is a very important question. We'll come back to that, but let me take more questions from the Israeli-Palestinian -- I know you linked it, but we'll come back. We are not going to duck it.

QUESTION: Can I do a two-stage thing? I don't want to overrule your decision, but I also want to do Iraq, if I may.

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: Then we'll give you the floor later.

QUESTION: Fine.

QUESTION: My question is for Secretary Powell. A senior Israeli official who was in Washington last week said that Israel would not permit elections, period, in January in the West Bank; that as long as Arafat was there, there would be no elections. Have you come to any decision, any conclusion, on when the Palestinians should be allowed to have elections? Arafat gave a date, I believe, of January the 20th. And should Israel be in a position to block this?

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: As you heard from the Secretary General's statement earlier and from the communiqué you have from the Quartet, we believe that elections are appropriate next year, and we'll have to work out the modalities, where the people are able to get back and forth to participate in such an election process. And this all goes to the question of movement throughout the area, accessibility and the basis upon which such elections are held, and for what purpose those elections are held. So I take note of what the senior Israeli official said, but we believe we have to move down a track that will permit the Palestinian people to express their view in elections.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, the five foreign ministers of the Arab world who have joined you today in the meeting, they made very clear their respect of the role of the Palestinian people in choosing their leader and their respect for democracy, which you hold very high. Has this affected you at all vis-à-vis your view concerning the choice of the Palestinian people to choose Mr. Arafat or otherwise, and are you prepared to work with any leader that the Palestinians choose to lead them, even if it was Mr. Yasser Arafat?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have expressed the view previously that we understand he was elected by the Palestinian people in the past, but we view Mr. Arafat's leadership as having been failed leadership. And he is still in the position given him by the Palestinian people, both in terms of the Authority as well as the position which he has held within the society. But we believe that the Palestinian people are also now looking for new kinds of leadership. You can see a great deal of churning within the Palestinian community. You saw what happened with the cabinet last week.

So I think there is also an understanding within the Palestinian community that the leadership provided by Chairman Arafat has not succeeded in moving them closer to their goal. So we will not dictate to the Palestinian people who they may choose to have in their legislature or elsewhere in their governing body, but we also have to retain the option of deciding who we would deal with and who we think was an effective leader who can move us toward a path that would get us moving toward peace.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Powell, I believe there is a problem in Israel in the north with some Hezbollah people trying to move the waters of the Hasbani River. How is this going to be handled? Are you going to work on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we are. I had a conversation about this matter with Foreign Minister Peres this morning. We have American experts who are examining the situation and the nature of the diversion from the river, and we will be sending other experts in to make a judgment as to whether what is happening is consistent with rules, regulations and agreements that have been made over the years, and I expect we'll have a judgment on that in the near future.

We understand the sensitivity of the issue and we don't want to see any crisis develop over the diversion of water out of the river.

QUESTION: I guess this is for the Secretary General. If I could sort of put myself in the shoes of a Palestinian would-be suicide bomber, I would ask the question, "What's in it for me?" There's no mention of halting the process of expanding the settlements in the occupied territories, and as I understand it, in the first year you're saying the Palestinians should stop fighting to free their land, and if they do so, the Israelis will withdraw to where there were a couple of years ago, where they were illegally occupying 40 or 50 percent of the occupied territories, in defiance of the Security Council. If I were that would-be suicide bomber, why would I not look at this as a humiliating defeat for Palestine and say I'm going to strap on those bombs?

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: I'm not sure if you've seen the whole text of the communiqué, but the communiqué offers more than that. We also stress that there is a need to make progress on all fronts -- economic, social, political and security. And we do refer to withdrawal by Israel to September -- October 2000 positions.

And not only that, we also offer the prospect of a statehood, which should be -- and are going to take concrete steps towards achieving that, which should hopefully give the Palestinians an incentive to work with us and focus their energy and activities on institution-building and preparing for the state that is on the horizon. And I think this is why I made that comment that the approach should not only be performance-driven, but also hope-driven, so there is hope and there is a horizon in this proposal for the Palestinians.

Thank you. I think we can turn to Iraq. I have a feeling -- no, not yet? Is this on Iraq?

QUESTION: This is a question on the Middle East. It's taken you a long time to get not very far with this plan, and there are people dying in Palestine every day, and in Israel. And I wondered whether you could explain to us why it's taking so long. Is it just that you're distracted by other matters, or are there disagreements among the Quartet on the way to proceed? And if so, what are they?

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: I will make a brief comment and open it up for my colleagues. This is a very complex issue we are all trying to deal with. It is not a situation where the Quartet can come in and impose a solution. By the nature of the meeting we had this morning, this should convey the complexity. We had a meeting that brought in foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Syria -- sorry, not Iraq -- Syria and Lebanon. And in addition, we had the Palestinians and the Israelis there. And this is an issue where you need to move with the parties and you need to get the regional players working with you. And I have indicated that anything we are going to achieve will depend on the political will and the actions of the parties. We are going to maintain the pressure, we're going to work with them, and we are going to monitor their performance.

So I think as we judge progress, we have to be aware of the complexity of the issues that we are dealing with. I don't know if the Secretary or anybody wants to say -- okay. Yes, Mr. Moeller.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOELLER: I should like to add that it is not taking a long time. The situation in the Middle East has taken a very long time, but I think the Quartet, which worked in July, which started the task force process in July, has worked with very good speed.

You must remember that when we make a roadmap or make a plan, we make consultations, then you have to speak to a lot of countries. It cannot be dictated. And these countries we have consulted, European Union has consulted, all the Arab countries, this one and so forth, and then the Quartet has to be the focal point. It's only by one initiative, the initiative of the Quartet that we can hope to impose something which is reciprocal and which combines the performance and the hope that the Secretary General has spoken about. So I really do not think it has taken a long time.

MODERATOR: We're on other subjects now. We'll take it from the top. Andrea Mitchell.

SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: I think we have your question. Can we, are you --

QUESTION: Just briefly, Mr. Secretary General, the administration has been very dismissive of the Iraqi letter. Do you think they're being too pessimistic? And Secretary Powell, Minister Ivanov, how do you see it proceeding? Do we still need a Security Council resolution, and with what urgency?

SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: Let me say that the decision by Iraq to allow the return of the inspectors should be seen as a beginning, not an end; as a beginning in our efforts to return the inspectors who are going to disarm Iraq.

We must also remember that between 1991 and 1996, in particular, the inspectors did an incredible job destroying Iraq's weapons, from ballistic missiles to chemical and biological -- they didn't do us much on the biological area -- and in the nuclear field by Atomic Agency.

So the only way to disarm effectively is to have the inspectors back, but of course, given the history of the past, there are delegations and member-states who feel that we should not return to business as usual and that we should take steps to ensure that the inspectors are able to go about their work unimpeded and with the full cooperation of Iraq. And I think they would want Iraq to understand that this is not going to be business as usual or a repeat of what happened in the past.

SECRETARY POWELL: And the only way to make sure that it is not business as usual and to make sure that it is not a repeat of the past, it seems to me, anyway, is to put it in the form of a new UN resolution.

Let's reflect on what we saw yesterday with this letter from Iraq. We didn't see Iraq suddenly acknowledging the error of its ways of the past 12 years or suddenly realizing that they had been in the wrong. What we saw was Iraq responding to what happened last week when the President of the United States came before the international community and laid out the indictment clearly. And the entire international community came together and said, "This is unacceptable," and enormous pressure was put on Iraq as a result. And Iraq responded to that pressure.

But we cannot just take a one-and-a-quarter-page letter signed by the foreign minister as the end of this matter. We have seen this game before. And so in order for us to keep the pressure on, and in order to make sure if we start down this road, it is a new road, a different road than what we have seen in the past, with tough conditions, tough standards -- anytime, anyplace, any person -- to make sure that we satisfy the need for disarmament.

Remember, the issue is not inspectors. The issue is, in the first instance, disarmament. And then there are many other issues at stake here having to do with the treatment of minorities in the country, having to do with terrorism, having to do with a number of other issues, to include the return of prisoners. That has to be dealt with before the will of the United Nations is satisfied.

And so we note the letter. It's a letter that, perhaps, should have been written many years ago, but we note the letter. And now we will go back into consultation with our colleagues in the Security Council to see what appropriate action is now before us.

And as far as the United States is concerned, the position we have taken over the last several days since the President's speech is that the Security Council should speak again in light of the strong presentation that President Bush made last week and what we have seen in the way of change in the political environment and not essentially say all things are right now, because we have seen this one short letter from the Iraqi Foreign Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: In recent years the Security Council of the United Nations and the international community have sought to bring about the return of international inspectors to Iraq. They left the country in December '98. Why the return the international inspectors? Well, because we are all concerned and we're still concerned about the fact of whether Iraq has programs for production of weapons of mass destruction. That's the central problem around which, about which there are appropriate resolutions and we need to have an answer to this question.

And the answer to this question is whether they have weapons of mass destruction, whether there are programs to produce them. That answer can only be produced by international inspectors. That's why we're so active in seeking an answer to this. And we welcome the fact that thanks to the coordinated efforts of the international community, now we have got to a situation where Iraq has given its consent without any preconditions, and I stress that point, to the return of the inspectors without any preconditions.

Of course there could be many views about this: whether we can believe this, trust this letter or not, I think only facts alone should corroborate this. In order to get the facts we need to bring about the speedy return of the inspectors to Iraq. Therefore, Russia believes that the main job now is to see to it that the inspectors, without any artificial delays, without any artificial obstacles should go to Iraq and get down to discharging their functions.

We know what they have to do. We know very well what they have to do. Now what procedures they should follow, well, we know those too. All of these matters were cleared, were agreed to during the preliminary inspections and I stress the fact that as was just said by the Secretary General, over these years of work by the international inspectors, three of the four dossiers have basically been closed. About 700 facilities were dealt with, the concerns were dealt with, so only by having the inspectors there and cooperating with Baghdad, only thus can we find an answer to all of these matters of concern.

Now, no, this is not the only question that needs to be resolved. There are other resolutions, there are other questions that need to be considered by the Security Council. But I repeat, everyone stressed, and this was the common view, that the central theme is the problem of weapons of mass destruction, and the inspectors have to find an answer to that question. That is why we favor the speedy dispatch of the inspectors to Iraq and getting down to it, which doesn't mean that other matters should not be considered. But they should be considered in the Security Council.

QUESTION: Mr. Ivanov, if I understand you correctly, you are saying that you really are not on board for yet another new resolution at this point? You feel that the inspectors should be the next -- the return of the inspectors should be next? Please, if you could straighten the record on this.

And Mr. Secretary Powell, what are these new conditions, the new steps that you want in the resolution? Do you still want the use of force as a threat to Iraq if they do not comply, and what do you think of the Russians not being on board?

And Mr. Secretary General, you seem to be caught in between. Are you willing to dispatch Mr. Blix right away before a Security Council resolution? Isn't this the next step you should take?

SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: You are asking very precise questions which I'm not sure one would want to debate or discuss here. But let me say that as far as Mr. Blix is concerned, I have discussed his own issue with him and I think he's ready to move as quickly as is practicable. And of course, if the Council were to give him further guidance, he will factor that into his work. But for the moment he has to base himself on the existing resolutions on the understanding that he will have to make adjustments if further guidance were to come from the Council. But we will move as quickly as is practicable.

On the question of the two issues, I leave the two gentlemen to answer; but on the other hand, I think it is something that we probably should wait for the Council to tackle and deal with it in the Council chamber.

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: On the question of the work of the international inspectors and the work of the UNMOVIC, from our standpoint, we don't need any special resolution for that to occur. All the necessary resolutions, all of the necessary decisions about that are to hand, but the Security Council has differing views about considering the possibility of adopting a resolution which would encompass the various other problems or questions relating to the settlement of the question around Iraq and the compliance with other resolutions which don't refer to weapons of mass destruction. These questions are being considered in the Security Council to find agreements that would make it possible, on the one hand, to maintain clear control by the Security Council over the process of resolving this question in relation to the Iraqi settlement.

SECRETARY POWELL: This really is a debate from the Security Council as to whether Mr. Blix needs additional instructions or how to deal with it. It was shortcomings in the previous inspection regime that I don't think would be acceptable in any future inspection regime. But this is really a debate that we should have in the Security Council before we have it publicly.

QUESTION: Last two questions.

SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: The Foreign Minister of Denmark.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOELLER: Yes. I think I should, on behalf of the Presidency of the European Union, tell you what we think.

We have noted with interest the letter from Iraq and that it is without conditions, but we must be sure that it is good enough. That's why we think that exactly the Security Council should consider whether the Iraqi acceptance corresponds to the demands of the Council where the weapons are concerned.

It is evident that the admittance of the inspectors is not sufficient. The Iraqi authorities will also have to extend their full cooperation. So we must have full clarity on these aspects and there it is required that we know exactly what has been offered, what can be done.

If I were sitting in the Security Council, which I'm not, I would in the next days sleep with my eyes wide open and the boots on. Thank you. (Laughter).

QUESTION: Yes. My question is directed toward the Russian Foreign Minister. Sir, I recognize this sounds quite hypothetical, but with 16 resolutions, with the history of 16 resolutions and Iraq not complying with a single one, surely you would be prepared to answer what happens if Iraq refuses access to any site within the country to UN weapons inspectors. Should there be consequences? Is this something that you think should be spelled out before the weapons inspectors go back into Iraq?

And also, if Secretary Powell could respond, is that something reasonable to expect that this would be discussed prior to the inspectors' going back in?

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: We have a clear, specific question, but if we start considering them in a hypothetical way, well, we would never finish our discussion on them. You have thoughts on the subject, we do.

Today, we have an opportunity and we have a decision taken by Iraq to receive the inspectors without condition. They have to get there now. And after the work of the inspectors, we have to judge by the specific events whether they can do their job or not. If they can, then they will report back to us. Each six months, they will be reporting back to the Security Council on their work whether the conditions are present are present or not.

If we see that the conditions are not there, then the Security Council would have to consider all necessary measures to make sure that the inspectors can do their job. But to just think in hypothetical terms is not very useful.

Thank you.

MODERATOR: Do the members of the podium wish to make any concluding remarks?

SECRETARY POWELL: The only point I would make is I think that these are issues that have to be discussed now and not at some later time. We have experience on how Iraq deals with the inspection team. That's why they're not there now. They made it impossible for them to do their work once before. And so I think it's quite appropriate in light of the fact that the inspectors have not been there for the past four years for the Security Council to consider the circumstances under which they might return, what they must be free to do, what additional instructions may be appropriate, and I think it is a reasonable discussion for the Security Council to have as to what the consequences for inaction or failure to abide on the part of the Iraqis would have for Iraq.

I think it is very appropriate for us to do all of this. What has changed in the last few days is not the letter that came in yesterday. It's the full will of the international community being directed to this problem. And it is the international community through its agency, the United Nations and the Security Council, that should make the judgment as to when, where, if, under what set of circumstances and with what potential consequences. And that is, I think, going to be a very useful debate within the Security Council in the days ahead.

SECRETARY GENERAL KOFI ANNAN: And I think I just wanted to stress the question of unity. From my experience the Security Council has a lot of impact and gets a lot done when they work in unison and union, and I think we should try and retain the unity of purpose that has emerged over the last few days as we move forward. I would also want to thank the ladies and gentlemen of the press for accepting my rules, that we deal with Israeli-Palestinian issues first and then move on to Iraq. I see Andrea is shaking her head, but perhaps she is right. The guest is always the prisoner of the host, and this morning you were my prisoners so you have to accept my rules. (Laughter.) But thank you very, very much.

[End]

Released on September 17, 2002

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