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Powell And Palestinian PM Joint Press Conference

Joint Press Conference

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell And Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
Oasis Intercontinental Hotel, Jericho
May 11, 2003

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: [In Arabic]: Good afternoon. Mr. Secretary, ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you and your delegation, and extend our appreciation to the effort that President Bush and yourself are exerting to advance the peace process in our region and our country – a serious peace process that will lead to an end to the Israeli occupation and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel along the June 4, 1967 lines.

We also welcome President Bush’s May 9 speech in which he reiterated his commitment to work personally to achieve peace in the Middle East. We assure the American people of our desire to develop the bilateral relations between our two governments and our two peoples. Our discussions today were deep, serious and permeated with a positive spirit. We look forward to an active and engaged role for the U.S. Government on the roadmap, which was originally an American proposal endorsed by the Quartet and accepted by the Palestinian leadership.

We believe that there is a real opportunity to launch a credible political process between us, and we view as necessary that the Israeli government agree to this plan so we can begin a peace process together. But the roadmap should not be dealt with in a selective or piecemeal fashion. We have seen in the past what became of previous plans for this reason. Accordingly, as the Palestinian leadership and government remain committed to honest, good-faith implementation its obligations, we expect the Israeli side to do the same.

In this context, we are committed to what we pledged in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in terms of the oneness of the Authority in all its aspects and tool, the rule of law and political pluralism within a democratic framework. We also renew our rejection of violence irrespective of its perpetrator. We are also ready to make the statement required from us in the roadmap, on the same day and at the same hour and minute that Prime Minister Sharon issues the statement required from Israel by the roadmap.

We expect the Quartet, and particularly you, Mr. Secretary, to establish an effective monitoring and verification system to guarantee the balanced and accurate implementation of the roadmap in the political, security and other spheres.

We look forward to a complete halt to settlement activity, an end to the siege, the separation wall, assassinations, collective punishment, destruction of agricultural products and of infrastructure, limits on the movements of Palestinian citizens and institutions, and the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners. We also demand that Chairman Yasser Arafat be guaranteed freedom of movement, and that all measures harming him cease.

We presented you a letter today, Mr. Secretary, from prisoners’ families. We urge you to give it the consideration it merits, because this issue represents a constant concern to our people and nation.

My dear friend, I am speaking with you today while our people aspire to the minimum of what by peoples of the world enjoy: living in freedom and independence without occupation or settlements or infringements of our national dignity or our right to build a future as we see fit. This will lay the ground for the establishment of real peace in the whole region in line with the Arab peace initiative, adopted by the Arab summit and according to which all shall enjoy security, stability and good-neighborliness.

As President Bush said two days ago, freedom is the road to peace. I add my voice to President Bush’s, hoping that his words come true: “We have reached a moment of tremendous promise, and the United States will seize this moment for the sake of peace.” Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your warm welcome. I very much enjoyed my meeting this afternoon with you and with the members of your cabinet. My congratulations to them as well.

Mr. Prime Minister, your selection and confirmation as the Palestinians’ first prime minister have created a momentous opportunity for allowing peace to take root where so many have been convinced that it could not – or should not – do so. No one should underestimate the challenged ahead, but neither should we underestimate the power of hope and courageous leadership. Your people and the world look to you to provide both. You have my congratulations, my best wishes and my promise that the United States is committed to ending the conflict that has brought such suffering and grief to this region for most of our lifetimes. And you have President Bush’s commitment as well.

That commitment is embodied in the speech President Bush delivered on June 24 of last year and in the roadmap that I have come to discuss with you and with the Israelis. President Bush feels strongly that a historic moment has come for this entire region. Momentum for reform and peace is building. The Palestinian Authority has already taken some important and encouraging steps in this direction. Your acceptance of the roadmap signifies your determination not to lose this opportunity for a better future, and I look forward to working with both sides, Palestinian and Israeli, and with our Quartet partners on the roadmap and in achieving full implementation of the president’s vision.

The promise of a Palestinian state rings hollow, though, while so many are suffering. We cannot give in to despair and, just as I have urged you to move quickly and decisively to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure which has destroyed lives and aspirations, I have underscored to Prime Minister Sharon and his government the need for Israel to do its part in improving the daily lives of Palestinians and show respect for their dignity. The United States will play its part too, and I am pleased to announce today that we will be providing an additional $50 million to assist in rebuilding roads, creating jobs, helping small businesses and furthering the reform process that is already underway.

Back home today in the United States, Americans are celebrating Mother’s Day. If mothers and fathers in this land are to tell their children a different story – one of two states living side by side in peace – it’s time for us to get down to work, starting today. I extend my hand to Prime Minister Abbas and to the Palestinian people as together we begin drafting a new and better story for our children and for our grandchildren to hear. Thank you so very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your welcome and for your hospitality.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you approached the Middle East just a day or so ago, you said there’s enough agreement on the roadmap on both sides to get started. Now that you’ve talked to both sides, do you find them ready to start implementing the agreement?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I’ve had extensive talks with both sides now on the roadmap, and I believe that there is sufficient agreement on the provisions within the roadmap so that we can get started. Obviously there are still comments to be received from the Israeli side and we look forward to analyzing those, and the two sides need to talk to each other. But I believe that there is sufficient goodwill, sufficient commitment that we can get started, and, as I have said, let’s get started now. Let’s not waste another day, let’s not waste another discussion session – let’s get on with the actions required. The Israeli Government earlier today indicated to me some action that they would be taking immediately, and the prime minister and I discussed some of the actions that he is planning to take. So I’m pleased that both sides are committed to action, and let’s get going.

QUESTION: [In Arabic]: Mr. Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, you had an important meeting today, I imagine, with the American Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Did you find or feel that Secretary Powell’s discussions with the head of the Israeli Government yielded anything? Did you feel that Israeli Prime Minister has agreed to the roadmap or that he will wait until the 20th of this month and his meeting with American President George Bush? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: [In Arabic]: Though the discussions we held together today, we noted the American determination to achieve peace in the Middle East and achieving President Bush’s vision which he announced on June 24 last year, and also what he spoke of in his speech in the last few days. And I think that the American side, by what it has said and also with the members of the Quartet, is determined to continue with this matter to the end because everyone believed that the opportunity of this roadmap must not be missed.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how are you going to get out of this cycle of the Israelis saying they’re not going to give any substantial concessions until there’s an end to the violence, and the Palestinians calling above all for concessions first from the Israelis?

SECRETARY POWELL: Let’s not talk about concessions, let’s talk about steps that both sides can take to move forward. The Israeli side indicated to me a number of steps that they are prepared to take and are starting to take now to show their commitment to the process of moving forward and within the context of the roadmap. And the prime minister has made it clear to me today that he understands the importance of ending terrorism and ending the activities of those organizations committed to terrorism. And as we have seen so often in recent years, it is absolutely the case that we have to do something about terrorism and at the same time we have to take steps on the Israeli side that give hope to the Palestinian people and ease their lives and make it possible to get to their workplaces and for them to begin to live normal lives and for their children to do so. So both sides are taking steps. If these steps do not lead to progress, then we will be back into the same cycle of despair that we are trying to break out of now. But I believe this time things are different, that we now have a new prime minister with a new cabinet that is committed to the president’s vision and to moving forward with practical steps. We have an Israeli Government that is firmly in place and has years to go on its current term so that it too can take positive actions to move forward. We have a changed strategic situation, in that one of the threats to Israel that was part of the background noise – the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone and the United States has demonstrated its willingness to engage more fully in the peace process. And we have a roadmap that gives us a way forward, and the United States is committed to that roadmap. And so I think the strategic environment in which we are trying to achieve peace has changed, and I hope that the steps that the two sides are now not only willing to take but are in fact taking will move us in the right direction.

QUESTION: [In Arabic]: Mr. Prime Minister, (inaudible)

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: [In Arabic]: I don’t think it is in our interests to think of any selectivity or division or segmentation of the roadmap. The roadmap has been put forward by the American side, as I said, in agreement with the Quartet, and therefore they are responsible for it. And we have accepted it as is. We may have some reservations about it but for the sake of the peace process we have set aside all reservations from our side and declared our acceptance of it as it is. Thus we view the roadmap must remain as it was put forward, in the interests of its proper implementation.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, can you tell us specifically what you plan to do in dealing with the extremists? Do you plan to negotiate with them or do you plan to detain and disarm them? And secondly, you ask for U.S. help in monitoring. Did the United States offer you any specific assistance on monitoring?

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: On the second part of the question, on monitoring, there is now part of the monitoring present on the ground and work can be started to complete the total monitoring mechanism that will capable of evaluating and judging what is going on the ground. We have accepted what is present now so it will be completed in the future. On the subject of security, we have clarified more than once, and in the Legislative Council we stated the view that there is one Authority, and one law, and that Authority and law are the ones that must be dealt with, and not be outside that Authority or that law. And we said that there is political pluralism that democracy calls for and which permits any person or party or group to express its opinion democratically in the way we see. That is the policy of the government we have formed and that the Legislative Council has given its vote of confidence to.

QUESTION: That doesn’t answer my question.

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: [In Arabic]: I believe I responded to what was asked.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, in the last weeks we’ve heard all kind of commitments from the American officials that the roadmap will not be opened to negotiations. Now you’re talking about discussing it with both sides, you’re talking about waiting to receive comments from the Israelis, you’re talking about talks between both sides, which actually means that it’s open for negotiations. Is it true or not? [In Arabic]: Brother Abu Mazen, the visit of Mr. Powell has included a boycott of Chairman Arafat. Mr. Powell confirmed that the boycott of Chairman Arafat will continue. How do you think this will affect progress in the peace process and the implementation of the roadmap?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the first question, with President Bush and the American Government and I believe that the roadmap achieves a vision that he laid out in his speech of 24 June of last year. And so we’re committed to the roadmap. But it is a document that both sides have to review and look at, and if one side says they wish to discuss it and have comments about it, that doesn’t change it, it means they wish to present comments with respect to it – comments that will be considered by the Quartet and I’m sure by the other side. It’s important that the two sides as soon as possible begin talking to one another, and through their dialogue find ways to work through difficulties that one side or the other might see with regard to the roadmap. But we haven’t changed the roadmap since it was finalized last December. And I think it’s important not to get so hung up on a particular word or a particular statement that we lose the opportunity to get started, to get going. There will be more than enough time in the future to discuss some of the more contentious issues that will have to be dealt with. But right now, let’s get started, and I think both sides have demonstrated a commitment to get started and are taking steps on the road to progress. And let’s not get distracted from what we are able to do now by debates about particular items that can be debated at a later time.

PRIME MINISTER ABBAS: [In Arabic]: We have spoken more than once about the freedom of Chairman Yasser Arafat and permitting him to move around internally and abroad to any place he wishes. And because he is the elected, legitimate and internationally recognized president of our nation. And I do not believe that boycotting him is in any way defensible. And we will urge the parties that undertake this not to do so for the sake of the situation.


[End]

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