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Powell Press Briefing with Israeli Prime Minister

Joint Press Briefing with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon Following their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Prime Minister’s Residence, Jerusalem
May 11, 2003

PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I want to welcome my friend, Secretary of State Colin
Powell, to Jerusalem. You are most welcome. We held extensive discussions on the situation in the region following the coalition victory in Iraq and on the window of opportunity that has been created to advance the political process. I repeated to the Secretary our sincere wish to move forward in implementing the vision of President Bush from the 24th of June, and our readiness to invest substantial efforts in order to make progress and to not miss this opportunity. We will soon be meeting with our Palestinian colleagues, and with the help of the Americans, we will be able to achieve a settlement that will lead to peace. A genuine war against terror by the Palestinians, involving real efforts to prevent terror, is the key to progress in the political process. Quiet and security for the Israeli people will lead to Israeli measures that will create a new and better reality for the Palestinian population.
I want to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your sincere efforts, to advance the political process in the region and I want to express my appreciation to the President of the United States, Mr. George Bush, for his leadership and willingness to invest time and effort in promoting his vision and leading the region toward a better future.

Thank you and again, you are most welcome here and you know that you are among friends.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your warm welcome and thank you for the hospitality that you have again extended to me and to the members of my delegation. I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister and a number of his ministers today. We have had a full discussion, especially focused on the profound changes that have taken place in the region and the important moment of opportunity that we now have before us as a result of Operation Iraqi freedom and the success we achieved in overthrowing that threat to the State of Israel and that threat to the world in the person of Saddam Hussein and, in light of political developments within the Palestinian Authority that puts in place now a new Prime Minister, Prime Minister Abbas, who I am looking forward to seeing later this afternoon.

President Bush on Friday, in a speech in South Carolina, added a new element to the strategic changes and to our vision when he outlined a broad, regional strategy designed to help all the peoples of the region, as the President put it, “to replace old hatreds with new hopes.” We find ourselves at an historic moment, but to seize this opportunity we need to move forward. We need to move forward with practical steps on the ground. President Bush has stated his personal commitment to implementing his vision, to implementing it through our road map to peace.

We welcome the positive steps, political steps already taken by Palestinian officials towards reform and towards peace but, we must also see rapid, decisive action by the Palestinians to disarm and to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Without such action, our best efforts will fail. I will speak with Prime Minister Abbas and his team later today about how to achieve this. Progress will also depend on concrete measures by Israel to support further Palestinian reform efforts. Prime Minister Sharon and I spoke today about a number of specific actions Israel can take immediately to improve the situation in the West Bank and Gaza and help build an environment for peacemaking.

Our conversations, as always, were frank, productive and useful. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has confirmed Israel’s intention to take positive steps in the days ahead. We look forward to continuing these conversations in Washington when the Prime Minister visits with the President later this month.

Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your friendship.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary Powell, welcome to Israel.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: With your permission, I would like to ask you, I’ve noticed that the Administration is using all the time the term “a new Palestinian leadership.” Today there is a general strike in the territories as a protest for you not meeting with Arafat. Arafat is still considered among the Palestinians as the number one leader of the Palestinians – not Abu Mazen. Adding to that the fact that Yasser Arafat still controls most of the security systems in the Palestinian Authority, and he controls most of the money, and more than that, the Europeans are still recognizing Arafat as the number one leader and they are meeting with him, and we see visits of foreign ministers of Europe coming to the Muqata to meet with Yasser Arafat. So where exactly does the United States see the new leadership and how are you going to deal with this thing that I mentioned?

SECRETARY POWELL: We see new leadership in the fact that there is now a Prime Minister where there wasn’t one before, and we see a new dimension to this in light of the fact that he was approved in this position by the legislature of the Palestinian people. Now obviously it will take time as he gathers authority and as he moves in the proper direction. We recognize that Mr. Arafat is still there, but the United States will not be dealing with him. We believe that Mr. Abu Mazen and some of the people that he has assembled within his cabinet to work on matters of security, to work on matters of finance, do give us new leadership to work with, and we will do everything we can to enhance his authority and ability to get the job done – and the ability of the members of his cabinet to get the job done. With respect to what other nations might do and what various European and other foreign ministers might do, I am in close touch and contact with them. They can make their own decisions, but we have made it clear to them that we believe this is the time to invest in the new leadership. And I hope that with the passage of time, my European and other colleagues will see the wisdom of acting in that way.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, do all the details in the roadmap have to be ironed out before you are ready to move ahead with it? Does Mr. Abbas simply have to say he will put Hamas out of business, or does he have to do it before you move ahead?

PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I think that we are used here for declarations, promises, talks. What is needed now are actions that should be taken against the terrorist organizations like the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front and all the others, and those security organizations that are involved in terror and use terror and cooperate with other terrorist organizations. So I think that the time of promises and declarations is behind us. What we expect are steps that should be taken – real steps.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, are you satisfied with the humanitarian gesture that the Prime Minister presented to you? Is it enough? Do you think that Israel should do more? And in that aspect, does the United States expect or demand from Israel a total removal of the illegal outposts in the territories?

SECRETARY POWELL: The steps that the Prime Minister mentioned to me this morning I think are very promising, and very helpful and show Israel’s commitment to begin this process, and not lose this moment of opportunity. So, yes I am pleased with what I heard from the Prime Minister earlier. With respect to settlement activity and outposts, we did discuss these issues and we will be discussing them in greater detail in the days ahead. And we look forward to a fuller discussion of how we move forward on the issue of settlements and outposts when the Prime Minister visits in the near future.

QUESTION: I also wanted to ask the Prime Minister on the question of settlements. You spoke a few weeks ago about being willing to make painful concessions for peace. Do you envision withdrawing from a number of settlements in order to create a state with provisional borders? Or is this something that would have to remain unsettled until final status talks? And do you reject the roadmap, is it really no longer something that you want to follow, or are you following your own path now?

PRIME MINISTER SHARON: It’s about the Jewish towns, Jewish communities, and outposts. I said very clearly, and I have repeated it many times that for genuine, durable real peace, Israel will be ready to make painful concessions. I emphasize as well, that when it comes to security, the security of the citizens of Israel, and the security of the State of Israel, Israel will not be able to make any concessions and there are not any compromises when it comes to security, not now and not in the future. The Jews are having one tiny, small country. No country with many tenants, but a tiny small country and that is the only place in the world where the Jews are having the right and the capability to defend themselves by themselves. That is our duty and we are going to preserve it.
Now as about details, I think that because they have a very serious approach toward the coming negotiations, and I hope to meet these Palestinian leaders soon -- you know we met already in the past -- even here in this building. I think it is going to be a mistake if we declare now what are the concessions that we are willing to make. Once we do that, that will become immediately the start line of the negotiations. So, I will need the patience and I would say experience to conduct our negotiations and I believe that along those lines I will be conducting the negotiations.

Thank you.


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[End]

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