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Powell, Rice Say Arab Support for Roadmap Grows

Transcript: Powell, Rice Say Arab Support for Roadmap Is Growing

(U.S. envisions Israel as "Jewish state," alongside "contiguous" Palestinian state)

Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said President Bush received a "new commitment to end terror and violence" from Arab leaders at a meeting at the Egyptian seaport of Sharm El-Sheikh June 3, indicating that support for the Middle East road map will continue to grow.

Powell and Rice spoke to the press June 3 in Sharm El-Shiekh, Egypt, following the president's meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah, Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah bin Abdulaziz, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Powell repeated that, as part of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the United States envisions Israel as a "Jewish state," alongside a "contiguous" Palestinian state.

Israel, he said, "must be always seen as a Jewish state. That has implications, as we go forward, as to how we will negotiate some of the difficult issues that remain in front of us."

Powell said a future Palestinian state "has to have contiguity."

"It has to be connected. It has to have means of moving about within that state. So it can't be chopped in so many ways in some form of Bantustan. That -- it would not really be as an honest effort to provide a state for the Palestinian people," said Powell.

Powell said that there are "many difficult issues" to be discussed between the two parties, such as the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian right of return and Israeli settlements, "but what we had to do was to get started" on what he described as a long journey with "many phases to it."

Powell and Rice said there were new conditions in the region since the failed 2001 Camp David meetings that brighten the prospects for peace -- the end of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, regional economic efforts, such as President Bush's proposal for a Middle East Free Trade Area, and the appointment of the new Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

Rice said Abbas "is devoted to fighting terror," and "has said that a Palestinian state needs to be built on the rule of law and that violence and terrorism are inconsistent with that."

Rice also said that Arab states had been brought into the process "at the front end, in a way that they have not been before," and said their statement against terrorism is "also an important condition that I think gives us some hope that we can resolve, over time, with, undoubtedly, bumps along the road, this very difficult and long-standing problem."

Rice said it was important that the Arab leaders' statement said that motivation and justification for terrorist activity "does not matter, that terrorism is still unacceptable."

Powell said that during meetings with Saudi officials, the Bush administration was informed of actions that would be taken to ensure that charitable contributions would not be diverted to terrorist or other improper use. Powell also praised Palestinian Finance Minister Fayyad for bringing "accountability to the finances of the Palestinian Authority."

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE Office of the Press Secretary (Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt) June 3, 2003


The Intercontinental Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

5:35 P.M. (Local)

DR. RICE: Good afternoon. I'm just going to spend a moment talking about the President's meetings today, and then Secretary Powell has some remarks, and then we'll be happy to take questions.

As you know, the President met today in a multilateral meeting with several Arab leaders -- King Hamad of Bahrain; King Abdullah of Jordan; Crown Prince Abdallah of Saudi Arabia. The meeting was hosted by President Mubarak, and of course, Prime Minister Abbas of the Palestinian Authority joined them, as well.

The meeting, which was supposed to be a large multilateral meeting, turned into an hour-and-a-half meeting just between the leaders, only with translators. It was a very good meeting in which they discussed an entire, broad agenda. They talked about the need for all parties to meet their responsibilities if we are to achieve peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis. They talked about reconstruction in Iraq. They talked about other challenges in the region, including the challenges of economic and political reform, and the opportunities for trade and for prosperity.

They then went to a very brief meeting with the larger delegations, and then returned to lunch -- leaders only, with just notetakers -- and continued their discussion on that -- those subjects.

The President also held two bilateral meetings today with President Mubarak, his host, this morning, about a 45-minute bilateral in which they talked about the war on terrorism. They also, of course, talked about the bilateral U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

And he just concluded a meeting with Crown Prince Abdallah in which they talked about the war on terrorism. The President had an opportunity to congratulate the Crown Prince on the recent Saudi successes in fighting terrorism, including their efforts concerning the Riyadh bombing. The Saudis told the President that they are making renewed efforts on the fight against terrorism, including particularly on the financing of terrorism. And the President concluded his discussions with the Crown Prince, again, one-on-one, to talk about their joint commitment to the Middle East peace.

So, all in all, a day in which he spent time talking about a joint commitment to fighting terrorism, a joint commitment to peace in the Middle East, and a vision for the Middle East of a transformed Middle East in which economic and political reform is carried out in partnership with those who share the President's vision of a new and transformed Middle East.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Condi.

The President was very anxious to have this opportunity to speak to the Arab leaders as he headed over to Aqaba tomorrow to speak to Prime Minister Sharon, as well as Prime Minister Abbas. This is an important moment in Middle East history, where we have the parties coming together, aligned behind the President's vision of June 24th of last year, and now with a road map that the parties have accepted, which gives a way to get to that vision.

In the two statements that you heard this afternoon, from President Bush, and from President Mubarak on the part of the Arab leaders who were in attendance, I think you can see some significant elements in those statements that really will give us guideposts to follow in the days and weeks ahead. I think you should take note of the fact that the Arab states gave their absolute support to Prime Minister Abbas' efforts to reform Palestinian government institutions. This is the key aspect of the President's vision for forming a democratic, peaceful Palestinian state that will be serving the interests of its citizens and neighbors, to include Israel.

There was also strong support in the conversations that were held in the course of the day, as well as in the statement, for the road map and its two-state solution so that we can seize this historic opportunity for peace after so much bloodshed. And responsibilities are assigned to all of the parties, and the U.S. will work with Arab partners to see that their responsibilities are fulfilled.

Especially important are cooperative efforts to ensure that no assistance reaches terrorist groups who are opposed to the peace process. I think this was a very significant element of the Arab statement. The Palestinians need help from Arab states, as well as the rest of the international community. But we have made it clear today that that assistance will be directed to the new democratizing Palestinian Authority and will not be diverted in any way to assist those who are not in support of the peace process.

The President's participation here demonstrates his personal commitment. The meetings tomorrow with Israelis and Palestinians represent a new level of U.S. engagement in the quest for peace. And the President will have more to say in Aqaba tomorrow about specific U.S. support for the parties' efforts.

What all this means is that there is hopeful change in the region: Iraqi liberation; Palestinians building institutions that will be responsive to their people; rejecting terror; seeking support from their neighbors and, as you saw today, receiving support and expressions of further support; regional efforts to improve the economic situation in the region, as the President noted recently, in his proposal for a Middle East trade agreement. The U.S. will be a full partner in these efforts, helping in every way that we can.

I hope that you will note the very strong Arab statement to fight terrorism in every way imaginable. I think it is especially noteworthy that I'd like just to repeat a few words of that statement: "We will continue to fight the scourge of terrorism, terrorism directed against humanity, and reject the culture of extremism and violence in any form or shape, from whatever source or place, regardless of justifications or motives, being fully aware of their dangers as a plague that threatens the peace and stability of the whole world. We will use all the power of the law to prevent support reaching illegal organizations, including terrorist groups."

In our meetings, especially with the Saudis later in the afternoon, they gave us some additional information about actions they would be taking to consolidate charitable contributions through a single channel to make sure that those contributions are going to the intended recipients, and not being diverted in any way to improper use, especially terrorist use.

I'll stop there and we'll open up to your questions.

Q: Mr. Secretary, did the President ask that Egypt and Jordan return their ambassadors to Israel, that they resume more normal relations? And, secondly, can you tell us, tomorrow do you expect Prime Minister Sharon to make a statement specifically about recognizing a Palestinian state?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we'll wait for tomorrow to see what Mr. Sharon will say. And I'm anxious to just not get into tomorrow's activities until we've had a chance to have tomorrow's meetings, and then a statement will be forthcoming.

With respect to returning ambassadors, I hope that as we move forward in this process down the road map, both Egypt and Jordan will see the merit and the appropriate moment to return their ambassadors. And it has been, and will be, a subject of discussion not only today, but in the past, and we'll continue to press that issue with both of them.

Q: There was no commitment today?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. We talked about it, but there's been no commitment. But I think, because of the fact that we are now into this process and steps are being taken, it is something that we can look at a little more closely, and there's a little more hope that that might be something that's possible as we go down the road map.

DR. RICE: Could I just add, we have talked about this on a number of occasions, but I just want to be clear, the President did not, himself, seek that commitment.

Q: Mr. Secretary, there were a series of late-night meetings between you and your Arab counterparts. Can you just describe the nature of the conversations? The Arabs claim that there was some serious differences between the United States and its Arab allies, particularly over the issue of advancing recognition of Israel.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, there was no -- on the second point, the reason for the late-night conversation, we had no discussion about advancing recognition of the state of Israel. We worked on the statement in bilateral settings. I spoke initially to my Saudi colleague, and then other colleagues in the course of the evening, and it went late into the evening. But it was all for the purpose of making sure we had a statement that captured the views of all of our Arab partners. And there was no discussion of recognition.

Q: Sir, you talk about the desire to confer some credibility and legitimacy upon Prime Minister Abbas, and you've made some headway there. But what does that mean for now about the role of Yasser Arafat? Because certainly, these leaders are on the record as saying that no peace plan can be implemented without the countenance of Yasser Arafat. Have you successfully moved beyond that do you think --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Yasser Arafat was not here today, and Prime Minister Abbas was. And we have made it clear that we believe that transformed leadership is necessary. We saw that transformed leadership here today -- Prime Minister Abbas, Minister of Finance Fayed and other members of the new administration.

We recognize that President Arafat is still an elected President and he still has standing with the Palestinian people. But we have said, clearly, since last year that we believe that his leadership has failed, and it was time for new leadership to come forward. We now see that new leadership, and we're working with it. I recognize that others -- many of my European colleague and the Arab leaders who are here today still recognize Mr. Arafat and will be in contact with him and work with him. And that is their choice to make.

Q: Could he be a spoiler -- if I could just follow up on that.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it would be very, very unfortunate if Mr. Arafat failed to recognize the significance of today and what I'm sure will be the significance of tomorrow, that we are on a path to create a state for the Palestinian people. We have the international community mobilized. We have Israel now willing to be a partner in this effort. We have new leadership in the Palestinian Authority. I think that it is clear that we're moving forward. And for Mr. Arafat to serve as a spoiler, or attempt to be a spoiler, I hope will be met by resistance from all the Arab leaders who are here today. And such spoiling activities will be met with resistance by the international community.

But, above all, I hope the Palestinian people will see that in this new leadership -- which they elected to their legislature -- we have a chance that had previously been denied to the Palestinian people, and will not let anyone, to include Mr. Arafat, deny them that opportunity.

Q: Mr. Secretary, in this Arab statement, they had a line in there about using the power of law to prevent support from reaching illegal organizations, including terrorist groups. How would that work in terms of the sorts of payments that go to the families of suicide bombers? Was there any sort of commitment that they made to kind of restrict those payments, since those are not --

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't get into that level of specificity, and I'll let the words speak for themselves as they stand, and we'll see how we implement that as we go forward. But I thought it was a powerful statement. And we made clear to them as we go forward we just don't want to work on statements, we want to see positive action that reflects those statements and those commitments and that vision. And we're working with them.

Q: Mr. Secretary, when you all talked about making sure that money wasn't funneled to terrorist groups, how does Arafat fit into that operation? Did you lean -- into that goal. Did you lean or ask the Arab leaders to change the way or cut off funding to --

SECRETARY POWELL: We've been impressed by the work of Foreign Minister Fayed over the months. Increasingly, he has brought accountability to the finances of the Palestinian Authority. More and more funds that are being given to assist the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority are coming under his control. And we will continue to move in that direction so that the Palestinian people can be sure that money that is given to them is being dealt with in an honest, open manner, transparent manner, is being audited and it is being accounted for in every way. That is what we owe the Palestinian people and what we are moving to provide for the Palestinian people.

Q: Dr. Rice, when the Camp David process collapsed almost three years ago, one of the reasons cited was that the process didn't enjoy the support of the Arab world more broadly. What makes the President convinced that it's different this time around? To what extent does this meeting reflect a different approach and how much difference will it make --

DR. RICE: Well, meetings like today give the President confidence that, in fact, this process will have, and does have, the broad support of the Arab neighbors. The reason for coming here to Sharm el-Sheikh and for discussing this process in depth, the many, many contacts the President has had over the last several months with Arab leaders, and his desire to seek a commitment from them to also carry out their responsibilities reflects his belief that while the parties will directly negotiate the details of an arrangement between themselves, any lasting arrangement is going to need the support of the neighbors.

We believe that the statement that Secretary referred to demonstrates that that support is there and that that support will grow. And, indeed, all the way back on April 4th, when the President gave a speech on the Middle East, and then again on June 24th, he cited not just the responsibilities of the international community, not just the responsibilities of the Palestinians, not just the responsibilities of the Israelis, but also the responsibilities of the Arab neighbors to bring about peace. So he believes it's an active and important part of the diplomacy and that's the reason for today's meeting.

Q: The President said a couple of things recently I wonder if I could ask you about. He said at South Carolina that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. And then today he said that the Palestinians have a right to a contiguous state. Can you define contiguous, and will you expect the Arab nations to explicitly recognize the Jewishness of Israel?

SECRETARY POWELL: We've used the expression, "Jewish state of Israel," on a number of occasions. The President used it and I've used it on a number of occasions. And I think it speaks for itself; that Israel, to live side-by-side in peace with Palestine, must be always seen as a Jewish state. That has implications as we go forward as to how we will negotiate some of the difficult issues that remain in front of us.

What was the second part of your question?

DR. RICE: Contiguous.

SECRETARY POWELL: Contiguous means that if you're going to have a state that people will recognize as a state, and the Palestinians will say, this truly is a homeland for us, then it has to have contiguity, it has to be connected, it has to have means of moving about within that state. So it can't be chopped up in so many ways in some form of Bantustan that it would not really be seen as an honest effort to provide a state for the Palestinian people.

Q: I wonder if either of you can play back the conversations that you've had in the last 24 hours, if you played back honestly, whether you were hearing the Arab world here show strong support, and still reserving those "get out" clauses that were in there in the past? And I'm thinking of the Palestinian right to return. I'm thinking of, to follow up my colleague's question, Yasser Arafat's role. I'm thinking ultimately of Jerusalem. Can you tell us whether -- when you think about, the two of you, when you think about those conversations you've had, whether in the back there, there are still those, "get out" clauses?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are many difficult issues that are in front of us: right of return, final status of Jerusalem, how we're going to deal with the settlement issue -- many difficult issues. And we're going to get to those issues. And there are strong views held by Israelis, by Palestinians and by the Arab leaders who were here today. We will get to each and every one of them in due course. But what we had to do was to get started. We had to get started, and that's what we have done today. And that's what we will do tomorrow, by the kind of commitments that you heard the Arab leaders make today, made today, and what you will hear, I'm quite sure, from Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas tomorrow.

A new commitment to end terror and violence -- you heard that today. Clearly, Prime Minister Sharon is prepared to take steps. He said it publicly. He's said things in the last several days which are, I think, very indicative of the kinds of things he is ready to do.

And so we are on our way on a long journey. It's going to have many phases to it. And all of the issues that you have touched on will be dealt with in due course. But I think what is impressive about today's activities is that these leaders came here to be in the presence of the President of the United States and to be with Prime Minister Abbas, recognizing his new role in the Palestinian Authority and his new position among the Palestinian people, and to show their support for him. And they know what he stands for. He has said it. He said it on the day of his inauguration -- we've got to end terror and violence. I'm confident he will say it more tomorrow. And they came here to show their support for him, and to show their support for this process and for the road map that leads us there -- all of us acknowledging that very, very difficult issues remain ahead.

DR. RICE: I would just add that, obviously, this would have been resolved a long time ago if there were not difficult issues. But I do think that we have new conditions in which to look at these very difficult issues. The existence now of a Palestinian Prime Minister who, as Colin said, is devoted to fighting terror, and who, indeed, believes that the fighting of terror is not just for Israel's security -- which most certainly it is -- but for the future of a democratic and law-based Palestinian state. And that is an important new condition, the change in the Palestinian leadership.

We do have the Arab states committed to this cause in a way that I think they have not been before, brought into this at the front end in a way that they have not been before. And, of course, the entire context with the fight against terrorism and the joint global fight against terrorism, I think also adds a new element.

I would just note that in the statement, the Arab leaders went out of their way to say that terrorism, no matter what its justification or its motive, was unacceptable. And that's also an important condition that, I think, gives us some hope that we can resolve over time with, undoubtedly, bumps along the road, this very difficult and longstanding problem.

Q: Following up on what you just said, Dr. Rice, one of the problems with terrorism in the Arab countries is that they don't define some of the activities of Hezbollah and Hamas as terrorist activities. They think of them as actually beneficial activities. Did you make any progress on closing the gap between defining terrorism in those countries? You seem to be quite optimistic about them being ready to make more progress, when you say that they'll take on groups, no matter what their motivations.

DR. RICE: Well, again, I think that that sentence speaks for itself. To say that the motivation or the justification does not matter, that terrorism is still unacceptable, I think is a very important statement on behalf of the Arab leaders. The commitment to deal with the culture that breeds extremism is a very important commitment. And I do think that there is a change in the climate.

It's also worth saying that Prime Minister Abbas, himself, has said that a Palestinian state needs to be built on the rule of law, and that violence and terrorism are inconsistent with that. So I think we have a pretty strong statement here that there are certain methods that are just not acceptable, whatever their political motivation.

Thank you.

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