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Powell IV CNN's American Morning's Heidi Collins

Interview on CNN's American Morning with Heidi Collins

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
June 30, 2003

MS. COLLINS: A short while ago, I asked Secretary of State Colin Powell how significant the Israeli withdrawal was.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is significant, and it's a positive development. As you know, under the roadmap, both sides had obligations. On the Israeli side, they were releasing Palestinian prisoners, starting to take down the unauthorized outposts. And on the Palestinian side, we were expecting them to assume responsibility for Gaza. That has now happened.

And I am pleased that both sides have started these reciprocal steps, but we have a long way to go. And we hope that those organizations who have now said they will not conduct terrorist activities -- they have declared a ceasefire -- realize that it is an opportunity for peace, and that they stick to those ceasefires. But the ceasefires alone are not enough. We are expecting the Palestinian Authority to take control of the territories entrusted back to their care and make sure that, ceasefire or no ceasefire declared by the various parties, that no terrorist activity is directed against Israel. We've got to bring that to an end in order for there to be continued progress with the roadmap.

But this is a very positive development.

MS. COLLINS: Israel today also handed over control of the north-south highway running through Gaza for the Palestinians there. How important is that to the actual Palestinian people, who are using that road every day to go to work? What does it mean to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is very important. It means that a trip that might have taken half a day will now only take half an hour or an hour. It allows commerce and activity to start up again in the Gaza Strip. It will make it easier to cross over into other parts of the area. Kids can go to school. So it facilitates movement, and I hope the people living in Gaza will recognize that the roadmap brought this about. Reciprocal action on both sides are going to make their lives a little bit better, and I hope this will be a signal to them that they, too, should now join in the process by condemning violence and realizing that a better life awaits them if we continue moving down the path laid out by the roadmap.

MS. COLLINS: With the Israeli troops withdrawing from Gaza, is it possible that the West Bank is next?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are going to start moving into the West Bank. Bethlehem will be the next location where we hope we'll be able to get a turnover in the not too distant future. Discussions will begin right away on Bethlehem.

And we hope that this will spread across the entire West Bank. Israel does not want to remain in those cities. It is very expensive for Israel to do so, and it does not lead us toward peace. So let us hope this is the beginning of a process. But it's a process that will continue only if no terror or violence comes out of these areas that are now being turned over to Palestinian Security Forces.

And so the message we have been giving to the Palestinian Authority is they have to reconstitute their capability, they have to cooperate with the Israeli side, and they have to work closely with the American monitoring group under Ambassador John Wolf, who is in the region, to make sure we keep this moving in a positive direction.

MS. COLLINS: How much of this peace process is based on trust, and specifically between Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas?

SECRETARY POWELL: Ultimately, it's all based on trust. Ultimately, these two leaders, these two entities -- the Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel -- have to rebuild confidence and trust in one another. We're talking about people's lives. We're talking about innocent people dying as a result of terrorist activity.

So we can help. We can put in place roadmaps. We can put in place monitoring groups. But ultimately, trust has to be developed between the two sides. We're not interested just in a ceasefire or just in an opening. We're interested, ultimately, in a political settlement that will bring into being a Palestinian state that will live side by side in peace with the State of Israel.

MS. COLLINS: And does Mahmoud Abbas have that power to do what he needs to do in this case?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are trying to empower him in all of the steps that we have taken, and I think the Israeli side is trying to do the same thing as well. All the steps we have taken is to empower him, to show the Palestinian people that it is Prime Minister Abbas who succeeded in working with the Israelis and with the assistance of America and the so-called Quartet that got Gaza back into Palestinian hands and gave them an improved situation in Gaza.

So we hope with these actions, the Palestinian people will realize that Prime Minister Abbas is producing for them and thereby they will empower him even further. [End]

Released on June 30, 2003

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