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Powell Presser with Jordanian Foreign Minister

Powell Presser with Jordanian Foreign Minister

Press Conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Jamil Al-Muasher

Secretary Colin L. Powell World Economic Forum Plenary Tent Dead Sea, Jordan May 16, 2004

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: Mr. Secretary, welcome to the World Economic Forum. We are very glad the Secretary is here. We ve had the chance over the last two days to discuss a number of issues of importance to this region, including of course the Arab-Israeli peace process, the situation in Iraq and the issue of reform. The Secretary has had the chance also to meet with civil society leaders, who briefed him on what efforts they are making on reform. I think we have moved a long way towards a very productive dialogue between us and the United States and members of the G-8. We both agree that the reform process should have ownership from this region, and we both agree also that we need help in implementing this reform, and it is help that we are seeking from the international community.

On the Arab-Israeli front, we are also very reassured by President Bush s letter to His Majesty in which he reaffirmed that the terms of reference for the process have not changed, that the United States will not be prejudging final status issues, that it is up to the parties to negotiate these among them. And again we had very candid discussions, we are glad that the Secretary met with the Palestinian delegation yesterday, and we hope that the meeting tomorrow with Dr. Rice is going to be a positive step towards moving the peace process forward.

Obviously, we discussed the situation in Iraq as well, and we both agree that the United Nations should really work with the United States and with all of us in order to move the process forward there as well. We have trust in Mr. Brahimi s mission and we hope that there will be a meaningful transition of sovereignty on July 1 that would lead to a permanent Iraqi government. Mr. Secretary, welcome again to Jordan.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, and I thank you and His Majesty for all the hospitality that has been extended to me and the members of my delegation, and I also wish to extend my appreciation to Professor Schwab for once again putting on this extraordinary meeting here at the Dead Sea, under the auspices of the World Economic Forum. As the Minister said, we ve had good discussions over the course of the last 24 hours, focusing on the situation in Iraq, and our determination to push forward and allow the Iraqi people to achieve sovereignty once again over their land by the first of July. And we ve had extensive discussions on the work of Ambassador Brahimi, and the process of moving forward, the necessity of getting security under control and making sure that everybody understands that on the first of July it will be the Iraqi interim government that will be replacing Ambassador Bremer and the Coalitional Provisional Authority. The United States armed forces and coalition forces will remain to work with the new government in creating a stable environment so that they can get about the work of preparing for national elections next January.

We also had extensive discussions on the Middle East peace process, and I conveyed to all I spoke with here that President Bush remains committed to his vision of two states living side-by-side in peace, final status arrangements to be determined by the two parties in negotiations with one another, on the basis of 242, 338 and land for peace. We believe a new opportunity has been presented by Prime Minister Sharon s ideas with respect to removing all settlements from Gaza and beginning to remove their settlements in the West Bank. I think the very large demonstrations that we saw in Israel yesterday in support of that proposition indicates there is a groundswell of support among Israeli people to move in that direction as well. We know that it will be difficult to move ahead, but nevertheless we are determined to move ahead; and that was the message I conveyed to not only to all here but as well as Mr. Abu Ala -- Prime Minister Qurei -- as he was leaving here for further discussions with Dr. Rice in Europe.

And finally, we spent a good bit of time, as the Minister mentioned, talking about reform. Reform that ultimately has to come from within. Reform that is coming from within. I sense that all the Arab nations understand the need for reform, and understand that the United States and the industrialized world, especially the G8, NATO, and other international organizations, want to assist the Arab world in the process of reform. We can help, we can provide assistance, we can do such things as create free trade arrangements, as we have done with Jordan, and as we are looking to do with other nations in the region. We can help with initiatives such as our Middle East Partnership Initiative, but we know that ultimately reform has to come from within. So we are looking forward to creating partnerships for reform. We are interested in putting in place, as part of the G8 ministerial, and G8 summit process, a forum for the future, where, on a regular basis, we can get together with our friends in the region to talk about reform. Not a new organization with a Secretariat, trying in some way to structure this in a manner that would be inconsistent with the desires of the Arab nations, but a forum where we can, on a regular basis, review progress, see how else we can enhance the partnerships that we will be creating. And I look forward to further discussion with my colleagues on that forum for the future.

So, all in all, I think we have had productive discussions and once again (inaudible). I thank you for your hospitality, and I thank you especially for the work that you have been doing, in a personal way, on the issue of reform within the Arab League Minister s grouping. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you spoke yesterday in your speech of a charm offensive, a corrective curve in American foreign policy. And the point is that this audience looks across the sea and knows that the Israelis are daily demolishing homes, leaving Palestinians homeless. They really need some action. It didn t sell well. You tried, but it didn t sell well. What are you going to do about that? What are you going to do about the issue of the Palestinians in (inaudible)? What are you going to do about regaining the confidence of the Arab World that you have lost?

And, Mr. Foreign Minister, you seem to be putting all your eggs in the basket, banking on an American correction of policies. You ve been criticized; you re taking chances, in the view of some. Are you on the right track? Why do you trust there will be a correction?

SECRETARY POWELL: We oppose the destruction of homes; we don t think that that is productive. We know that Israel has a right for self-defense, but the kind of actions that they are taking in Rafah, the destruction of Palestinian homes, we oppose. We ve noted that the Israeli Supreme Court has also spoken on this issue. The United States is anxious to do everything that it can to stop this cycle of strike and counterstrike that has resulted in the loss of so many lives within the last week.

It was the United States that came here last year, under the leadership of President Bush, at Aqaba, and began a new process towards peace, using the outline of the Roadmap. Unfortunately, we did not achieve the kind of success we wanted under Prime Minister Abu Mazen, and we are now working with Prime Minister Qurei to see if we can get the process moving once again. We need an end of terror. We need an end of any concept that somehow killing innocent people through suicide attacks is a legitimate political act. It is not, and it has to stop. We need reform within the Palestinian community. We also need action on the part of the Israelis, to stop the building of outposts, to destroy the outposts that were supposed to have been destroyed as part of the Roadmap process.

I think that the Quartet meeting two weeks ago in New York showed once again that the entire international community is mobilized to get back to the Roadmap and to use the opportunity presented by Prime Minister Sharon as a way of finally removing settlements for the first time, and not just talking about removing settlements, not just sitting on past policies and statements and going around and around a circle. This is a way to get us out of that circle with the actual removal of settlements in Gaza and in the West Bank, and we are anxious to see how Prime Minister Sharon is planning to move forward to capture the feelings of his people, who want this to happen.

And so the United States is not disengaged, we are engaged, and I think in the weeks ahead the Palestinians and people in the Arab lands will see that the United States is engaged, and President Bush has lost none of his interest in the region, nor has he lost his passion for seeing created a Palestinian state that will live side-by-side, in peace, with Israel.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: As you know, there was an uproar in this region because of the feeling that the United States has changed the terms of reference for the process, particularly on the two issues of refugees and borders. The importance of President Bush s letter to the King is that it reaffirms that the terms of reference for the process have not changed, that it is still up to the two parties to negotiate the two-state solution, a final settlement, and that the United States will not prejudge the outcome of these negotiations. This is the importance of the letter. But, the bottom line is that no letter, whether to the Israelis nor to the Arab side, is going to move the peace process forward without all of us making sure that the necessary steps are taken in order to start building the Palestinian state in order to move forward to the end of the Israeli occupation. This is why Jordan joins the international community in supporting the Roadmap. Because the Roadmap outlines a series of steps that are supposed to be taken on both sides in order to move the process forward and reach that stage.

The letter to the King is a beginning, is a recommitment, a reaffirmation that things have not changed, that we need to build on this letter and we need to move forward on a series of steps that are clearly outlined in the Roadmap.

QUESTION: I wondered if in light of Arafat s statement yesterday where he called on the Palestinian people to find whatever strength you have to terrorize your enemy. At the same time (inaudible) how does that fit in with your efforts with the Prime Minister? You know, for months you ve been urging Palestinian Prime Ministers to consolidate security forces, why do you suppose that hasn t happened yet?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Arafat refuses to allow the consolidation of security forces. Mr. Arafat continues to make statements of the kind he made yesterday about let s terrorize the region. Everybody says the United States should do more, and we want to do more. But Mr. Arafat continues to take actions and make statements that make it exceptionally difficult to move forward.

I discussed this with the Prime Minister in a very straightforward and very candid conversation yesterday.

QUESTION: (In Arabic)

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the article in The New Yorker, I haven t read it. I think it is just now coming out and based on the quick summary I read, I have nothing to say, and I m sure that the Defense Department and Secretary Rumsfeld will be commenting on it.

Reform in the region has to be a partnership. So, it s not a matter of the United States once again walking away from the Arab world. We put out certain ideas with respect to reform, but we cannot impose reform from the outside, nor would we want to, nor would we even try to. We have ideas, let s share our ideas with our friends, they will see some ideas in the G8 Ministerial statement that we issued the other day and the documents we are working on for the G8 Summit that is coming up. We will share them with our Arab friends. Our Arab friends are sharing with us their ideas coming out of their Ministerial Meeting. So I think there is a convergence of ideas coming from within and some ideas from without. But ultimately reform has to be done by each individual country in keeping with its own culture, its own history, its own tradition, its own desires, the aspirations of its own people. The United States can help. The G8 members can help. There are a number of processes already underway, the Euro-Med dialogue. NATO may be able to play a role. But ultimately it has to come from within with the assistance from outside and partnership from outside.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, every Arab I have spoken to in this largely pro-Western audience has expressed either frustration, anger, or, in some cases, mentioned that they were insulted by your speech yesterday and the failure to offer any new ideas to break the policy logjam and the failure to issue an apology to an Arab audience over the behavior at Abu Ghraib.

First of all, to Minister Muashser, what action would it take by the United States to ease Arab anger, and, Mr. Secretary, does the United States plan to take any further action concrete action to deal with this lack of credibility and frustration in the Arab world?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to Abu Ghraib, I think I made it clear what my feelings were. The President has expressed an apology on behalf of the nation. We will reinforce that apology. We are devastated by what happened at Abu Ghraib. We apologized to those who were abused in such an awful manner. Yesterday I was speaking as a soldier who was devastated by what had been done by my fellow soldiers, and I think that should be clear to the audience. And the President has spoken to the issue of apology.

We are doing everything we can to deal with what you described as the frustrations within the Arab world. Everybody says we should return sovereignty to the Iraqi people, so that it no longer looks like an occupation. That s exactly what we re trying to do and what we plan to accomplish by the end of June. And I think I made that clear.

With respect to the Arab-Israeli issue, we re working hard. We have taken advantage of an initiative that has come forward from Prime Minister Sharon to see if we can break ourselves out of this circle we have been trapped in.

And, so, I understand the frustration of the region, I understand the need for us to be seen as taking action. And I think we are taking action with respect to Iraq, I think we re taking action with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and we re certainly helping our friends as they move forward on reform.

And so that is what the message was that I brought here yesterday, and I hope it is a message that will be understood over time.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: His Majesty talked about this issue extensively with President Bush when he was in Washington last week. As you know, the President has publicly apologized and has assured His Majesty that those responsible will be brought to justice. I think this is extremely important, that justice plays its course here, and that those responsible are brought to justice. But what we don t want to see happening in this region is frustration against American policy turn into frustration against American individuals. That would be a very serious and sad thing if it is to happen. And, we hope and have every confidence that those responsible will be brought to justice.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, you said that the United States is now taking concrete steps to alleviate the frustration regarding Iraq, the Israelis and Palestinians, but what about Syria? Arabs are really angered about slapping sanctions on Syria this past week, and they say that this is just ill-timed. What I m wondering is whether or not the U.S. is going to be pressuring the European Union to postpone a major trade and aid deal that they are planning to sign with Syria?

SECRETARY POWELL: I spent a great deal of time with European leaders over the last two weeks, both within the Quartet context and also in the G8 context, and we did not discuss this. The Europeans will make their own judgment on this. We acted in accordance with United States law that was passed called the Syria Accountability Act.

The reason there is a Syria Accountability Act is that last year when I visited with the Syrian President, I laid out a number of things that were of concern to the United States and that were of concern to nations in the world with respect to Syrian behavior and performance. I recommended to the President that action be taken to deal with these issues, the harboring of terrorist-oriented organizations in Damascus, working on weapons of mass destruction, insufficient attention to who might be moving back and forth across the Syrian-Iraq border -- a number of other issues that I recommended action be taken on, and action was not taken. I had said to the Syrian leadership at that time that they should expect the United States Congress to move forward with this legislation.

I would ask that those who are disturbed or outraged by this legislation should be concerned about Syrian actions that continue to foment a climate for terrorist activity in this part of the world. I would hope that there would be people in this gathering here at the Dead Sea who would say to their Syrian friends and colleagues that it s time for you to stop dealing with weapons of mass destruction -- look at the example of Libya in that regard -- and to do everything you can to stabilize the situation along the Iraq-Syria border if you want to see things stabilize in the region. And so, the Syria Accountability Act was a measure taken by our Congress to demonstrate to the Syrians that they need to take action to deal with these kinds of concerns.

Thank you.

2004/552
[End]

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