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Powell Remarks to the Press En Route to Tel Aviv

Remarks to the Press En Route to Tel Aviv

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Jerusalem, Israel
November 21, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know tomorrow I'll have an opportunity for the meetings with Prime Minister Sharon and Foreign Minister Shalom and other Israeli officials. The schedule is still being worked, and then we'll meet with Palestinian officials. I'm not quite sure of everyone who will be there, but I'm expecting to see the Prime Minister, as well as Abu Mazen. And I hope that the President is there, former Speaker Fattouh, who is acting as the president until the election. And we'll also be visiting in a registration site for the elections.

I'll be making the point that the President has made, that this is a moment of opportunity. And while the Palestinian people are saddened by the loss of Chairman Arafat, we sympathize with them; it is also a moment where we can move forward. The President has re-stated his commitment to his vision of 24 June 2002 and to achieve that vision to through the use of the Road Map. And the big step ahead of us now is to assist the Palestinian people in getting ready for the election on the ninth of January for a new president of the Palestinian Authority. And in my conversations with both sides I'll be encouraging both sides to do everything they can to make sure that this election comes off and that the maximum number of Palestinians get the opportunity to participate in the election. And perhaps the things that we do, or that they do, to get ready for the election will encourage a degree of cooperation that can spread into other areas.

We also will talk about Prime Minister Sharon's disengagement plan, how that's coming along. And I'll talk to the Palestinians about their preparations to put in place political institutions and the security arrangements that would be needed to make sure that that goes well.

So, it's a moment of opportunity and since I will have a chance to meet with the Quartet members, as well, the next morning, the morning after Tuesday morning. This is a good opportunity to sort of review the bidding, and also to make sure that everybody I speak to clearly understands that President Bush is determined to move forward now that this opportunity has presented itself. I'll stop there because you pretty much know where we're going.

QUESTION: Ahmed Qurei said yesterday, I believe, that he wants assurances from you in their meetings that the original timetable in the Road Map of establishing a Palestinian state by the end of 2005 still stands, despite what the President said about getting statehood established within four years.

SECRETARY POWELL: Clearly the achievement of that objective will be driven by progress and events. And as we would all like a Palestinian state to come into being as quickly as possible, but it is difficult to place any date on it. The end of 2005 was a date that we had hoped for in 2002. And so, it really will be event driven, progress driven, and that's what we need to focus on, not a particular date. The President wants to see it done as soon as possible, but that's a function of progress on the ground and events.

QUESTION: What kind of assistance will you be ready to provide to the Palestinians to organize their election in terms of practical, technical assistance or financial support?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have some ideas and we are examining what resources might be available, but I really need to talk to the Palestinians to see what their needs are before I make any announcements or any commitments of anything. Obviously others can provide support, as well. My EU colleagues, other Quartet members, and as you know, in early November excuse me, early December in Oslo there'll be two meetings: one, the Ad-Hoc Committee; and another one, a committee that's concerned with Palestinian reform, and I assume that that would be a good place for them to take this up, as well. But we are examining what their needs are, want to hear from them, and then we'll make judgments as to what assistance we'll be able to provide.

QUESTION: A couple questions; they're related. You said on the way to Chile that you thought that Israel was going to be taking steps to facilitate the elections and improve Palestinian security forces, but I wonder if you could be more specific about the kinds of discussions, of steps, that you will be having? And specifically whether you will be talking about redeployment of troops, or easing checkpoints, or freeing up more tax revenues for the Palestinians so they can pay their security forces? Things like that.

SECRETARY POWELL: In a meeting I had with Foreign Minister Shalom last week, I clearly got the impression, which I was conveying to you, that Israel wants to be helpful during this period. And you have seen other statements coming from the government that indicates this. There are many things that they could do, but I'd rather talk to them about what they might be able to do before announcing a list here. So, this will be the subject of conversation tomorrow.

QUESTION: What was your last visit to the West Bank to talk to the Palestinians?

SECRETARY POWELL: My last visit on the ground was when we had the summit at Aqaba, but I have met with Palestinian leaders since. I met with Ahmed Qurei, Abu Ala, in front of the Davos Economic Forum in Jordan, which was what month, Richard?

MR. BOUCHER: May.

SECRETARY POWELL: May, I think it was. But, Richard will give you a listing of other meetings I have had with Palestinian leaders over the past year.

QUESTION: There were a series of pretty brazen attacks in the Sunni triangle on Saturday several attacks, fire fights, suicide bombings, and there were also more attacks in Fallujah. Are you concerned, is there a growing concern, that the insurgents that were routed out of Fallujah are now regrouping elsewhere?

SECRETARY POWELL: My understanding of the situation is the coalition forces and the Iraqi forces really struck a serious blow against the insurgency. But I don't think you will find any of my colleagues claiming that they have wiped out every last fighter in Fallujah. And I think we have been very straightforward in saying, the military commanders have been straightforward in saying, that others will try to get back in and they will be dealt with. An important point here is that the humanitarian aid is starting to flow, medical aid is starting to come into the city, and the reconstruction money is being identified while the coalition forces continue to mop up the different districts. They've divided the city up into a large number of districts and they are going district by district, house by house. And so it is the aftermath of a serious battle, and that serious battle, I think, did significant damage to the insurgency. It remains to be seen how severe it was and we will know that by what we see in the future with respect to their ability to continue the kinds of attacks you described or to regenerate. They took some serious losses and I think you can say that Fallujah is now back under the authority of the Iraqi Interim Government.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern that your meeting with Palestinian leaders is likely to taint them, because of their association with the United States, that it will appear that we look like we are backing them? And secondly, to be honest, is there really anything you can accomplish with the Israelis, given the fact that they will see you as a lame duck Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think I taint any of the Palestinians because they are in official positions, and so it is appropriate for me to meet with them. The Israelis have welcomed my visit. I have good strong relations with Israeli leaders over the years, and especially during the years that I have been Secretary of State. And it is the President's policies that we are following, and what I do will naturally flow into what Dr. Rice will be doing when she becomes Secretary and what Mr. Hadley when he becomes National Security Advisor. And so this was an important opportunity for me to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, as part of my responsibilities working with the Quartet until such time as I am no longer Secretary of State.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Iran. First of all, do you have any further sense of whether or not you will be meeting with your Iranian counterpart in a one-on-one fashion at Sharm? And also, there were some questions raised about the information that you talked about with the technology for arming missiles with nuclear warheads and whether or not it was accurate? Some suggested point blank that this was information that had not yet been vetted and may well not be reliable.

SECRETARY POWELL: The people raising the questions are people who had not seen the information. Period. Iran has been working on long-range missiles. Long-range missiles tend to be inaccurate, therefore they are not designed to carry conventional warheads. This is not, in my judgement, terribly complicated. And the additional information that I have seen keeps me in a position of concluding that what I think they have been doing all along, they have been doing. And it is not surprising to me that they would have been doing this. In fact, as one of my Foreign Minister colleagues said to me in Santiago, "do people think otherwise?" It is not a firm opinion of the entire international community, but I stick with it.

With respect to meetings, I have already described the nature of the meetings we are having in Sharm.

QUESTION: I don't understand that question.

SECRETARY POWELL: I just said in one of the passing conversations that I had with one of my Foreign Minister colleagues who I won't identify, and we were talking about Iran, he says, "but why is anyone surprised that they would be working on such programs, if there is a suspicion that they were working on nuclear weapons programs?"

QUESTION: Do you have any new information that Iran is (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no new information with respect to it. I have a body of information over time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the U.S. position on releasing Mustafa Barghouti? There is a case to be made that he is a guy who has a lot of respect to control the situation and has worked peacefully with the Israelis in the past.

SECRETARY POWELL: I am sure this will come up in the conversations tomorrow and I will hear what people have to say about it. That is all I have to say right now.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, back to the case of Iran. Mr. Armitage described the US tactics working alongside the Europeans as: "good cop, bad cop," and maybe what you said about the warhead design went ahead with that strategy. It is a very firm position against Iran, and now Iran today, the Foreign Ministry, has come out and said, "it is impossible to have a meeting with Mr. Powell. We won't have a one-on-one. He doesn't hold a position. He hasn't changed the U.S. position towards us in four years." Very firmly, if you like, closing the door. Do you think you helped close that door with your statements about the warhead?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not aware of any door that was there, or even open. As I have said, rather steadily, it is a meeting of neighbors of Iraq with the United States attending, and other international players, and it is in the format that I have been in meetings with Iran previously, sort of like the six plus two in Afghanistan. We meet together. There may be meals where we are meeting together in a social setting. Period.

QUESTION: I'm sorry if others haven't asked a question. The United States consideration of aid for the Palestinians to help them pay their security forces has run into skepticism on Capitol Hill. Are you trying to put a package together before that Oslo meeting that you mentioned earlier?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are in consultation with the Palestinians, as you would expect, and with my State Department and AID colleagues back home and we certainly would want to have a position that we would take to the two meetings that are coming up, and we are in consultation with people on the Hill as to what might be possible or not. But, it hasn't gone further than that right now. Really, I want to hear what the needs are tomorrow and then communicate that back to Washington to see what we are able to do. Okay?

QUESTION: Do you have any information on the elections in Ukraine today?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have any information on Ukraine. They are voting but I don't have anything to say at this point.

QUESTION: There has been a lot of focus on what the more moderate elements of the Palestinian community are doing in trying to get organized. What is your understanding of what the more radical elements of the Palestinian Hamas, Islamic Jihad, have been doing since then? Do you see efforts on their part to assert themselves within the community since Arafat's death?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen anything that would suggest any major changes in their policies but I want to hear from the Palestinian leaders tomorrow about conversations that they have been having that I know of, to see what they have been able to do, and what influence that they have been able to apply to them. And that is one of the purposes of tomorrow's meetings.

Thank you.

2004/1245

[End]

Released on November 21, 2004


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