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Colin L. Powell Remarks to the Press in Jericho

Remarks to the Press in Jericho

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Central Elections Commission District Office
Jericho
November 22, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be back in Jericho and to have had the opportunity to meet with the Palestinian leadership; you know I met with Abu Ala'a and Abu Mazen as well as President Fattouh and other members of the Palestinian Authority government. I am very pleased to learn from them how seriously they're taking the upcoming elections that will be held on the ninth of January. I'm pleased with the level of coordination and cooperation that exists between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, to make sure that those elections can be held. The Israeli authorities said to me earlier that they will do everything that they can to permit freedom of movement and access for candidates as well as for voters on election day, and both sides seem confident that they'll be able to work out a solution for the question of people living in Jerusalem, to have their ballots counted, as well. Both sides believe that the model that was used in 1996 is a model that should be applicable to the current situation.

I brought to the Palestinian leaders our sympathies over the death of Chairman Arafat, who meant so much to the Palestinian people. Then we talked about the opportunities now to move forward; the opportunities for them to aggressively pursue a reform agenda. They talked about what they are doing with respect to the consolidation of security forces under the Minister of Interior and reporting to the Prime Minister and the Council of Government, and some of the other reform efforts that they have under way. They have financial needs, and I will be discussing those financial needs with my Quartet partners in Sharm El-Sheikh tomorrow, and then, when I get back to Washington, examining what we may be able to do to assist them.

The issue of security was discussed in both Jerusalem this morning and here in Jericho. In order for this process to move forward and for us to achieve our goals of a Palestinian state that will be living in peace side by side with Israel, we have to make sure that terrorists are not permitted to once again stop this process. Both sides understand the need for ending terror and ending the incitement to terror, and providing security for people so that they can live safely in their homes wherever those homes may be in this land.

And so, I thanked my Palestinian colleagues for their commitment to moving forward, and I said to them that the cooperation we have seen in recent weeks since the death of Chairman Arafat, as they worked through the funeral arrangements and arranged for security during the funeral proceedings. It is perhaps indicative of what can be achieved in the months ahead as they go to elections and from there on to the disengagement process from Gaza later in the summer. Both sides expressed their complete commitment to the Road Map as the only way forward, and no jumping over steps in the Road Map, but moving through the Road Map as it is intended to be used. I will be conveying these messages to my Quartet partners tomorrow, as I mentioned. I also look forward to discussing these matters with other leaders who will be attending the summit meeting of ministers at Sharm El-Sheikh tomorrow. I'll take some questions and then move on.

QUESTION: My first question: can you give us some detail what was discussed with the Palestinian leaders, and you already said you are going to support the election? How are you going to support it in this situation? The West Bank and Gaza, closure and the wall, and all these?

SECRETARY POWELL: In order for the election to be held in a successful way, there needs to be a greater openness and access so people can participate in the debate over the various candidates and that they can actually vote. The Palestinian Authority leaders I spoke to yesterday today rather made it clear that this was a requirement. It is also a requirement to find a way to have the voters in Jerusalem participate. We discussed in some detail the reform efforts they have underway. We discussed in some detail the financial needs they have, and committed ourselves once again not to unilateral action but to actions that are consistent with the Road Map. The United States will help by our political support, our diplomatic support, working with the international community for whatever international support might be required in the form of observers. And, there is a need for some financial support, which I will be talking to the international community about. I can't give you specifics on financial support right now until I have a chance to examine what the United States is able to do, as well as what other members of the international community are able to do.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I could ask a little bit more about the possible US assistance? First, in terms of observers, you mentioned international observers is there an intention for the US to send observers? And also, on the financial piece of it, is what you heard here today enough, do you think, to allay congressional concerns about direct aid to the Palestinian Authority?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I can't answer that until I've actually talked to congressional leaders. But I think this is a moment of opportunity that should not be lost, and I think that what I have heard today suggests that the Palestinian Authority is committed to reform. The way in which they handled the transition period after Chairman Arafat's death, where they worked out, in accordance with their basic law, how to move forward and how to appoint new leadership until such time as an election is held, is indicative of their commitment to following correct processes and procedures. And so, I will convey that message of progress, and the encouragement I draw from that message, to congressional leaders when I get back to Washington. I cannot tell you whether or not it would be enough, but I think we can make a pretty good case that this is the time to assist the Palestinians as they go forward. This is the time to assist them in holding a good, solid election on the ninth of January.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, on the American observers?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have any details for you now on what observers might be appropriate. There are a lot of people in the region now who are able to provide observer functions, and what more might be required, I'll just have to wait and see. I don't have an answer for you now.

QUESTION: Maha Awad, Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, Voice of Palestine; may I ask my question in Arabic language please? (in Arabic) Mr. Secretary, my question is related to the second term of the Bush administration and how would the second term Bush administration be able to achieve its objectives regarding the peace process, particularly in light of the departure of some people who represent the moderate line, if you wish? How will they be able, during the second term, to achieve the objectives of the Road Map?

SECRETARY POWELL: Even though there are changes in personalities within the administration, and I am one of those changes, what remains constant is President Bush's commitment to the creation of a Palestinian state, as he has laid it out in his speech to the United Nations, as he has laid it out in his 24 June 2002 speech; that hasn't changed. What has changed is a new set of circumstances in the aftermath of the Chairman's passing. With new leaders coming forward from the Palestinian side, or a new arrangement of leaders on the Palestinian side, and with an election coming up, I think it gives us the opportunity to reenergize the roadmap process. Already, in the last several weeks we have seen a level of coordination and cooperation between the two sides that is encouraging, and the President will take advantage of that.

The new team coming in, Dr. Rice and Mr. Hadley, have been intimately involved with all of our efforts here over the last several years, and I am sure they will be able to continue that work. What we are doing is carrying out the President's policy, which has been consistent over the past several years and will be consistent for the next four years, and that is to help the Palestinian people acquire a state of their own, living in peace with the State of Israel, and to do it as soon as possible. People have asked me whether it can be done by the end of 2005, or the end of 2009. The answer to that question is it can only be determined by what happens on the ground and by actions that happen in the area, and it can only happen when the two parties themselves negotiate with each other on all of the outstanding issues, especially the final status issues. We cannot predict when that will happen. We want it as soon as possible. The President would like to see it happen immediately, but it will take time. And it will take good will on the part of both sides.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you told us before we arrived that you wanted to discuss with Palestinian leaders what their impression was of whether some of the more violent factions were maneuvering for influence and control. Can you tell us what you learned, and can you also tell us whether you believe Foreign Minister Shalom was accurate this morning when he said that he believed Hezbollah was the major driving force for terror now here via Syria and Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to Palestinian organizations, what I heard from the Palestinian leadership is they are working hard with all of them to try to draw them into the political process and away from any acts of terror or violence that would essentially stop the political process. Some organizations will be easier to manage than others, but they are working with all, and trying to find ways to integrate those that have had a violent history into this process, by getting them to abandon that history, turn in their weapons, and find ways to absorb them, and to absorb them safely, for their own safety and for the safety of the society.

With respect to what Mr. Shalom said earlier, we know that Hezbollah is an organization that is committed to terror, and we know that they get support from Iran and Syria. And it is a matter of continuing discussion with Syria and, through intermediaries, with Iran, as well.

QUESTION: (in Arabic) Mr. Secretary, I'm with MBC, I have a question. You have mentioned that engaging the two sides together does not mean that they will overjump certain phases in the Road Map. Does that mean that you have sensed from discussing the issues with the Israeli side that they will be prepared to work with the Palestinian side, coordinate the issue of withdrawal? And how does that fit as a part and parcel of the Road Map itself?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think that I made any reference to jumping over parts of the Road Map; in fact, the Road Map has to be followed as it is designed or it loses its integrity. As the process moves forward toward disengagement from Gaza and the four West Bank settlements as the beginning of a process of getting more deeply into the Road Map, there will be a need for coordination between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I am reasonably confident after my discussions today that that coordination is set to take place. Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. 2004/1248

###

[End]

Released on November 22, 2004


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