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Rice Interview With Israel Television Channel One

Interview With Ayala Hasson of Israel Television Channel One

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
February 6, 2005

QUESTION: Good evening, Madame Secretary. Since you are already in the region, given the American deep involvement in the peace process, it is a little bit puzzling that you are not taking part in the upcoming summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

SECRETARY RICE: Well we are very supportive of the summit that the Egyptians have arranged and the Jordanians will attend with Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas. We think this is a very important development. It is a good thing when parties in the region take these initiatives on their own and I have talked with my Egyptian counterpart, my Jordanian counterpart, and of course I am now meeting with the Prime Minister and with President Abbas tomorrow. We will be very active here in the region in helping the parties to move forward. But this is a good development for the parties and regional actors to do this that will take place in Cairo.

QUESTION: Now that Yasser Arafat has passed away, and it seems that Abu Mazen is a viable partner, do you think that Israel should drop the disengagement plan and move directly to bilateral talks with the Palestinians according to the Roadmap?

SECRETARY RICE: Well in fact I really do believe, and President Bush believes, that the disengagement plan is potentially of historic proportion, and that it is in fact one of the things that will help us to get back on to the Roadmap, perhaps even in a much accelerated fashion because the decision, I know very difficult decision, to disengage, to dismantle settlements in the Gaza and in the four West Bank cities creates a new dynamic on the ground. It gives to the Palestinians an opportunity to govern areas in which Israelis will no longer be. And so, we believe that the disengagement plan is actually helpful to moving forward on the Roadmap and ultimately then to the two-state solution.

QUESTION: Do you think Prime Minister Sharon should release Palestinian prisoners with blood on their hands, as a gesture to Abu Mazen?

SECETARY RICE: Well I would not presume to tell a democratically elected Israeli government which prisoners to release. Obviously the release of prisoners is an important part of the discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians and we are supportive of whatever it takes to move the process forward. But I would not presume to try to pronounce on any particular prisoner release.

QUESTION: Is that correct that you have warned Israeli officials from taking unilateral steps in the matter of Jerusalem?

SECRETARY RICE: We do believe that unilateral steps in Jerusalem, particularly those that might appear to pre-judge future discussions, would be unhelpful at this time. It is essential that the parties who we really do believe now have a new opportunity to move forward toward peace, that everything be done to make the circumstances and the conditions as favorable as possible. And so, we would hope that the Palestinians and the Israelis, as well as the neighborhood, would consider all steps in the context of what will contribute most to sustaining a momentum toward peace.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you think that Europe should play a major role in the Middle East conflict or should focus solely on humanitarian and economic aid?

SECRETARY RICE: Europe clearly has a role to play in supporting the peace process. It has a role to play in helping Palestinian reconstruction. It has a role to play in giving very strong signals to the Iranians and to the Syrians who support those who would try to frustrate the process, that is the rejectionist, that this is not going to be tolerated. We of course through the Quartet, the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, are parties to trying to help the parties progress on the Roadmap. And so there is a major role for the international community. But there is also a very important role for the regional states. It is one reason we are very pleased that Egypt and Jordan are doing what they will do in Cairo, but other Arab states also need to look to see what they can do to support progress toward peace that they have always said that they want to see.

QUESTION: In recent days during your journey through Europe, you have stated more than once that Iran is the main threat to world peace. If one ignores such statements and continues to develop a nuclear capability and continues to support terror, do you think that America will be obliged to use force against Iran at the end of the day.

SECRETARY RICE: Well Iran is clearly a major problem for the international system. I don't think we have to choose between threats. We unfortunately have several, but the Iranians, several serious ones Al Qaeda and the worldwide terrorist movement but certainly Iran is a problem. Iran is a problem because of its support of terrorism. It's a problem because it is seeking- under cover of civilian nuclear power development - activities that we believe could lead to a nuclear weapon. Iran is out of step with the kind of Middle East that we believe is starting to develop. So we believe that there are diplomatic means at our disposal, at the disposal of the international community to deal with the Iranian problem. What we need is unity of purpose; we need unity of message to the Iranians, so that the Iranians understand that they cannot be members in good standing in the international community and continue both the internal and external behaviors in which they are engaged.

QUESTION: And if they don't understand, Dr. Rice? If they don't understand?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm not going to speculate. The President always has options. But the President believes and I believe that this is a time for diplomacy and that diplomacy can succeed.

QUESTION: We'd like your opinion about Russians selling missiles to Syria, given that Syria supports terror and those missiles could fall into the hands of terrorists.

SECRETARY RICE: We've made very clear to the Russian government that we think it would be a mistake and indeed potentially destabilizing to have sales to Syria. At this point the Russians say that there is no such thing that they are going to do, and we hope that that is indeed the case. We understand that Russia has relations with Syria. A lot of people have relations with Syria. But what really needs to happen now is that all who have relations with Syria need to use those relations to convince the Syrians that it is time for them to end their support for terror; it is time for them to end their interference in the affairs of Lebanon; and it is time for Syria, if it wishes to be a member of the international community, to be more responsible in its behavior in international politics including in Iraq, where we are very concerned about support for the insurgency in Iraq that is coming from Syria.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary, for granting us this interview.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. It's good to be with you.

Released on February 6, 2005

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