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Rice Interview With Shireen Younes of Abu Dhabi TV

Interview With Shireen Younes of Abu Dhabi TV

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
February 7, 2005

QUESTION: Welcome to Abu Dhabi TV and to Al-Majal News Magazine. I will ask you first all about the Summit tomorrow. The United States of America is a major player in the solution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Why wouldn't an American senior official participate in this summit tomorrow?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we think it is a very positive development that the Israelis and Palestinians are going to Sharm el-Sheikh. We think it is an extremely positive development that Egypt has convened this summit and that Jordan will be there. Sometimes it is a very good thing that the parties themselves and the regional actors are able to move the process along and we are very supportive of that. I have talked with my Egyptian colleague and with my Jordanian colleague, and of course I have been here with Prime Minister Sharon and with President Abbas. So, the United States will be very involved, but it is also a very good thing, particularly when regional actors like Egypt and Jordan are leading it and involved.

Q UESTION: Madame Secretary, do you expect that this Summit will succeed even though we have the conflicts and positions between the Israelis and the Palestinians? The Israelis want to focus more on the security issues while the Palestinians will focus on their problems like fees, the checkpoints and the withdrawal from the Palestinian cities. Would you think that this will succeed?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we will encourage the parties and I am sure that they will come in the spirit of putting everything on the table. That is a concern to both parties. That is the role that we are now on. That is why there is some optimism, as both sides seem to understand that it is a time to try to make progress. Of course the security issues are critical, not just for Israelis but for Palestinians too. A better security environment will make it possible for Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian cities, it will make it possible for the Palestinians to resume a more normal life in terms of commerce, in terms of the freedom of movement, and a better security environment will, of course, then allow further progress toward the others goals of the parties. So, security environment is very important. So too are the issues that the Palestinians will bring about checkpoints and freedom of movement, about the route of the fence, but these are all related, and so ! it is a good thing that both parties bring their concerns so that they can be addressed at this summit.

QUESTION: On many occasions your Excellency has spoken about the important of the supporting a new Palestinian leadership. Which kind of support is the American administration planning to offer the Palestinians?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it is very important to support the new Palestinian leadership and also a democratic reform in the Palestinian territories, the Palestinian Authority. I will be speaking with President Abbas about some of the steps that we can take. The President announced in his State of the Union that we will make available to the Palestinians more assistance for humanitarian purposes and for reconstruction and development. We will also be working with others in the Quartet, in the EU in the World Bank to try and promote re-construction and development and assistance. The Palestinian people deserve a better life than they have had. I think you are seeing the international community rally around the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian leadership will have to make some difficult choices, to do some hard things concerning security, but they will find very good partners in the international community, and the United States will be foremost among them. ! ar

QUESTION: Does the American administration consider the disengagement plan a part of the Roadmap? Don't you think it shouldn't be a dual plan with the Palestinians?

SECRETARY RICE: The disengagement plan is an historic opportunity for the Palestinians to have territory returned to them, that can then begin to be the foundation for a new state. It is of course not just for Gaza, but four settlements in the West Bank, so there is a link between the Gaza and the West Bank in the plan. It will help the parties get back unto the Roadmap which is a specific series of steps that must be taken. But it is a very positive development, and we really hope that the Palestinian leadership will take advantage of this opportunity to move forward.

QUESTION: Despite the Israelis' commitment in the Roadmap to dismantle illegal settlements, a new report by Shalom Achshav, or Peace Now movement, shows that Israel hasn't dismantled any of these illegal settlements. What is your position? Did you discuss this issue with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday?

SECRETARY RICE: Well we have been very clear that we do not think that settlement activity contributes to the prospects for peace. Indeed in the Roadmap there are obligations concerning a freeze on settlements. I would note that the withdrawal from the Gaza of course, will result in the dismantling of settlements as will the withdrawal from four settlements in the West Bank. So, we can see some potential progress there. I have talked with Prime Minister Sharon about the understandings that I had when I was National Security Advisor with his Special Advisor, Mr. Dubi Weisglass. And we have asked and said to the Israelis that it is important to make progress on all of those, and that includes for instance the dismantling of illegal outposts.

QUESTION: The prisoners' issue is of great significance to the Palestinians, but Israel is not showing enough flexibility in the issue. Do you see a kind of any involvement, American involvement to solve this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the prisoner issue is a very difficult one of course, and I would hope that some progress could be made on that issue. I think that progress will be made on that issue. I would not presume to try and tell the parties which prisoners should be released, this is a very difficult situation and difficult issue. But I do think that as a part of a larger package, in which not just the Israelis but the Palestinians make difficult choices as well, that they will make progress on this very difficult issue.

In the long run, the security of both Israelis and Palestinians will depend on the ability of both sides to fight terror. On the ability to have, as President Abbas has put it, one authority and one gun. So, the re-unification of the Palestinian security forces, the restruction of the security forces is something else that I think the United States will be able to be helpful with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: My last question, please. Which guarantees can the American administration grant to Chairman Abbas in order to achieve a cease-fire agreement with the opposition Islamic movements.

SECRETARY RICE: The very best thing that we can say I think that the United States can say to President Abbas, is that we are working very, very hard with everyone to try and give this new Palestinian leadership a chance to make good decisions on behalf of the Palestinian people. That will include financial support. It will include political support. It will include training and security. It will include efforts with other parties to get them to be active. One thing that is very important is that the other parties in the region support this Palestinian leadership, and they can do that in two important ways. financial support: there are a number of states that have made pledges to support the Palestinians financially that have not been fulfilled. They need to be fulfilled. There is also the matter of telling those who would try and disrupt the process that is the rejectionists, the terrorists that they will get no support from states i! n the region, that they will get no support from the Europeans because in order to have peace, everyone will have to make difficult decisions, and that includes the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Arab neighbors, the Europeans, and the United States.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary of the United States, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, thank you very much for being with us.



Released on February 7, 2005

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