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Condoleezza Rice Interview With Al Quds

Interview With Mohammed Abu Khdier and Marwan Abu Zalaf of Al Quds

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
January 14, 2007

QUESTION: So what is the purpose of your visit? I've seen on Al Jazeera so we know, but can you give us something more exciting?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I came out to talk to all the concerned parties, but particularly of course to President Abbas and I will talk tomorrow to Prime Minister Olmert about how to sustain momentum in improvements in Palestinian-Israeli relations, building on the meeting that President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had, but also to show the commitment of the United States to deepening our own involvement. I've been personally very involved. I've been here eight times, three times since September. But I think that there may be an opening now to see if we can accelerate progress on the roadmap and then also to begin to talk about how that roadmap can lead to the establishment of the Palestinian state because it would be a very, very good thing from the point of view of the United States, President Bush personally, in our last two years to --

QUESTION: Achieve something.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, to make that a commitment. And so that's what we're --

QUESTION: Because that's what the President wanted two, three years ago when he came up with a plan.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Well, all the way back in 2001, you know, he talked about the need for a Palestinian state. And so trying to work toward that vision is very important.

QUESTION: So are you cooperating with the Quartet now, you know, with the European Union?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Chancellor Merkel, who -- Germany will, of course, become the President of the European Union -- was in Washington just ten days ago or so. I talked to Javier Solana on the phone and to Sergey Lavrov before I left and to Ban Ki-moon, and I think we will probably try to have a Quartet meeting very soon.

QUESTION: Give it a push?

SECRETARY RICE: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: What can you say about the -- Mr. Olmert partial complements with the -- commitment to Mr. Abbas after last meeting in Jerusalem? No money transfer, no prisoner were released, no roadblock were removed.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, actually, I've heard that on some of the movement and access issues things are starting to move somewhat better in some places. It will have to -- it should accelerate. There is no doubt about that.

I think -- I hope that the money transfer will be forthcoming soon. Sometimes it takes time to work through certain technical aspects of that. But I know that Prime Minister Olmert made commitments that he intends to keep, and I'm going to talk to him tomorrow about the importance of those commitments because, again, we want to sustain the momentum that has been achieved here.

QUESTION: How does the U.S. Administration view -- stand vis-Ã -vis roadmap plan outlook to President Bush to the Palestinian state along -- Israel still building settlement, still building the wall? How come --

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, we are very committed to the roadmap and to the obligations there and I talk all the time to the Israelis about their activity that is prohibited by the roadmap. In fact, we issued a statement I think two or three weeks ago concerning settlement activity and we will continue to do that.

But the most important commitment that the President has made is that the United States does not accept that unilateral steps can prejudge the outcome of final settlement. And so whatever steps are taken cannot be considered to be a fait accompli, so to speak. These are still issues for final status.

QUESTION: How do you look to the fighting between the Palestinians themselves, Hamas and Fatah?

SECRETARY RICE: You know, it's a very sad thing and Palestinians should be living together in peace. I know how important that is to President Abbas. I know how much it hurts him to see violence between Palestinians.

But I think it's also important to recognize that a Palestinian government that can truly represent the interests of the Palestinian people will be a Palestinian government that can accept international obligations that Palestinian leaders have undertaken for decades now.

And so the problem here is that when Hamas was elected, and we fully respect that there was an election, one would have thought that there would have been then a recognition of the need to accept certain international norms and certain international standards. And I know that President Abbas believes that the Palestinian people deserve a government that is internationally acceptable, and so we support his efforts to try and do that.

QUESTION: They are looking now -- they discuss about solve this problem between Hamas and Fatah and some idea, maybe they success to get unity government between Hamas, and do you support this kind of government?

SECRETARY RICE: First of all, it's an issue for Palestinians. But the -- what President Abbas has said to me and he's said publicly is it must be a government that can gain international acceptability. And that means that it has to respect certain principles, live up to the obligations --

QUESTION: Agreements.

SECRETARY RICE: Right, past agreements of former Palestinian leaders. Obviously you can't be a partner for peace if you don't recognize the right of the other partner to exist even, and so it's extremely important that those conditions be met. But there would be nothing better than to have all Palestinian factions united around a program that is -- that accepts the past obligations of Palestinian leaders and past agreements.

QUESTION: Mishal is becoming -- is maybe softening his attitude. You know, a few days ago he said now we recognize that there's an Israel, that there are boundaries and all that. So maybe that's a step forward.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, I used to be a student of the Soviet Union and we used to engage in Kremlinology, we called it. What did this word mean and what does that word mean? I think it's really better just to be straightforward. Either Hamas will accept the obligations and the --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I hope so because it would be a good thing for the Palestinian people if everyone would unite around Abu Mazen's plan.

QUESTION: And of course, for 20 years they've been saying since they've been established there is no Israel, no Israeli -- something they change -- say there is and it's difficult, you know. We have to accept, you know, step by step -- I think the people.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think the issue is though they are now in a position of responsibility. The Palestinian people went to the polls to have, I think, a better life, not to --

QUESTION: A change for the better.

SECRETARY RICE: A change for the better. And so there's a responsibility to respond to that and I agree with Abu Mazen, and by the way with Arab states, that that better life is only going to come in the context of the roadmap and a two-state solution. And so any government needs to be based on that program.

QUESTION: How do you view the Israel and transferring and Rafah border closure?

QUESTION: Controlling.

QUESTION: And make the situation very bad -- suffering. You were involved in the Rafah (inaudible).

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, yeah, I negotiated that agreement. On my birthday. (Laughter.) November of 2005.

Look, a lot has happened since that agreement was signed. There has been then a lot of violence in Gaza and a lot of difficulties. But again, my reports are that things are improving at Rafah, that Karni is operating more continuously. And our General Keith Dayton, who works on issues here, security issues, is working every day to work with the Israelis, to work with the Palestinians, to work with the Egyptians to try and make sure that movement and access is eased because that's very important for the day-to-day life of Palestinians and that's why we thought that was such an important agreement. So we're committed to making it work.

QUESTION: We hear a lot about -- in the media or some reports speak about the Palestinian state and temporary border. Do you support this plan?


QUESTION: Livni speak about it.

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, this is something that's in -- that is there in the roadmap as a possibility. But I think we ought to focus on what would it take to establish a Palestinian state. What are the steps that we need to take? What needs to be resolved? Because I said earlier and I really mean it, the Palestinian people have waited a long time to have a state. They've waited a long time and they have had to put up with, as the President has called it, daily humiliations of not having a state. The Israeli people have waited a long time to feel secure in their state. And so I really hope that we can make real progress toward resolving this because if you have two states living side by side in peace and democracy, this would make a very big difference for the Middle East but it would especially make a big difference for Israeli people and for Palestinian people. And so that's what I'm focused on, not is it temporary. Let's work on the --

QUESTION: And we have to reach --

SECRETARY RICE: Let's work on the establishment of a Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Do you think the view of President Bush will be implemented in one year after (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I can only guarantee you one thing. We're only here for two more years and then I'm going back to California, so we're going to push as hard as we can.

QUESTION: It will be nice if something can be achieved this next year.

SECRETARY RICE: It would be very, very good because, as I said, the Palestinian people have been without a state for so long.

QUESTION: So why doesn't President Bush make a big initiative, say I want to hold a conference somewhere?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, we've learned some important lessons. I have -- I'm an academic, so when I start -- when I'm worrying about a problem, I go and I read a lot of the history. And it does seem to me that when there have been -- there's been too big initiatives with perhaps too high expectations, then frustration sets in very early.

I think that there is a lot of groundwork that we need to do. I think there are a lot of discussions that need to be held. But let's prepare carefully and thoroughly, but that doesn't mean that we can't do so urgently. But I do think that the big conference at this point may not be helpful. If a conference --

QUESTION: Not now. Maybe in time.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, and if it comes -- if it -- when it looks helpful to do so, I think it's not a problem to do it.

QUESTION: But this way you give encouragement to the people, to the extremists, I want to say, on both sides that there might be a ray of hope in the -- at the end of the talks --


QUESTION: -- (inaudible) things that that might quite work.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, although if the extremists can exploit something that's not working, that also, because the extremists will never want this to work. There will always be someone who doesn't want this to work. So I think let's -- I'm going to continue these discussions. I'm going tonight to Jordan. Tomorrow I meet Prime Minister Olmert. I'll go to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, and -- because I think it's extremely important that the Arab states also support whatever steps we take and so --

QUESTION: You're going to have a summit between the four presidents, four leaders?

SECRETARY RICE: No, I'm going to see everybody individually.

QUESTION: Would you like to have a meeting like that planned in this trip?

SECRETARY RICE: It's a possibility, but I think rather than worrying about what forum we will take I think we need to worry about how -- the substance that we're achieving.

QUESTION: You are going to visit Kuwait. Why Kuwait?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, because in -- well, first, I haven't had an official visit to Kuwait. Kuwait is a good ally of the United States. But I will also have a meeting there of the GCC+2 which is -- has become a very effective group to talk about what we can do to support those who are fighting extremism. So we will talk of course about Lebanon, I will brief them on the President's plans on Iraq, and we will most certainly talk about how to accelerate progress in the Palestinian-Israeli issue.

QUESTION: One question about the mission of General Dayton. Did he achieve the objective that he --

SECRETARY RICE: Yes, I think General Dayton is doing a very good job. I just hope that people understand that this is a part of an international effort. This is not an American plan for security. It is the Palestinians who have obligations under the roadmap who -- all the way back to Oslo was expected to have certain kinds of security forces. And so what General Dayton is doing is to help with that plan. But he has counterparts from the European Union. You know, he has a Canadian counterpart with whom he works very closely. So that is his mission is to help to train and equip security forces for the Palestinian Authority.

Pardon me?

QUESTION: Did he --

SECRETARY RICE: He's going a very good job. This is something that takes some time, but I think we're making progress.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary.




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