Secretary Rice Roundtable With Traveling Press
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
March 30, 2008
Roundtable With Traveling Press
QUESTION: There is nothing in the statement about removal of any checkpoints in - particularly around Jericho. There is reference to the roadblocks but not to specific checkpoints. One, can you explain what roadblocks means? Is it meaning sort of dirt mound (inaudible) people? And second, did you want to get a commitment on moving specific checkpoints, including those in Jericho?
SECRETARY RICE: I think we've gotten, or the two parties have agreed to, a set of steps that constitute a very good start to improving movement and access, improving potential economic prospects for Palestinians, and to gaining some momentum on the track that has to do with on-the-ground.
Let me just explain, though, that the whole point here is not to try and isolate and say we remove that or remove that. The whole point here is to have an integrated approach that looks at the security, looks at the movement and access issues, and looks at the potential for economic prospects, and then comes up with concrete steps that can move all three together in an integrated fashion.
So that's the idea, to be very concrete about an area like Jenin and what needs to be done. They'll look at other areas in turn. But this is a more integrated approach and a more concrete approach, and I think it's a very good stand.
QUESTION: Are there more -- are there specifics on which 50 --
SECRETARY RICE: General Fraser will be following up on the specifics and will be also -- the term that he uses is not verifying, but making certain that, in fact, there are 50 and that they are being removed and that they, in fact, have some impact on the access issue.
QUESTION: Can you give a sense whether those 50 -- and you use the term -- roadblocks, what you mean by that? Do you mean things as simple as, you know, dirt barriers, or do you mean actual checkpoints where people stop (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: I think that the specific of this are -- have been worked out by the Ministry of Defense. They will -- we will be verifying what it is they're doing. But this is all aimed at trying to improve the movement and access for the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: Well, Israel has promised to remove roadblocks in the past and, in fact, the number of roadblocks has increased since Annapolis.
SECRETARY RICE: That's right. That's why I said we'll be monitoring and verifying.
QUESTION: Well, you've been trying to monitor and verify for two and a half years now.
SECRETARY RICE: No, well, but this is a very specific commitment. And no, we actually haven't been monitoring and verifying for the last two and a half years. We've been monitoring and verifying since Annapolis. One of the --
QUESTION: Have your access and movement agreement (inaudible) --
SECRETARY RICE: One of the reasons for the agreement that we have here is that, in fact, we want to be much more systematic about what is being promised and what is being done than I think we have been able to be prior to the -- to General Fraser's mission. So I think it's a very much more systematic approach.
QUESTION: Is there a timeline for removing the roadblocks?
SECRETARY RICE: We've been told that this is going to start and hopefully even be completed in a relatively short period of time. I'm not going to try to give you a date, but I'm expecting -- I'm expecting it to happen very, very soon.
QUESTION: What about on the permits for the significant opportunities? Is there a number on that or is it just kind of (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, no. They and the Palestinians are coming to terms on specific (inaudible). But I expect it will be significant as well.
QUESTION: Can I just ask -- this is kind of a step-back question --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- but it's specific to the -- what happened this afternoon, the trilat? Why didn't you come out and read the statement then? Was it not ready to go?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, because I had been with Defense Minister Barak for quite a long time and he needed to go. I also was about to have lunch with Prime Minister Fayyad and didn't want to cut that short. And I wanted to make sure that we reviewed the text with both sides.
QUESTION: Okay. And there were obviously -- then there were no hitches.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, if I can ask kind of a step-back question, too. Prime Minister Olmert is obviously under pressure from the right in his coalition -- (inaudible) settlements of Jerusalem -- and he's also a little bit under pressure from the Defense Minister, who has been criticizing his own party for not doing enough to advance the peace process. You've invested a lot of time with Barak on these kinds of issues. How can this be sustained by you and Prime Minister Olmert when he can barely keep his coalition together these issues?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, this is a democracy and Prime Minister Olmert is the Prime Minister of Israel, and I think he is -- he intends to deliver on the obligations that Israel has undertaken as the Prime Minister of Israel. And I've been very clear that I thought more needed to be done in terms of some of those obligations. This is a start in terms of delivering on some of those obligations.
But I have a very good relationship with Ehud Barak as well. We've talked several times. I think one step that was very good here was the meeting of Salam Fayyad and Barak, face-to-face, I guess Wednesday night, which really, after the work that General Jones and Fraser and Dayton have done here, is trying to take a somewhat different approach to this problem: rather than just saying remove this or remove that, let's talk about what effect it will really have.
One of the interesting discussions that we had in the trilateral, without getting into too many specifics, was to look at what kind of removal of certain obstacles might really have an effect on people trying to get from Point A to Point B, rather than just saying remove something. What's really going to be the effect? What effect would that have on the economic life in that corridor? What effect will that have on the ability of an investor to go ahead, as Tony Blair is trying to get people to do, to put a project there? Does it have the security arrangements that would make it an attractive place for an investor? Does it have the access that will allow workers to get back and forth?
That's the kind of integrated approach that I think the two of them are trying to pursue now. And I think you'll see more of this kind of approach and the sorts of things that you see here, but increasingly tied to specific areas to integrate the security, the movement issues and the economic issues.
QUESTION: What's the Defense Minister's main reluctance? His own personal experience with a process like this, or is it security? What does he tell you --
SECRETARY RICE: Look, I find that the Defense Minister worked very hard to work on this. He is the Defense Minister. There are real security concerns as well. And no one wants to have something that we've done to improve movement and access result in a breakdown in security. It doesn't help the Palestinians. It doesn't help the Israelis. It doesn't help the peace process going forward. And so I just want to emphasize again that, to the degree that we can take these elements together -- security, movement and economic prospects together -- I think we're going to make more progress. But I've not been at all unclear that I think that the -- there has not been enough momentum since the beginning of the year --
QUESTION: How long have you been not at all unclear? I know you've been pushing this issue for a while.
SECRETARY RICE: I've -- yes --
QUESTION: How many months have you been working to --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I really believe that you could -- if you look at Annapolis, holidays, all of that, that really since the first of the year and -- or since the really middle of January when we appointed General Fraser and got this process into place, we've had, I believe, the kind of disciplined, systematic process where you can make assessments and say obstacles have gone from this number to that number, now we need to -- upwards. Now we need to not just start to reverse that, but start to reduce them, and then you can have a process for determining what that effect will be on movement and access, on economics, on security.
One of the pledges here that I think you should note is that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank should assume greater responsibility. That's an important statement from both sides. It doesn't say that they're going to have their places where they can't have full responsibility; they're not yet ready. But they're going to start to incrementally take more responsibility.
Those are the kinds of steps forward that will sustain this process if everybody keeps moving in the way that they have. But you're right; I have a lot of experience now with movement and access issues, going back to the end of 2005, and I -- I've become convinced of two things. The first is that you don't get really good movement on movement and access unless you have a political prospect, which is why this is attached to another track of Annapolis, which is the political -- the process, the prospect of statehood, if you will. And secondly, that you don't get very far by kind of generalized requests that things be moved. You need to be pretty specific in a way that harmonizes security interests, movement issues and economic interests.
And I think if you -- I've talked to Tony Blair about this. One of the issues that he's had in trying to move forward some of the projects is investors or others who say, well, you know, how are we going to get the movement issues assessed here or how are we going to deal with the security requirements here. And so this is a package and that's why it looks the way that it does.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you talked just now about the movement and access and stuff on the ground versus the political prospect. Increasingly --
SECRETARY RICE: Not versus. In parallel with.
QUESTION: In parallel with. I guess that's my question. Increasingly, I'm hearing Israelis say, you know, we're doing well on the final status talks, but you know, the situation on the ground is such that they could envision a case where we get to a shelf agreement on the core issues but that they don't implement it because the Roadmap stuff hasn't been -- hasn't been implemented. Would you be satisfied with that, or do you think you can get both?
SECRETARY RICE: The reason that Annapolis is structured the way that it is, is that we believe these need to move together. The reason that we talk about subject to the Roadmap in terms of the implementation of the peace agreement is that it's very hard to imagine the establishment of a state in which you haven't been able to meet those conditions. But I don't expect anyone to wait on the movement of the Roadmap obligations, to sort of wait for an agreement and then say, oh, the Roadmap obligations haven't been met. The whole purpose is to move these along together.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you spoke about the security forces in -- the Palestinian security forces. We were expecting an announcement on some armored vehicles that --
SECRETARY RICE: I think you'll find that -- I will -- I think you should address that to the Israelis, but I think you'll find we've made movement on that.
QUESTION: The security issue -- is that an endorsement of what they've done in Nablus and with the training that's going on in Jordan? Do you feel like that's been a success so far and that it can be expanded?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I believe that, you know, as with everything, it's not a perfect situation. But the ability to deploy to Nablus was clearly a step forward for the Palestinians, and they're having an effect.
And as to the training in Jordan, General Jones and General Fraser have both seen it. They think it's going to be very effective in producing that battalion that will be capable and ready. We have been having discussions about where it might deploy. Salam Fayyad wants to go back and take a look at that because he wants to see if he's already got enough forces in some places, where else it might be able to deploy. But I don't think there's any doubt that the training that's going on in Jordan -- we believe is going to produce an effective force. The question is to keep that going because, obviously, you're going to need more and more of these forces. The Germans have offered, you might note, to host a kind of conference at some point to bring together those who might contribute to putting more resources into the training and equipping of Palestinian forces.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice, two questions, if I may.
SECRETARY RICE: Sure.
QUESTION: The first is, have you had any discussions on reopening the crossings in and out of Gaza? And the second question is Palestinians say that the security forces in Nablus are undercut by the fact that the Israeli army is coming in to Nablus fairly frequently. Do you have any guarantee that the same thing won't happen in Jenin?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you know, I think the President spoke to this when he was in Ramallah -- I think it was during his trip here -- which is that, obviously, we understand that security -- there are security demands. There has to be, however, space for Palestinian security forces to operate, to mature in their operations and to become ever more responsible for the security obligations that they've undertaken. And so there's a balance to be maintained here, but the security forces of the Palestinians are going -- do need space to operate.
I'm sorry, the first part of your question was on?
QUESTION: Whether you've had any discussions about reopening the crossings --
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, yes. Right, right. We have talked about Gaza and, as you know, the Quartet has been supportive of the concept of the reopening of crossings, particularly Rafah, at some point when it can be done -- and by the way, the Egyptians are a major voice in that -- and to have, as was envisioned in the movement and access agreement in 2005, a Palestinian Authority element, a European monitoring element, and, of course, all of the other arrangements that were in place. And we'll continue to discuss that.
There will need to be a sustainable solution for Gaza in the long run. Of course, the best solution is when Hamas no longer holds those people hostage and allows a return to the legitimate Palestinian Authority that should be in Gaza. But in the meantime, we continue to discuss with Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians ways to ease the circumstances of the innocent people of Gaza who have the bad fortune to be living under Hamas misrule.
QUESTION: Can I ask something off topic?
SECRETARY RICE: Are you going to get more on topic than Janine? (Laughter.) I'll come back to you. I promise you.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the issue of specificity? Because you guys are always very careful with your words, and when I read both we're beginning removal of about 50 roadblocks and immediate steps to upgrade checkpoints, I conclude that the 50 roadblocks are not checkpoints. Am I correct in understanding it that way?
SECRETARY RICE: I think that that's right. But the question is not just a category -- roadblocks or checkpoints -- but what does it do to allow people to move freely. That's really the question we're -- (cell phone rings).
QUESTION: Can you provide greater specificity on what kinds of routes those are likely to be, where you get more --
SECRETARY RICE: I am not able to do that personally. But the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister know this territory extremely well and are having discussions about that, as are their people.
QUESTION: And then just one other thing on specifics. Did you not -- and there's a absence of a number in terms of the easing of -- you know, the provision of additional travel permits for business people --
SECRETARY RICE: I --
QUESTION: Did you not (inaudible) specific number number --
SECRETARY RICE: I know what they're contemplating, but I think that's for them to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Is it the 1,500 that's been in the press lately?
SECRETARY RICE: I know what they're contemplating, but it's not for me to say.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, 18,000 are currently --
QUESTION: Is there a specific about 50? Is there a specific number other than about 50?
SECRETARY RICE: Let me --
QUESTION: And do you know where these -- where exactly --
SECRETARY RICE: It is not for me to speak on behalf of either the Palestinian Authority or the Israeli Government on every issue. I'm sure that they will make an announcement of their own.
QUESTION: Okay. And on the -- the second page, which has these -- it's my understanding that a lot of these things had been agreed on previously. Is that not correct? Like the Tarqumiya project?
SECRETARY RICE: No, as a matter of fact, some of these were a part of the discussions on Wednesday night, but most of these items are not -- have not been agreed in -- Tarqumiya has been a question of working on locations and the like. But this is the commitment to do it.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion of the removal of either a checkpoint or a roadblock near Jericho, or did that not come up?
SECRETARY RICE: I'm not going to get into details on what we discussed. But again, we're trying to take an approach that is consistent with security, movement and economic development so that it's not just -- so that it's not just remove something that may not have any effect or that may adversely affect security but is not really critical to economic activity. It really is an effort now to put these three elements together and to make decisions on that basis.
QUESTION: Is this something that you've learned? Because when you started, you said you'd studied what everybody had done before you; you wanted to try something different.
SECRETARY RICE: Right.
QUESTION: And here we are two and a half years after the access and movement agreement still talking about access and movement. Is it frustrating? Is this a change in effort on your part?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, I think that was really in reference to the peace talks themselves that I was talking about. But access and movement is difficult because it does have real security implications and it has real quality of life and economic implications for the Palestinians, security implications for the Israelis and the Palestinians, and ease of life and economic activity for the Palestinians.
And I frankly think that one of the problems with the November agreement of 2005, if you remember, it came as we were working or had done the Gaza disengagement, but we were not -- they were not yet in a position to really have the launch of a serious set of political negotiations that had the prospect of statehood. And it becomes a little bit chicken-and-egg. There's certain things that people are more willing to contemplate as it really does appear that statehood is possible. There are greater incentives to do things, I think, in terms of the restructuring of security forces and the training of them and the responsibilities they undertake. When I said -- now it must have been more than a year ago that a political horizon was essential to making progress on the ground, I think that was the -- that was important.
And in order to get there, we had to think about how to keep the discipline of the Roadmap without the constraint of the phases of the Roadmap, which is really what the Annapolis process did. If you remember, the Roadmap had anticipated it should finish all of the phases -- all of phase one of the Roadmap, maybe some of phase two, and then you would go to phase three, which was the negotiations on final status. And with some ups and downs, what Annapolis did was really to put these not in sequence but in parallel. And I think that has helped, but now making sure that the movement and access issues are really aimed at the right thing, that the obligations and promises that are made are really aimed at having effect on the ground and that we have a really systematic way to know what's happening on the ground.
One thing that we've done, the United States has done, is we have improved the ability of our monitor, our head of our committee, to move around himself and to see things personally. And I think that's been important.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, during your talks with the Israelis, did you raise the question of the settlements? They said recently that they were going to keep building new settlements.
SECRETARY RICE: It's very clear, and of course, I've raised this issue, that Israel has a Roadmap obligation here that is essential. And what's very important is that the reason that obligation is there is that there cannot be anything that prejudges a final status agreement. And that's why people concern themselves with this particular obligation. And yes, we've talked about it.
QUESTION: Going back to Arshad's insistence on the specificity issue, I mean, you came into this and you said, you know, the general -- not general person, but general ideas don't work, you need to be specific. For something that needs to be specific, this seems pretty unspecific in a lot of --
SECRETARY RICE: No, it's not at all unspecific.
QUESTION: But what does it mean -- you know, are there numbers here for the PA will deploy security forces, to deploy law and order? What is it -- what is Israel is going to do to take steps to give access --
SECRETARY RICE: Let me point you to the sentence before.
QUESTION: All right.
SECRETARY RICE: Which is that there is a view that Jenin is a place where a lot of progress could be made and where you could begin to put the elements in a way that gives you a kind of model for continuing to expand that. So this actually relates to the point about --
QUESTION: Right. But when it says -- you know, what specifically is Israel going to do to make access -- to ease access and movement to the -- should we assume that the 50 roadblocks are mainly concentrated around --
SECRETARY RICE: The Prime Minister and the Defense Minister and, in fact, General Jones when he was here and General Fraser, are looking at specifically what needs to be done in Jenin and beyond on this matter. I'm not trying to solve all these problems myself today, okay?
QUESTION: Fair enough.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary?
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
QUESTION: It seems that before Annapolis there was the talk of an agreement within a year, a final status agreement. And then in the last couple of months, we've kind of moved backwards and we're talking about a framework agreement, a declaration of principles, and both -- Prime Minister Olmert has said it'll be impossible to implement an agreement by the end of the year. And now --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, now, just a second. You just used a different verb.
SECRETARY RICE: Okay. To implement an agreement by the end of the year? We said that there -- that we would hope that there would be an agreement by the end of the year. As the President said recently, there's still plenty of time to do that. It obviously will take some time, if you just look at all the things that will have to be done in order to implement an agreement, I think nobody is expecting that you can fully implement an agreement by the end of the year.
QUESTION: But if I understand that, if I'm not mistaken, now they're not even talking about a detailed agreement. They're talking about some sort of --
SECRETARY RICE: I don't think that's accurate.
QUESTION: You don't think that's accurate. So you don't have a sense that you're moving backwards at all or that --
SECRETARY RICE: Quite the opposite. But the reason that this is somewhat difficult for everybody is that the parties have really been faithful to their agreement not to talk about what they're talking about. And there's great discipline on both sides in that regard. And I think Tzipi Livni probably said it best this morning when she said, you know, I know that the absence of talking about what -- the progress we're making could be taken as absence of progress. I would just say from my point of view, the fact that they don't rush to the microphones every day to talk about what each other said and try to characterize the other side and back the other side into a corner is a very positive development in the way these things very often go.
QUESTION: Does that mean -- does that mean you're going to surprise us with, out of the blue, there's going to be a final status agreement three weeks from now? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That gets back to my point. It just seems as if we're going toward a place where there's going to be a final status agreement and the implementation is going to come -- they're going to say five years later because they haven't met the Roadmap.
SECRETARY RICE: That's why we're working on Roadmap obligations and --
QUESTION: So you're not going to have one without the other? If, you know --
SECRETARY RICE: Helene, these are parallel tracks. But again, I would like anyone to show me how you actually establish a state without having met most of the obligations or the obligations that are in the first phase of the Roadmap. So they go together. But what we had to break through is the idea that this was all sequential, that you just -- you will remember that for not too long ago there was a lot of talk that until all the obligations of the Roadmap are met, we can't even talk about final status. And then we said, well no, there had to be a political horizon, and we went through an extensive period of time in which Matt and Arshad and others were asking, "What does political horizon mean?" You were asking, "What does political horizon mean?" Now we are really not talking about political horizon. We're talking about final status negotiations. Everybody knows what that means. But we've -- by breaking that sequentiality, we don't mean to imply that the Roadmap obligations are not important to fulfill.
MR. MCCORMACK: We have time for one last --
SECRETARY RICE: And (inaudible) off topic.
QUESTION: Is it accurate to look at Jenin, then, in the context of this as a pilot program for, you know --
QUESTION: Or the second pilot program after Nablus?
SECRETARY RICE: I think one way to think about it is that there are limited number of Palestinian security assets, and there are some very specific economic projects that could be done, and there are some places where the movement and access issues can be undertaken in a manageable fashion in terms -- put all those together to build out to something. So "pilot" isn't quite the word I would use, but a place where you can bring all of these together and see how they work together and get used to the habits of cooperation, I think that would be appropriate.
MR. MCCORMACK: Janine, last one.
QUESTION: Two things happened in the world, if you could comment on either one of them. Zimbabwe's opposition leader declared victory. I'm wondering if you're going to reach out to them, perhaps, or if you have any comment on that. And in Pakistan, the government this weekend said that they were going to talk to Islamic extremists who disarm. Do you think that's a good idea?
SECRETARY RICE: On Pakistan, I think our -- first of all, let me say that the United States has stood for, from the very beginning -- and I remember standing with the Pakistani Foreign Minister almost a year and a half, maybe two years ago, and saying that there needed to be free and fair elections in Pakistan. And so we are very pleased that that has taken place. We are also very pleased that President Musharraf took off his uniform, they've returned to civilian rule, and et cetera.
As is appropriate, we will now begin working with that government on the whole host of issues that are there in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. That includes, by the way, both issues concerning terrorism, which threatens Pakistanis -- we've seen it threaten Pakistanis, we've seen it result in the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto. They've got a problem, we've got a problem, and we can work together on it. It also, by the way, is economic assistance and education assistance and all the other things. So we have the same goal here and we're going to work with them concerning it.
As to Zimbabwe, we've made very clear our concerns about how this election might be conducted given the very bad record of Mugabe concerning his people, the opposition, the region. And I -- we've tried to make a case, and as has the entire world, that there needed to be free and fair elections in Zimbabwe as much as it was possible. It's difficult since really no international observation was allowed. But the Mugabe regime is a disgrace to the people of Zimbabwe and a disgrace to southern Africa and to the continent of Africa as a whole.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thanks, guys.
QUESTION: So you don't want to talk to the opposition leader or you don't think (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: I just -- I haven't had an opportunity to catch up.
MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Thank you, guys, we really need to go.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in your conversations? I just didn't hear.
SECRETARY RICE: I'm sorry. What?
QUESTION: Did you tell Sylvie that settlements had come up in your conversations?
SECRETARY RICE: That --
QUESTION: Settlements had come up in --
SECRETARY RICE: Settlements have come up in my conversations.
Okay, all right. Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
Released on March 30, 2008