Remarks After the Quartet Meeting
Remarks After the Quartet Meeting
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
November 9, 2008
Other Attendees: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and Quartet Representative Tony Blair
MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are now starting the press conference. We will start with the statement read by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, Salam ale-qum. Given the landmark nature of today's meeting, and the strong (inaudible) commitment that was displayed by President Abbas and Foreign Minister Livni in briefing the Quartet for the first time. I will read today's Quartet statement in full.
Representatives of the quartet met today and heard from Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, at their request. They were joined by Quartet representative Tony Blair.
President Abbas and Minister Livni briefed the Quartet on Palestinian-Israeli negotiating efforts since the November 27, 2007 international conference in Annapolis, Maryland that formally launched bilateral negotiations to bring an end to the conflict by achieving the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
The Palestinian and Israeli representatives reaffirmed their commitment, as stated in the Annapolis joint understanding, to vigorous, ongoing, and continuous negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues, without exception, as specified in previous agreements.
The parties' representatives have found that over the last year they have engaged in direct, sustained, and intensive bilateral negotiations, based on a joint work plan that included the establishment of more than 10 committees. They described how the parties have been actively engaged, not only on core issues, but on an array of other topics necessary to turn the two-state solution into a reality.
Without minimizing the gaps and obstacles that remain, the representatives of the parties share their assessment that the present negotiations are substantial and promising, and they have succeeded in putting in place a solid negotiating structure for continued progress in the future.
President Abbas and Foreign Minister Livni stated the parties had reached a number of mutual understandings on the principles governing their negotiating process. These include: the need for continuous, uninterrupted, direct bilateral negotiations; the principle that nothing would be considered agreed until everything is agreed; the need to reach a comprehensive agreement addressing all issues, as agreed at Annapolis, rather than just announce agreement on selected items in isolation.
The parties' representatives also confirmed that, as stated in the Annapolis joint understanding, the parties remain committed to implementation of their respective obligations under the Roadmap, and to the agreed mechanism for monitoring and judging Roadmap implementation, and that, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, implementation of the future peace treaty will be subject to implementation of the Roadmap, as judged by the United States.
In addition to describing the structure of the negotiations and indicating areas in which progress has been achieved, President Abbas and Minister Livni expressed gratitude for international support provided during the last year, and requested continued support from the Quartet and all members of the international community.
First, they asked that the international community support the parties' sustained efforts in the framework of the Annapolis process, and that, in respect, the agreed principles for their negotiations as described to the Quartet.
Second, they asked that all states promote an environment conducive to peace, non-violence, and the two-state solution. In this regard, they urge political and economic assistance, especially in relation to institutional and security reform, capacity building, economic development, and the fulfillment of pledges to the legitimate Palestinian government, which has accepted the Quartet principles and respects the PLO commitment.
They asked the international community to redouble efforts to confront and deny support for extremism, incitement, terrorism, and intolerance.
Finally, the representatives stressed that, absent the joint request of the parties, third parties should not intervene in the bilateral negotiations. At the same time, they confirmed that international support and assistance will be vital, once an agreement is reached, and that they intend to jointly consult members of the international community on this issue at the appropriate time.
The Quartet expressed its appreciation for the description by the parties of their joint efforts, which confirmed the seriousness of the Annapolis process, and underscored the determination of the parties to reach a comprehensive agreement.
The Quartet reiterated its commitment to supporting the parties' efforts underlined as a commitment to the irreversibility of the bilateral negotiations, pledged to respect the bilateral and confidential nature of the negotiation, and called on all states to adhere to these same commitments.
The Quartet endorsed the goals set out by the parties, and called on all sides - all states, to lend their diplomatic and political support to that end, including by encouraging and recognizing progress to date.
The Quartet renewed its call on relevant states and international organizations to assist in the development of the Palestinian economy to maximize the resources available to the Palestinian Authority, and to contribute to the Palestinian institution-building program in preparation for statehood, as decided during the Paris, Bethlehem, and Berlin conferences.
The Quartet cited Jenin as an example of the success of reforms instituted by the Palestinian government, and of cooperation between the two sides made possible in the context of the Annapolis process.
The Quartet further welcomed the recent deployment of Palestinian security services in the Hebron governorate as a sign of the progress that has resulted from increased security cooperation. The Quartet emphasized its determination to continue to work with Israel and the Palestinian government to facilitate access and movement, and an improvement in conditions on the ground, in order to address urgent humanitarian needs, foster economic activity, and improve the atmosphere for the negotiations.
The Quartet reiterated its call to the parties to fully implement their obligations under phase one of the Roadmap, including in relation to freezing settlement activity and the dismantlement of the infrastructure of terrorism.
The Quartet emphasized the importance of continuity of the peace process. The Quartet agreed that the spring of 2009 could be an appropriate time for an international meeting in Moscow.
The Quartet reaffirmed its previous statements, including the September 26, 2008 statement issued in New York, further welcoming the recent calls for a broader peace.
The Quartet offered its support for the expansion of ongoing diplomatic efforts toward regional peace, noted the importance of the Arab peace initiative, and reaffirmed its commitment to a just, lasting, and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on United States Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1397, and 1515.
Thank you very much for your attention.
MODERATOR: The first question will go to Sharat Arat of the Middle East News Agency.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Quartet can play a role in elevating the sufferings of the Palestinians in Gaza? Thank you.
MODERATOR: Who is your question directed to?
SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: Thank you very much. As a secretary general, I have a broad responsibility and mandate to provide humanitarian assistance to all the people around the world who are in need of such assistance.
Particularly, I am deeply distressed about the plight of the civilian population in Gaza. Through the work of several United Nations agencies, including UNRWA, World Food Program and World Health Organization, the United Nations is standing by the people of Gaza and helping them in these difficult times.
The Quartet has also made clear it supports more positive strategy for Gaza. I have been discussing this matter with Israeli government leaders, Prime Minister Olmert and Foreign Minister Livni, on many occasions.
And today I am also going to discuss this matter, about the closure of crossings and road blocks, and also settlement issues and demolition of houses. All these activities are not desirable for the ongoing peace process. Creation of atmosphere conducive to the ongoing peace process would be extremely important.
The calm brokered by Egypt needs to be respected. I am concerned about the recent violence, and call for it to stop immediately. The Palestinian factions must also work together for their national unity and reconciliation. And they must be able to overcome their division. I urge them to work constructively with the parties concerned and the international community in this regard.
I stand ready to -- not only in participating in facilitating political process, but also, most importantly, facilitate the ongoing humanitarian assistance to these people. Thank you.
MODERATOR: The second question goes to Arshad Mohammed of Reuters.
QUESTION: Question, first, for former Prime Minister Blair, and then for Secretary Rice.
Mr. Blair, how important do you think (inaudible) administration (inaudible) continue to stick to the Annapolis framework? Same question for Secretary Rice.
MR. BLAIR: The single most important thing is that the new administration in the United States grips this issue from day one. And it can do so knowing that there is a foundation upon which we can build.
For the first time, we have comprehensive political negotiations through the Annapolis process. For the first time, we have a proper plan to build security capability for the Palestinians, which is necessary to create a Palestinian state. For the first time, through the Paris conference, we have the funding and the reform program to build the institutions of that state. And, actually, for the first time, through the efforts of Egypt, we have an agreed position for Palestinian unity, shared by the whole of the international community.
So, there is a foundation. It can be built on. It has to be built on. And it has to be built on by treating this issue as of fundamental importance, not just to this region, but to the world from the first day of the next administration.
SECRETARY RICE: I have very little to add. As I said, I will give my advice to my successor privately, and then you won't hear any more from me.
But I do think that what we heard today from the parties, which is the most important element of this, is that they believe in the Annapolis process. They believe in the integrated nature of this process that builds peace, both from the bottom up and from the top down. They believe that their negotiations are producing an atmosphere of trust, as well as a foundation on which to build.
And, as Tony has said, we have an international strategy now, to finally establish the two-state solution which President Bush set as a goal several years ago. And so, I believe that the Annapolis process is now the international community's answer, and the party's answer to how do we finally end the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.
MODERATOR: The third question goes to Hassan Naser of Russian (inaudible).
QUESTION: (Speaks in Russian.)
FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Speaks in Russian.) I just want to say briefly, in English, that the conference, which everybody agreed to have in Moscow some time next spring, must certainly be a step forward.
And this is why we are taking time to make sure that we prepare for it properly, talking to the members of the Quartet, to the parties themselves, to the League of Arab States, to all those who participated in Annapolis. Because our common desire is to make sure that the Annapolis process succeeds. It requires persistent efforts on the part of the parties, first of all, but also on the part of the international community. And the statement read today by the Secretary General clearly spells out this position of the Quartet after we heard the very useful and important briefing by the parties.
So, spring next year would be the time when we would have a new administration in Washington, and Tony Blair and Condi Rice addressed the importance of continuity. It would also be the time when we hope there would be elections in Israel, and the government would be fully ready to promote specific steps. And we also hope that, by that time, we would achieve progress in the efforts headed by Egypt, making sure that Palestinians are united and settled their domestic agenda properly.
So, that is why we think that spring next year would be the time for the conference. It would certainly be devoted, first of all, to the support of the direct negotiations, and hopefully there would be results by that time, which we could really encourage to be finalized.
And we would also, as we did in Annapolis, address the comprehensive settlement issues, including the positive developments on Israeli-Syrian track, and also not forgetting about Lebanon, of course. Thank you.
MODERATOR: The last question is going to Lena Broadbane of Al Jazeera.
QUESTION: This is addressed, actually, to Mr. Ban Ki-moon. You talked a lot about commitment. However, we understand that the Arab side and the Palestinian side has (inaudible) a lot about a mechanism to make this possible -- the Annapolis process, and also the Roadmap. How can we do that without a clear mechanism, whether it is supported by the UN, international community – (inaudible) ever has been approved by the parties can be implemented?
For example, the Palestinians talked seriously about the settlement activity, about the current invasions. You never talked about a mechanism to implement this. Is there a mechanism?
SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: I think the most important mechanism is the Quartet, composed of all the principals. And, together, with the Quartet representative Tony Blair. We have been meeting on a regular basis. We have all other European-sponsored mechanisms, and we have General Jones and Fraser, who have been maintaining all these mechanisms to follow and monitor.
And through this ongoing progress of the Quartet, as well as making some meetings with the parties more institutionalized in the future, I think we can be sure of this continuing monitoring and support for the negotiations, bilateral negotiations, of the two parties. Thank you.