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Remarks With Quartet Members

Remarks With Quartet Members

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
United Nations Headquarters
New York
December 15, 2008

Quartet Members: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Special Representative for the French Foreign Ministry Gerard Araud, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana,European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner,

MODERATOR: Please take your seats and turn off your cell phones, please, and kindly – before you ask your question, kindly identify your media and give your name. And I guess our Quartet members are here. We have EU High Representative Javier Solana, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, we have the Secretary General, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and we have Mr. Gerard Araud, Special Representative of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, on behalf of the EU Presidency.

Mr. Secretary General.

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: Thank you very much. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the media. The Quartet has just completed its discussions and will soon be meeting with ministers and representatives of the League of Arab States. I will distribute the Quartet statement in a moment, but I would just make a very brief introduction.

On behalf of the European Union, the Russian Federation and myself as Secretary General of the United Nations, and also other Quartet participants here, I want to thank the outgoing U.S. Administration, in particular President Bush and Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice, for their efforts to advance Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the context of Annapolis peace process. These efforts have been tireless and are continuing. A very important progress is underway. We are united in our conviction that it must be continued and intensified in the period ahead.

In this respect, we look forward to working closely, from the outset, with the administration of President-elect Obama to achieve the goal of a two-state solution and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.

Thank you very much. We’ll be ready to answer your questions. Thank you.

MODERATOR: The first question goes to the (inaudible) representative Harvey Morris for the Financial Times.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for the FT, and I’d like to give the traditional welcome from the UN Correspondents Association and to thank the Secretary General, Secretary Rice, Minister Lavrov, and our other distinguished guests for sparing us some time today, which agreeable task allows me to ask the first question, which I’d like to put to Secretary Rice.

Madame Secretary, the Quartet statement and also the text of a draft resolution that we’ve seen, which will come up for debate in the Security Council tomorrow reaffirms support for a two-state solution in the Middle East. I know you won’t speculate on the outcome of the Israeli election, but let’s say hypothetically that Mr. Netanyahu wins. He’s not someone who has traditionally supported such a solution, certainly not in the terms that members of the Quartet would understand it.

What pressure can be brought either by the Quartet or by individual members of the Security Council to ensure that a future Israeli government will commit itself to this outcome?

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, first let me note that the – a lot has happened since really 2003 in terms of the broadening of the base of support in Israel for the two-state solution: the acceptance of the Roadmap by the Israeli Government; the participation in the Annapolis process. And I think that one has to go back really to the father of the settlement movement and, at the time, the Likud prime minister, then founder of Kadima, Ariel Sharon, to see that the two-state solution is one that I believe has really broad acceptance. And I’ve heard that from Israeli leaders across the political spectrum.

What the resolution will do tomorrow – and I want to thank my Russian counterpart for Russian co-sponsorship of that resolution – it was really conceived by the Russian Federation and the United States and the other members of the Quartet supporting. What that resolution does is to put the international community on record in believing in the irreversibility of the Annapolis process – bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution, a comprehensive solution, and the various principles of Annapolis and what the parties have established since then. And I believe that that will then add the voice of the international community through its most powerful and its most consequential body – that is, the Security Council – to establish Annapolis as the way – the Annapolis process as the way forward.

Obviously, Israel will have a prime minister one way or another after February, and the Israeli Government will have to chart a course. But I believe that the international community will have done what it can do in the strongest possible terms, and that is to put the weight of the Security Council behind not just the two-state solution but a particular process for getting there. And I might just emphasize that Annapolis, of course, is not just a top-down – that is negotiated process toward the solution of two states, but also a bottom-up process of Roadmap obligations and of improving life for the Palestinian people on the ground. And that is really the reason for the resolution tomorrow.

MODERATOR: We give a question to – yes, go ahead, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yes, my (inaudible) Rice and to Mr. Lavrov. Is this resolution you’re presenting tomorrow an alternative to what many people see as the failure to establish a Palestinian state by 2008? And, sir, Mr. Lavrov, what about the situation in Gaza, the settlement activity, and many reservations which the Arab side has to this resolution you’ve co-sponsored? Thank you, sir.

SECRETARY RICE: I believe that if you look at the language of Annapolis, it says that the parties will make the best efforts that they can – they could to come to an agreement by the end of the year. I think they have made best efforts and they continue to make best efforts. And so what this resolution does is to urge, as the parties did with us and the Quartet when we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, the continuation of this process to the conclusion of a comprehensive agreement, and also within the context of a broader Israeli-Arab peace. And so that is the reason for the resolution.

But I’d just like to take one moment to speak to the question of not having achieved an agreement by the end of the year. They won’t achieve agreement by the end of the year, but they have achieved a good deal of progress in their negotiations, a good deal of progress in the work that is being done on the ground. And I would just remind that this is the first time in almost a decade that Palestinians and Israelis are addressing all of the core issues in a comprehensive way to try to get to a solution. And if that process takes a little bit longer, so be it. But we are very much further along, certainly than we were in 2001, and I would argue even than we were in 2007 when Annapolis was concluded.

MODERATOR: Mr. Lavrov.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) Thank you. I can add that altogether we are firmly committed to continuing negotiations, and in this regard we have laid out appropriate arrangements, including in the statement that has been circulated today, and in the draft resolution that is being tabled for consideration by the Security Council tomorrow.

And in these documents, there is a reaffirmation of our position, including on the crisis over Gaza and with respect to the settlement policies that we do not support and we call for an ending of that. And with respect to Gaza, we met today with – and discussed this quite in detail with the participation of Tony Blair, and we have specific plans that we will implement. And the main thing is that we have this draft resolution that together with our U.S. colleagues we have tabled in the Security Council, and this lays out the continuance of the process here. If you see the text, you would see that in no way does this have to do with superseding the primary goal, which is the coexistence of two states, Palestine and Israel, within peace, stability, and security. This resolution does not change anything here; on the contrary, it is aimed at continuing our joint efforts and implementing them, including taking into account the recent affirmation by the League of Arab States the Arab Peace Initiative, which we view as having great capacity.

MODERATOR: We’ll go to Raghida Dergham, Al-Hayat.

QUESTION: Yes please, my question is first to Secretary Rice. Has your Administration coordinated at all with the incoming administration of President-elect Obama about this peace – this resolution itself and the direction from here on, and particularly if the Palestinian track of the negotiations is the priority for you, will it be for the next administration?

And for Foreign Minister Lavrov, would you tell me kindly what do you envision tomorrow’s meetings will bring about between the 5+1 and the GCC+3 on Iran and Gulf security? Are you coming with anything in particular? Do you expect much of it? What is the Russian interest in attending it?

SECRETARY RICE: As is the tradition in the United States, we will certainly and are briefing the Obama administration, or the coming administration of President-elect Obama, on where we have been in the peace process, what we see its prospects to be.

But it would not be appropriate for me to speak for the President-elect and his team for how they will choose to move forward. I would simply refer you to the words that I myself have heard him speak and that all of you have heard him speak, which is that he puts a high priority on the issue of Middle East peace. But it has been our responsibility to make certain that this file is turned over in completeness and in transparency to the new team, and that’s really what we’ve done.

MODERATOR: Catherine Mercier. Oh, you had two questions – a two-part question.

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: (Via interpreter) The meeting to be held tomorrow was proposed by our colleagues in the process that is called 3+3 or 5+1, that Arab countries have shown well-understood interest in this theme, and it is in everyone’s interest and their interest that there be no worsening of the situation in this area. Therefore, we will take part in this meeting, we will clarify those principles that were agreed upon in the format of the work on the Iran nuclear program, and we will advocate that these principles be implemented.

Particularly for Russia, we are firmly committed to the need to use this process in order to support with all possible means via the Security Council, the UN, and via other channels, support the work of the IAEA. We will avoid any steps that would complicate that or make it impossible. And on these terms, we will then tomorrow talk with our Arab partners, who, I repeat, are showing well-based, justified, and understandable interest in this theme.

MODERATOR: The next question for Catherine.

QUESTION: Yes, my question is for Mr. Secretary General. My name is Catherine Mercier from CBC News Radio Canada. I’m sorry, it doesn’t have to do with the Quartet. My question is regarding the abduction of Canadian Robert Fowler in Niger. He was a special envoy. What do you know about what happened to Mr. Fowler?

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: I am also concerned about that. We are doing all our best efforts about his whereabouts. We are now mobilizing all necessary information networks on this. We will keep you informed about that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on a special mission for his – on – as special envoy for Niger or on illicit arms?

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: I do not have any detailed information, I’m sorry to tell you. But I’m also very much concerned about, you know, I’ve been informed – briefed about this incident. We are doing all best efforts to identify, first of all, his whereabouts and what’s behind it. We will let you know. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible), the Post.

QUESTION: Thank you. Hello, yeah. This is a follow-up on Harvey’s question, specifically what Netanyahu has been critical of in the Annapolis process is the idea that the core issues, all the core issues, should be upfront. And that is very much in this proposed resolution. What do you think of that?

And also for Ms. Rice, how do you envision your namesake, Susan Rice, and your successor, Hilary Clinton, getting along in the new administration? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY RICE: I’m not certain who the first part of the question was directed toward. I’m not going to get involved in internal Israeli politics. They’re in an election campaign. The Israeli people will make their choice. They’ll debate all of these issues as is befitting a great democracy, and so I won’t comment on any specific comments that various parties have made.

I will simply underscore again that, as the President has said, President Bush has said, and as Annapolis acknowledges, it is really only possible to get to peace through dealing with all of the core issues. And that is why Annapolis lays out what it lays out. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to comment on any specific statements that people have made during this time.

I know Senator Clinton very well. I have known her since she brought her freshman daughter to Stanford when I was the Provost of Stanford. She is someone of high intelligence, great integrity, and, in fact, has what one needs most in this job, which is a profound commitment to the United States, its interests, its values. And I think many people here know her from having been very involved in UN affairs when she was First Lady, and of course, she was Senator from New York as well. And so I think she will do a really very fine job as Secretary of State.

And as to Susan Rice, Susan Rice was a student when I was at Stanford. There seems to be a theme here. And we know each other well. She is also somebody who is highly intelligent and will work very hard. And I think she will put her heart and soul into the UN, because she’s a great believer in this institution and in what it can do.

I do believe that – now, not speaking for my successors, but I do think that the United Nations over the last several years – in particular, the Security Council – has been asked to do some very difficult things. And sometimes it’s succeeded and sometimes it has not. And if the United Nations and the Security Council, in particular, are going to keep the mandate for really defending international peace and security, it will have to do hard things, not just the easy ones. And that is not always easy, because obviously it’s not easy to get all of the Security Council members to agree, or even the Perm 5 to agree. But I think we’ve established a record in the Bush Administration of working very aggressively and very actively in the Security Council to ask it to do hard things, and I don’t think that’s going to change going forward.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: The Diplomat Magazine, Moscow. The question is to all the ladies and gentlemen taking part in this press conference, how efficient is the Quartet in doing its job, and how important are the decisions taken today? Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Our leader. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: I think the Quartet has been proven to be very effective and efficient and very cooperative among the Quartet principals And since we have established this format, we have been meeting quite regularly, at least several times a year during the last several years. And particularly since the Annapolis peace process was launched November last year, we’ve been meeting very closely to accelerate this peace process. And this – the meeting, together with our partners, which we have newly introduced, that has been also very much important, working together with the Arab partners. I’m sure that we will continue to promote the acceleration of Arab Peace Initiative, even with the transition of government in America and Israel and the Palestinian. You can have full support and assurance from us. Thank you.

MODERATOR: We go to Sylviane Zehil.

QUESTION: Sylviane Zehil, L’Orient-Le Jour. Madame Secretary – Madame Secretary, when you started your tenure as the secretary of state, you were much more into new democracy in the Middle East. What do you think you achieved when you look back? What do you believe you achieved in this matter, in this field, particularly in Lebanon and in the Middle East, please?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. First, let me say that the United States has long been a country that believes that its values and its interests are intertwined, and that America is safer when democracy is on the march, and we are more vulnerable when it is not. Our best friends and partners, of which we have many, are states with which we share values. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t able to cooperate with states where we simply share interests, but our strongest partners are those with which we share values.

The one exception to the view that our values and interests were inextricably linked had really been the Middle East, where I think we had really focused more on stability at the expense of values. We didn’t talk much about democracy in the Middle East. And I think as a result, we probably contributed to what the Arab Human Development Report called a freedom deficit in the Middle East, where really as Africa and Asia and Latin America and certainly Europe moved further and further along the lines of representative, pluralistic, popular legitimacy with governments, the Middle East was not moving in that direction. But I do believe that because of the President’s emphasis on the Freedom Agenda, the conversation is different in the Middle East today than it was in 2001 or even in 2005.

One can go to the Forum for the Future and hear the voices of civil society throughout the Middle East being empowered – an institution that the United States with Arab partners created. One can sit, as I did the other day, and be with Palestinian leaders who are working with youth and youth centers and English language and really even sports, and listen to their hopes for their democratic state of Palestine. One can, as President Bush had the chance to do yesterday, be received by the democratically elected president of a multiconfessional, multiethnic Iraq – something that I think was unthinkable just a little while ago.

And as to Lebanon, one has only to go back to 2005 and recognize that this is now a state where Syrian forces are no longer in Lebanon, where Lebanon has elected a president of that country, where there is a democratically elected prime minister of that country, where they are in a national dialogue about how to put all of the arms of the country under one authority, where as a result of the good diplomacy after the war of 2006, the Lebanese army is now deployed throughout the country and is a truly national institution, where Syria and Lebanon seem ready to establish proper relations between them as two independent states, and where by no means are the problems of Lebanon finished or resolved, but where I think people speak of a sovereign and independent Lebanon in ways that I did not hear just a few years ago. And that is something of which I am immensely proud and very gratified, but it is not principally because of the policies of the United States. It’s because of the toughness and insistence of the Lebanese people in finally having their sovereignty and their independence.

Thank you.

ENDS

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