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State Dept. On-the-Record Briefing November 11

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (New York, New York) For Immediate Release November 11, 2001

On-the-Record Briefing To the Press By Spokesman Richard Boucher

New York, New York November 11, 2001

7:05 P.M. EST

MR. BOUCHER: I just wanted to kind of review some of the things that we have discussed, the Secretary discussed in his various meetings today. Let me go through it first for you.

This was an important opportunity to consult with a lot of people from the Middle East, people interested in the Middle East peace process, as well as the campaign against terrorism. On the peace process, it basically renewed the commitment to move from violence and get back to the peace process. We found a very strong commitment behind implementing the Mitchell recommendations to end the violence, as well as the Tenet plan to get that started, and then go on to the resumed negotiations on the basis of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 and what's called land for peace. The goal remains to try to achieve progress on all tracks.

This morning, the Secretary had discussions with Foreign Minister Peres of Israel. These were positive discussions about how to get the process back on track. This afternoon with Chairman Arafat, they discussed the Tenet-Mitchell process. Chairman Arafat reaffirmed his commitment to moving down that road. We made very clear the importance of taking decisive action against violence and terror and making a maximum effort towards that end.

With Foreign Minister Shara of Syria, the Secretary reviewed the international campaign against terrorism and our commitment to the peace process. We welcomed Syrian comments about the events of September 11th, but we are also looking for results in terms of the kind of action that the President was calling for yesterday.

We took advantage of the opportunity of a number of people being in New York to consult with Secretary General Kofi Annan, the European Union's High Representative Solana, and Foreign Minister Ivanov of Russia on the Middle East situation. It was an informal discussion, but I think as the Secretary General has already said, everyone is committed to Mitchell or recommitted to the Mitchell process and working in close coordination.

With the Gulf Cooperation Council, they reviewed cooperation against terrorism on all fronts, financial, diplomatic and other areas, as well as the peace process. They were very positive about the President's speech yesterday at the UN General Assembly, as was Chairman Arafat and others. People noted the President's comments on the Middle East, and we will be talking about that as we go into the future of the Middle East peace process.

A few common themes that came out of our discussions with people like Chairman Arafat, Foreign Minister Shara and the Gulf Cooperation Council ministers. First, that it's nonsense, the claim that bin Laden makes that he speaks for Palestinians. The Palestinians were quite clear that they don't want to see their cause hijacked.

There was a lot of praise, as I said, for the President's speech, comments on the Middle East. Everybody is looking for active American leadership and welcomed it on the campaign against terrorism. Everybody agrees on the basic track of ending the violence and resuming the political process.

And then when it came to discussing Afghanistan, where we discussed it, I think there is a very strong consensus in favor of a broad-based successor government in Afghanistan. And, of course, we will have an opportunity to discuss that topic tomorrow with the United Nations Security Council members and the Six-Plus-Two. And that's the --

QUESTION: Can you go into the Ivanov meeting a little more? I mean, so far as it's a walk-up to the summit? Do you have anything for us? They worked on arms control issues or something?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I really don't have anything for you in terms of any detail. It was a meeting to prepare for the discussions of the presidents in a couple days. It touched on a number of subjects but it really concentrated on the strategic framework issues.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question then? The question would be, if you are declaring for a Palestinian state and if you are saying that the President will meet with Arafat, what leverage do you have on Arafat to reduce the violence, since those are the goodies that were hanging out there and now you've played your hand?

Last week, the line was, until the violence goes down -- not from the State Department, but from the White House -- until the violence goes down, he just has no plans to meet with him. Well, now he has. He is going to meet with him whether or not the violence goes down.

MR. BOUCHER: No, that's not what the Secretary just told you.

QUESTION: Well, I'm combining Rice and Powell --

MR. BOUCHER: You are combining a whole lot of things and getting something that's not accurate.

QUESTION: So you tell me what numbers you have on the Palestinian --

MR. BOUCHER: I will tell you exactly what the Secretary just said, and that's -- he said -- I can't tell you exactly until I see a new transcript. I will refer you to exactly what the Secretary said and we'll leave it at that.

QUESTION: All right, well, then if you won't answer that question, let me try something else.

MR. BOUCHER: I answered the question, Barry. You just asked three questions, Barry --

QUESTION: It was a logistic question I asked you, but that's all right. If you don't want to get into Middle East policy, it's all right.

QUESTION: Richard, can you talk about where the Secretary goes from here on the Middle East? He talked about being more energetic. I mean, he has said several times in the last 24 hours, watch out, we're going to be doing things. What does he mean by that?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that we will keep very active diplomatic contacts going. As he said again just upstairs, the issue right now is to end the violence, and there is a heavy concentration on that. But we will also be talking more and more about how to get this process to work and the kinds of -- you know, the President yesterday laid out division of work --

QUESTION: Well, to use just one line, are you talking about the speech not given? Is that going to be laid out --

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not talking about anything that we're not talking about.

QUESTION: When he talked about additional ideas and adding to it, are these ideas which have already been formulated and which you are just holding for gradual release as the opportunity arises? Or are they ideas which you still have not yet formulated?

MR. BOUCHER: That is really not something I can get into at this point.

QUESTION: I am not asking what they are, I am just asking what the status of these things is.

MR. BOUCHER: Obviously, there has been a lot of discussion in the Middle East, there has been a lot of thinking about the Middle East.

We want to move forward, we want to stop the violence, we want to move forward through the Mitchell process, get to negotiations, and as the President addressed today, as we discuss these things, as we try to get that process moving, we will be talking more about where it leads.

QUESTION: It's the same subject, but let's go at it from a slightly different angle. There is an expectation that the United States, that Colin Powell is going to put out a comprehensive document of some sort or give a speech in which he lays out US principles for a settlement. Is that a correct assumption and should we expect to see that within the next few days, that he is going to put out US principles for a settlement?

MR. BOUCHER: There is nothing like that scheduled at this point.

QUESTION: Are there any practical solutions or proposals to deal with the issues of borders or Jerusalem or refugees or any of the concrete obstacles that exist between Palestinians and Israelis? Anything? Do you have any proposals whatsoever?

MR. BOUCHER: I am not -- you are asking me to give a speech that -- I mean, you are asking me what we might say eventually. I think the issue right now is to talk about, as the President did yesterday, about the need to stop the violence, move through the Mitchell process, rebuild confidence, get to negotiations and talk a little bit about where that might lead. We're not at the point that you're talking about.

QUESTION: Richard, are you at the point where you might be considering a special envoy?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, there's nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Are you saying that it's in the mix of ideas that are running around?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I am not going to fix any particular sets of ideas on that.

QUESTION: Richard, can I just follow up on that? I think a lot of people in the Middle East, they have heard you say these things a lot of times. And what they really want is somebody on the ground who knocks heads together. It doesn't need to be a special envoy, but is anybody actually going to go out and knock some heads together?

MR. BOUCHER: As I said -- as we mentioned often, we have active diplomacy on the ground, we have active diplomacy with the Secretary, and we will keep actively working the process in whatever way we think is most appropriate.

QUESTION: Can I switch to Syria?

MR. BOUCHER: Terri wanted to switch to Syria.

QUESTION: Thank you. I want to know more about the meeting. You didn't tell us about how much pressure the Secretary put on the Foreign Minister, if any, to work on Hizballah issues, to talk about terrorist financing, to bring up the old pipeline issue. I mean, how many of the really sensitive topics came up in this?

MR. BOUCHER: There were a number of topics discussed. The issue of the fight against terrorism, the need for cooperation, for results in terms of the fight against terrorism. The subject of Hizballah came up and, as we have before, the Secretary asked Foreign Minister Shara if they would use their influence to reduce violence in the region.

QUESTION: The President yesterday said that the Northern Alliance would be encouraged to move south but not to enter Kabul. And the same thing was repeated by Secretary Rumsfeld today on two public TV shows -- if the Northern Alliance doesn't enter Kabul, who does?

MR. BOUCHER: I guess at this point, I really don't have an answer for you at this point. That is a hypothetical, we might say.

The international community is working very diligently, very closely with various -- all the Afghan parties to try to help them in the formation of a broad-based government. Obviously, we made clear it is for them to decide how they want to do that and what they want to do.

The effort continues with the UN. Mr. Brahimi was just out in the region. We are seeing him, along with some of the neighboring countries tomorrow. And this topic generally of what the future of Afghanistan is, how we can assist, make sure we are all there to help with reconstruction, those topics have been discussed in all the meetings here and will be discussed further tomorrow.

QUESTION: In your meetings with the Europeans, with the Arabs, with the UN, do you -- are you feeling an increased pressure to get actively involved? That everybody is looking for specific things from you and is really goading the United States to get more actively involved? Are they asking for the speech, are they asking for a meeting with Arafat?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, I thought you were still talking about Afghanistan. Again, I am not going to speak for the foreign countries involved. The case that we have made and that the President made yesterday is that we are actively involved, and the Secretary just made that case again upstairs.

QUESTION: Did the Bahraini Foreign Minister say that the Gulf States had pledged military cooperation? He said that?

MR. BOUCHER: Is that what he said upstairs?

QUESTION: Can you explain what kind of military operations --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we have left it to others to go into detail; I think some of them have.

QUESTION: Did you ask any of them --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, we have not been speaking of what we have asked and we have not been speaking of what others have offered; we have been leaving it to them to describe what they do.

QUESTION: A follow-on to that Kabul question, does the United States want to see some sort of international presence in Mazar-e Sharif, whether it be observers, a peacekeeping force, anything to sort of stabilize the situation? And might that include the Turkish --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can -- well, here is what I would say. One of the most important things about the situation around Mazar-e Sharif, once it stabilizes, is the opportunity to provide humanitarian assistance. A lot of the needy people, I think something like 40 percent -- you might check the USAID web site and see if it's in the literature, but a large number of the needy people of Afghanistan are in that region and areas around there. And particularly the opportunity to provide things more directly into that area is really an opportunity to take care of a lot of needy people in Afghanistan, to get the food that we have been trying to get in, and the blankets and with the supplies. There was a meeting today that the Uzbeks would be having, to go down to the area to their side of the border down there and look at how they would start arranging river barge transport for food into the north of Afghanistan. And that would be a major supplement to the efforts, and that is a direct result of the change in the security situation.

QUESTION: On Iraq, was there any movement on select sanctions or Iraq policy in general in the meetings with Ivanov --

MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing new to report at this point.

END 7:30 P.M. EST

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