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Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Board Plane en Route Tel Aviv/Jerusalem

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Tel Aviv/Jerusalem
May 10, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you for joining me. This is a pretty demanding trip, however many countries it is in seven days, but thank you for joining. It ought to be fun.

On this first stop let me put it in a little bit of a context. This will be my first visit since last April, when we had a very bad situation, and I think those of you who may have been there, and I can't remember who it was, but you certainly remember reading about it and watching it when we had Arafat holed up in the Muqata'a and we were trying to break that free, and you remember the siege of the Church of Bethlehem. So, it was a bad time.

I made it clear to Arafat at that time that when we got over the hump, breaking the siege and resolving the situation at Bethlehem, there had to be a change in the way he was running his business, the way in which the Palestinian Authority was being run. He had to make a dedicated, committed effort to ending violence, and he simply had to take those actions necessary to end terror and violence.

We watched for the next couple of months and it became clear to us, anyway, that Chairman Arafat was not going to be making those kinds of efforts in a way that would fundamentally change the situation. We had been talking about the need for transformed leadership. About that time also, you recall, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and then the Arab League in Beirut came out over this extended period with their declaration.

The President took all that into account, then on the 24th of June he gave a speech that you are all so familiar with. In that speech he called for transformed Palestinian leadership; he called for a two-state solution again; he talked about creating a state with provisional aspects to it on the way to a final settlement in a relatively short period of time and he said the United States would be there to help and he expected those parties to have responsibilities and obligations and to be ready to make difficult choices as we moved forward in the first step in the process.

As he saw it, there was a need for transformed leadership on the Palestinian side. I had told
Mr. Arafat in April that this was liable to be the case, that I would not be able to keep working with them until he showed greater responsibility or there was leadership that I could work with.

Since the 24th of June we have watched things happen. We watched the Palestinians put in place a new finance minister in the person of Mr. Fayed, who began to work in a very responsible way and provide confidence to us, the international community and the Israelis, that they could start to send some of the revenues back in order to give the Palestinians the wherewithal to start putting in place a government and rebuilding their institutions. We thought that was a hopeful development and said so. We worked with our Quartet partners on what became known as the roadmap, a way to go forward -- if and when circumstances allowed us to move forward, allowed them to move forward.

Then over the last couple of months, we saw the emergence of a belief within the Palestinian people that they did need to transform their leadership, and you all watched as a political battle was fought out in the PLC, as different candidates emerged and submerged and them finally
Mr. Abu Mazen came to the fore and fought it out and succeeded in not only being named as a Prime Minister but then actually moving up to the post as a result of an action of the PLC. He now has in place a Cabinet, with some strong figures in it, particularly somebody that we know well and are looking forward to working with, and that is Mohammed Dahlan as the minister that will be in charge of public security.

So, all of these elements started to come together, joined by other elements such as Iraq. With Iraq dealt with in terms of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, even though there was a lot more work to do, one of the strategic threats to the region, especially to the State of Israel, was eliminated. That also gave us the opportunity to begin talking to other nations in the region and thus my trip to Syria last week, where as you all know, in my conversations with Bashar Assad, we described the changed strategic situation as a result of the end of the Hussein regime and the United States about to get re-engaged with its partners in the international community in the Middle East peace process, and lots of very strong markers for President Bashar Assad and look forward to how they will respond to the conversations we had last weekend. We expect that will unfold over a period of time.

So, this really is part of a continuing process, if you will, of starting to re-engage. But I go there now with a new Prime Minister in place and beginning to take action to make the right statements with respect to terror and violence as he did the day he was confirmed. We want to help him and help other leaders in his government now -- his cabinet -- to put in place the institutions necessary to begin restructuring the Authority with principal focus on security, and ending terror and violence, and bringing under control those organizations that foster such terrorists and violence: Hamas, PIJ, same pitch I gave at the other end of this trip to Bashar Assad. Everybody has now got to come together, whether it is Syria, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, to let these organizations know that we can no longer tolerate their actions, which are denying the dreams of the Palestinian people.

Another element in this is that President Bush has made it absolutely clear publicly, in his speeches, in his presentations, and in the conversations that I have had with him, that he is determined to see progress toward the vision that he laid out last June 24th. The roadmap is the way to get started toward that vision. The roadmap is controversial, of course. There are elements to it that one party or the other might not like, but it does reflect the President's view and the view of others in the international community as to how we can achieve that vision. We need to get started. People could comment on the roadmap as we move forward, but let's not allow a comment period that might be upcoming to stop us from moving out. We know it has to be done at the very first steps of the first phase. So, let's get on with it.

The President added to this tapestry that I am painting for you with his speech last night in
South Carolina, where he went beyond security, he went beyond just the peace process and he painted a picture of an economically integrated Middle East, integrated through free trade, free trade agreements that go beyond just the ones we now have with Jordan and Israel. He talked about other aspects of policy for the development of the region, the Middle East Partnership Initiative, which you are familiar with -- I also gave a speech on it a couple of months ago -- and other efforts that will be undertaken with respect to literacy, with respect to education, with respect to judicial activities. You saw that he mentioned Justice Sandra Day O'Connor playing a role in that.

All of these pieces, it seems to me, create a period of opportunity. What I want to do in this brief visit is to assess with both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side how they see it, make sure that they see it in this broad context that I just tried to outline to you and to make sure that they understand the President's determination to move forward and to be helpful and show that America, with other partners, intend to play a leading and powerful role as we go down this road once again to peace. We now have partners at the Palestinian side that we believe we can work with.

So, my trip is to lay out the context in which we are now operating, assess where the parties are, consult with the other interested nations in the region -- the Arab nations who played a role in this as well. Egypt has played an important role recently with respect to security issues, but Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all the other nations in the region have a role to play. On this trip I will be able to visit with three of those nations and then when I go off to Russia -- Russia is a member of the Quartet of course -- I will have a chance to continue discussions there as well.

So, that is the context of the trip and I just wanted to kind of give you the overall picture before we get into the [inaudible] which we are now ready for.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Arafat, did the United States explicitly ask or request that Arafat not be in your meeting with Abbas? He is the leader of the Palestinian people, yet the Administration does not seem to want to acknowledge that. You want to marginalize him and we understand why. But how do you feel he registers among the Palestinian people? He is still there.

SECRETARY POWELL: He is still there. I have always acknowledged that. He is the leader of the Palestinian people. As we have said before, we don't think he has been an effective leader in the sense of getting them closer to their ambition, which is to have a state of their own. It is for that reason that we will be working with other Palestinian leaders, the new members of the Cabinet as well as the new Prime Minister, Abu Mazen.

If the Palestinian people, through their legislature, did not think there was a need for transformed leadership, Abu Mazen would not be the new Prime Minister. So, it is not just an outside desire for there to be others to work with. The PLC did this. Obviously they realized that there was nothing happening; there was no movement. They made a judgment that a Prime Minister would serve their purposes as well.

We all recognize the historic role that Arafat has played and he still remains the leader of the PLO and is seen as the leader of his people, but we need new, transformed authorities that we can work with who can operate with authority and can take decisions that will move this process along. We believe that in Abu Mazen and Mr. Fayed and Mr. Dahlan and a number of others, hopefully that leadership is now present.

QUESTION: I take it he is not in the meeting. Is that at your request?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I won't meet with Mr. Arafat.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on what Barry asked. Some of the statements out of Israel suggest that Dahlan is in charge of only a small fraction of the Palestinian security forces. How do you assess if that is true and how that affects their ability to carry out the agreements that you want them to carry out?

SECRETARY POWELL: There was a great debate about his title and what authorities he should have. I want to get a better assessment of what authority he thinks he has and what authority the Prime Minister thinks he has. So, I will be in a better position to give you that assessment after the trip rather than before the trip. But it is still something of a bifurcated arrangement where there are some elements, external security as they call it, and the "mukhabarat," who actually has control of that. But in terms of police and the PS - preventive security -- services, it is my understanding that Dahlan has those. So, this is what I want to explore with him as part of our conversations.

QUESTION: Just to look at it, from the Israeli side, a number of Israelis, including Ariel Sharon, have suggested that the roadmap does not completely fulfill the President's vision as outlined in the June 24th speech. What is your answer to that point? And secondly, what do you think of the suggestions that the Israelis have made that the upfront issues such as the "right of return" of Palestinians should be addressed before moving forward on the roadmap?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President would not have presented a roadmap if he didn't think it was consistent with his vision. We believe it is. It doesn't mean that there are others who might wish to see modifications or changes or variations to it. What is interesting, in my judgment, anyway, is that there is solid agreement on many, many elements of the roadmap, especially those early elements that we can get started on. So, let's get started -- both sides -- and not in a prolonged debate as to the level of perfection between a particular document and a particular vision. We believe the roadmap is a faithful reflection of the President's vision and it is a way to get started. There are some very, very difficult issues, as there have been since the beginning of Middle East peace discussions for decades that you have got to take in time. One of those, of course, is the right of return. If that becomes an initial upfront issue, then it will complicate progress.

QUESTION: You say, "let's get going." So, what specifically do you want both sides to do to get this going? And secondly, it has taken seven, eight months to get this far. Does that mean that the roadmap might slip when they talk about a three-year timeframe? Is it possible that it will slip beyond 2005?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have ideas that I will present to both sides with respect to what we want to see them do to get going. Then I will be more than pleased to talk in greater detail about that after I present it to them on the next leg. But it is pretty clear what we need: action on security on the Palestinian side, and on the Israeli side everything they can do to ease closures, ease the difficulties that the Palestinian people have in moving around, getting to hospitals, getting to jobs, getting to work -- in order to get some economic activity started again and to provide sufficient flexibility and openness, so that if you want a security force to be able to do security, they have got to be able to move around with some ease. These are well-known steps, and we have a few other ideas that we may also be presenting.

The second question Robin, as to timelines: "Does this all push it further up?" I can't take a shot at that yet. We will have to see how things go in the months that are in front of us, over the next several months and how quickly we can get things going. If we get things moving quickly and there is good faith on both sides and trust is established, and the two sides start meeting each other on a regular basis, only then can we make a judgment as to the rate of movement toward the President's vision. But we don't want to remove that vision of a relatively short timeline, otherwise you know, we just lose momentum and people would constantly move the date out.

QUESTION: Is this possible?

SECRETARY POWELL: Anything is possible; I am just not predicting it, or speculating on it or suggesting it.

QUESTION: On the security issues, the Palestinians say that Mohammed Dahlan is a very effective man, but he just does not have the capacity to do what he is being asked to do. There was talk of help from Egypt, Jordan; CIA was supposed to send out some new folks. What are we doing to give him the capacity to do what he is being expected to do, and then I have one follow on that.

SECRETARY POWELL: I will be meeting with him as part of the group meeting and get a better sense of what he does need. The Agency is prepared to help. They're already talking to them. The Egyptians are already involved, others are involved and we are looking at other forms of help, not just from the Agency. There may be other agencies of the United States government that might be able to play a role or other international agencies who have experience, knowledge and capacity in security matters and police matters, and might be able to play a role.

QUESTION: When you talked about the changing environment and the new demands on Syria, Lebanon and so on, and these groups that had to be contained, you didn't mention Iran. There have been all sorts of stories lately -- the Iranians suddenly want to have diplomatic relations with us. I just wondered if you could comment on the changing relationship with Iran, whether you think that there is any potential there now, because of their role supporting these organizations, and also in Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Barbara. Obviously Iran is part of the tapestry of major supporters of terrorist activity. When I talked to the Syrians last week about ending any means, of ending any access that they may have been giving for transportation of weapons from Iran to Hizbollah…. Obviously, we want to go after where these weapons are coming from and that's Iran.

We have not pursued our dialogue with Iran as openly as we have with Syria, of course. Syria -- we have diplomatic relations, we have many ways of speaking to them; I have been there three times. But we do have channels that we are using with the Iranians, and communicating to them that they ought to review their policies in light of the changed strategic situation, and with a particular emphasis on their nuclear weapons development program, which now is getting the attention, more broadly, from the international community, and especially the IAEA. So yes, Iran has a role to play in this. How many questions did you have?

QUESTION: If they say they want diplomatic relations with us, what would we say to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't expect them to say they want diplomatic relations with us any time in the near future.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you will remember from (inaudible--cross-talk). You always said that you wanted a government-to-government dialogue with Iran, has something changed?

SECRETARY POWELL: I just said we have channels through which we talk to Iranians.

QUESTION: So, you don't want a government-to-government dialogue?

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't hear anybody say a government-to-government dialogue; she said "diplomatic relations."

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: The issue of diplomatic relations is not on the table right now on either side. But in terms of ways of communicating with the Iranians, we have such ways, and we use them on a regular basis, and very recently.

QUESTION: You remember from your past visits to Israel, Palestine, that the Israelis always said they needed calm, and therefore they couldn't move forward whenever there was an attack, and we had the seven-day calm period and so on, and that held things up for months. Has anything changed now? Or are we going to get back to the same pattern of no progress because there has been some other attack? How are you going to handle that when it arises, as it undoubtedly will?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't heard the Israelis talking about total calm, or seven days no incidents, or formulations of that kind. What I have heard them say is with this new leadership they are looking for one hundred percent intent, and one hundred percent effort. One hundred percent effort means putting in place security elements that will not only try to keep violence down, but will go after those organizations that are committed to violence. One hundred percent intent to me means that the new leadership of the Palestinian people from the Prime Minister on down will say the kinds of things that the Prime Minister said on the day he was inaugurated: "That this has to stop, it is not getting us anywhere."

And so, that kind of expression - rhetorical expression of intent to the people, and to the leaders -- is what they are looking for, and they are looking for it steadily, in order to change attitudes within the Palestinian people, and one hundred percent effort is what I will be talking to the new government about, especially Mr. Dahlan -- how can we help them?

QUESTION: On Syria, Mr. Secretary, it's now been a week since we were in Damascus. What are you hearing from your ambassador, your people in Damascus about any steps that they might be taking?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have one or two reports from Ambassador Kattouf. The message was heard, and the only thing - I don't want to take it too far - it is going to take time. There were some reports out of the region that some of the organizations were saying that in light of these changed circumstances they are going to stop their activities. Whether that is coming through the back door as a response or not, I don't know, but it is not what they say, it is what they do. It is not what they tell us they've done; it's what they have actually done. And so we will continue watching.

I am not, you know it's only been - when did we do that, last Sunday, last Saturday? It has only been six days. It's in their interest. I hope that as they sit there and examine this all, they wonder what they get out of continuing with some of the policies of the past. I could answer the question for them, but they have to answer it for themselves. I did answer it for them, but they have to answer it for themselves, because there are consequences for not changing and there are benefits for changing. I think it is a pretty simple quadratic equation.

QUESTION: You were talking about how Iraq changed the strategic environment. And I wondered if it helps the United States put a little more pressure on Israel - you are talking about easing closures, but there are bigger issues about settlements. They talked about some withdrawals of settlements, symbolic withdrawals. Is this a time when you can put a little bit more pressure on Sharon?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the President has made it clear that he wants to see his vision of 24 June achieved. He now is turning his time, attention and energy toward that, and that will require -- sacrifices have to be made by some, meaning things you would rather not do otherwise. Both sides have obligations and the President expects both sides to meet these obligations as a way of moving forward. The President has spoken very clearly about settlement activity, and he did it again last night. It must end. Now, "must end" and what do you do with those that are there already, is a difficult question, and it gets very complex very quickly. Settlements vs. outpost, natural growth vs. non-natural growth. But I know what the President means, he means that settlement activity must end.

QUESTION: A very quick follow on that. Settlement activity must end now, because the roadmap in Phase One says there should be a freeze right away, the outpost should be dismantled.

SECRETARY POWELL: Phase one calls for settlement activity ending in Phase One. Now, (inaudible) a little less precise, but it's clear, and this is not shocking, this comes from the Mitchell Report when settlement ending - settlement activity ending - was a confidence-building measure, and was accepted at that time by the Israeli government. So, it's not as if this is a surprise that is coming at them, that the President still feels strongly, since the President endorsed the Mitchell Report two years ago -- that settlement activity has to be dealt with as part of any comprehensive settlement.

QUESTION: How do you assess the first reactions in the international community to your draft resolution on lifting the sanctions on Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: It has been interesting. On Wednesday afternoon, I took the Secretary General through the concept of it before giving it to him, and then I gave it to him. So he has had it since Wednesday afternoon. We sent it to some of our permanent colleagues -- permanent members of the Security Council -- overnight, and so the French, the Germans, of course the British, the Spanish, and a few others have had a chance to look at it now. We haven't gotten any responses yet from the Chinese. I spoke to the Chinese foreign minister night before last. And so yesterday, Friday, John Negroponte gave it to everybody, blanket.

And there is a retreat this weekend that all of the permanent representatives are on with Kofi Anan, so they'll all be cloistered at an estate in New York, not doing what they thought they might be doing on a beautiful spring afternoon, but playing with the resolution. By Monday, I will have a better assessment of where everybody is.

Initial reaction though, from capitals, is one of -- everybody wants to move forward, a great deal of pragmatism, no re-fighting of the past, no screaming and shouting, if I can put it that way, but a lot of questions. And the questions revolve around the oil for food program. The control of revenues that come from the sale of oil, and the exact authority that the Secretary General's representative or coordinator, whatever it ends up being called, will have and the exact nature of the coalition's thinking with respect to an interim authority and how that grows into a government. These are the questions I would have expected.

The questions will become more detailed and intense as lawyers spend the weekend pouring over the resolution. It took us a couple of weeks to write it, so I'm sure it will take a couple of days to try to figure out what they don't like or what they do like about it. I am pleased that it has not run into any kind of train wreck yet. In fact, pretty good response, but there is a considerable amount of work in front of us.

Yesterday when I was out front - I guess it was with the Amir - it might have been one of my other out fronts, I made a point that might have gotten lost - I think that's where I made it - but we are running into a time crunch with respect to the oil. Let me say it again in case you didn't catch it when I did it.

The fields are not in as bad shape as we thought, and production is ramping up quickly. And production is reaching a point where before the end of the month, say by a week after next week, the 21st or something like this, sometime during that week, all of the storage capacity available will be filled.

At that point if you are not able to lift the oil, meaning move it and sell it, put it into the marketplace, there are two consequences: One, it is a loss of revenue that would be available to the Iraqi people, and so we want to be able to lift the oil, have the UN take action in time so that the oil can be free, no title problems; no indemnification problems to dealt with, so the oil could be lifted and generate revenue, revenue which would then go into a fund that will be for the benefit of the Iraqi people. But of course the coalition provisional authority, as the government, would have some responsibilities, but we would want it supervised by the World Bank, the IMF, anybody you could name, to make sure there was no suggestion that is was for any other purpose than to serve the Iraqi people.

The other reason we want to start lifting the oil, is if you don't lift the oil, and the system shuts down, because you can't bring any more oil out, because you just can't put it anywhere. Then the distillation, and the refineries, and the cracking activity stops. It is that cracking activity at the refineries that gives you your gasoline, and your cooking gas, your propane for the citizens. And you are in the awkward position of having this oil in the ground, but you are bringing in gasoline from other countries, whereas you can make your own, if the refineries are functioning, and they are functioning. And so, there is a supply/demand mismatch right now, which is causing the lines that you see in Baghdad. So, part of our effort to solve that would be to keep the refineries going. Stopping them or slowing them down isn't the proper solution.

QUESTION: The debate on the first step boils down to, do the Palestinians crack down on the extremists or do they negotiate with them? Is the United States prepared to accept Abu Mazen negotiating with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which Israel rejects?

SECRETARY POWELL: What has to be done is to end terror and violence, and to take on those organizations that are responsible for terror and violence. How they plan to take them on is what I will be talking to them about.

Thank you very much.

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Released on May 10, 2003

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