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Joint Press Conference

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem
May 10, 2003

Secretary Powell with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan ShalomFOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: I would like to extend a warm welcome to our friend Secretary Powell. It is wonderful to see you here tonight with us in Jerusalem. We have met only one month ago, but since then, we continued to communicate on all issues affecting the region. We are now after the war in Iraq, and following the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's regime, it is clear that strategic changes started in this region. It is very important that the regional leaders will realize that the time has come to take serious choices toward peace.

We said more than once that we share the vision of President Bush as outlined in his speech of the 24th of June, and if the new Palestinian leadership will be ready to move for us toward peace, we will be able to move together in order to achieve peace. The vision of President Bush gave us an opportunity that we are determined to seize. I want to thank you personally for your support and your friendship for the State of Israel, for what you have done to help us to get the long-term guarantees, and I'm sure that together, we will find a way to work in order to bring a better future to this region.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for your hospitality and for receiving me. I am very pleased to be back in Jerusalem for the third [correction: the Secretary misspoke and meant to say fourth] time since I became Secretary of State.

On this trip, I believe that I am arriving at a moment of great opportunity. The war in Iraq is now come to an end and we are in the reconstruction phase. We will put in place in Iraq a government that is representative of the people, that will live in peace with its neighbors. And this fundamentally changes the strategic situation in this area.

Another strategic change is the fact that there is new leadership emerging from within the Palestinian people in the form of a new Prime Minister, and a new cabinet, that is prepared to work with the State of Israel, with the United States and our colleagues in the Quartet, and other members of the international community to move forward toward peace. President Bush laid out a clear vision, as the Minister said, of a way forward. We have a roadmap that, I believe, shows us how to get to where we want to go: peace, and two peoples living side by side in peace.

There's enough agreement on the roadmap that we can get started. Not all aspects are agreed, and obviously there will be comments as we move forward, and there will be serious discussions as we move forward. But as we think about these issues, and as we receive comments and as we hear comments about the roadmap, what is absolutely clear is that there is more than enough for us to get started.

We have tried to communicate with other nations in the region that this is time for everybody to join in this effort. I'll be visiting other nations in the region. I'll be visiting Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. I look forward to conversations there. I visited Syria last week, to make absolutely sure that Syria understood that there was a new strategic situation in the region that they should take into account, and we will see how that develops in the weeks and months ahead. I look forward to my meetings tomorrow with Prime Minister Sharon and other members of his government, and I certainly look forward to my meetings with the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Abbas, and his cabinet as well.

So, Mr. Minister, thank you for receiving me and I look forward to my conversations tomorrow.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is your position about the so-called right of return? Do you accept the Israeli position that it's something that needs to be finalized now before implementation, and that the Palestinians need to declare that they give up on that in order to get Israeli approval for a provisional state?

SECRETARY POWELL: This is one of the more difficult issues that has to be dealt with between the two sides. It has always been a difficult issue, not just in this particular process that we are entering into now, but all along. And so I think the two sides have to deal with it in due course. But I think it's important because there are areas of agreement. There is a need to end violence now. There is a need to end terror now. There is a need to take some steps that will make life a little better for the Palestinian people.

So I think we should get started now, recognizing how difficult issues such as the right of return are, and don't gloss over those difficulties. Recognize it's going to be very, very hard to resolve between the two sides. But let's not let it be a roadblock now to getting started. Let us get started now.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you accept the idea of "hudna" - a sort of a cease-fire between the Palestinian terror organizations, or do you support what Prime Minister Sharon is demanding from the Palestinians: a total disarming and dismantling of these terror organizations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I support the end of terror, and we must not allow organizations that have conducted terrorist activities to continue to either conduct those activities or have the potential to conduct those activities. And so one of the great challenges that is before Prime Minister Abbas is how to deal with organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to make sure that they do not continue to constitute a threat to the safety of the people of Israel. A cease-fire that does not deal with the fundamental issue of an armed group is not a complete solution, and so I'm sure we'll have conversations about this tomorrow, with both Prime Ministers in the course of the day's proceedings.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what steps is the United States prepared to take specifically to ensure that there is an end to violence either providing assistance through the CIA or other agencies to the Palestinian Authority, or to provide monitors to monitor the situation?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are prepared to assist the Palestinian Authority with reconstructing their security organizations, and we have already had contact with them through a variety of U.S. government agencies that might play a role. And as we have said previously with respect to monitors, the United States is prepared to put monitors in as part of the process of moving forward - United States monitors - and this was announced at the G-8 Summit Meeting in Genoa some two years ago, and that continues to remain our position.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you be more specific about what immediate steps you'd like the two sides to take and what your prospects are for getting that this weekend?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have a number of ideas, and we have been in discussions with the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side, and if I may, I'd like to have the conversations tomorrow before I discuss specific steps that may have been requested and what might have been responded to.

QUESTION: What specific steps would you expect from the Israeli side to take in order to take forward the peace process, and in your answer please relate to the issue of the settlement activity. The same question for Mr. Shalom. (Question in Hebrew.)

SECRETARY POWELL: We will be talking about specific steps tomorrow, I am sure. So, I would rather not answer the question directly until we have had a chance to have our conversation tomorrow. With respect to settlements, as President Bush has said in his speech of 24 June, and as he reiterated when he spoke last evening in South Carolina, we expect settlement activity to end, and I believe we have assurances from the Israeli government that that is their position as well. The question is natural growth and issues of that nature.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: Israel is prepared to make humanitarian gestures toward the Palestinians if they put an end to incitement, terrorism and violence against Israeli citizens. We have no conflict with the Palestinians themselves. The only conflict that we had, and unfortunately we still have, is with the Palestinian leadership. This new Palestinian leadership will have to take measures against the extreme organizations that are still planning to implement terror against the Israelis. And if they will do it, it will be easier for us to make more gestures toward the Palestinians.

We are working on it. I said more than once that if the Palestinians will be serious, they will find us as a real partner for peace. We are willing to resume the negotiations, we think the time has come that we will have meetings with these new Palestinian leaders, and if these leaders will think that the only thing that they are expected to do is to get a cease-fire with the other organization, I don't think that this will bring us to a better atmosphere and better future.

We are now willing to resume the negotiations. The Prime Minister said more than once that this government will do everything in order to find if there is a way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, we are looking forward to do it. This is the time that the Palestinians have to decide if they want to remain in the same track of violence, or they want to move to the second track that might bring us a glimmer of hope.

QUESTION: Two questions. One for each of you. Secretary Powell, did you detect this evening in your meeting any indication that Israel was moving closer towards agreement to the roadmap in toto? And to Foreign Minister Shalom: Secretary Powell has clearly come here to start movement on the details of the roadmap before complete agreement comes about. As a matter of principle, what does the Israeli government think of that approach to the way ahead?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a good discussion of the President's vision and how best to achieve it. We have known all along that the Israeli government has had comments that they wished to provide us with respect to the roadmap. They gave us some tentative comments some time ago in Washington, and we expect to hear more. But I think I could speak for both of us when I say that we find that there is enough in the roadmap at this point that we can agree to that. Let's get started and not find obstacles to keep us from getting started. This is an opportunity that should not be lost and I think we are both committed to trying to seize that opportunity.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: It was agreed that there is very much to do. I think that if the Palestinians will end terror and incitement, it can bring better lives to the Israelis and if we will make gestures toward the Palestinians, it might bring better lives to the Palestinians.

After the war in Iraq, the game is changed. There are new rules. They will have to adapt a new way of behavior to move toward peace. A new approach must bring them to realize that the change must come. We want them to be our partner. We want them to live with us in safety, in better conditions, in better economic lives and I think it can be done. It is only a question if they understand that this government won't march through both tracks in the same time. I mean there will not be a track that we will fight each other on a daily basis, while in the second track we will negotiate at night in nice hotels.

I think it is understood by our friends the Americans, it's understood by the Europeans, and it must be understood by the Palestinians. If they will understand us, we will understand them, and together we will be able to start. Secretary Powell said that he is willing to start to move the process and we are here to help you to do it.


Released on May 10, 2003

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