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Interview on Egypt's Nile Television With Mohammed El Setohi

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
August 12, 2003

MR. EL SETOHI: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much, and I would like to welcome you for the second time maybe in 19 months. And as you know, with this tension and escalation in the West Bank, what are you doing to stop this escalation between the Palestinians and the Israelis?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're continuing to work with both sides to do everything we can to bring the situation under control. I don't think it's out of control yet. I think we have seen a great deal of progress since the summit at Sharm el-Sheikh and the summit at Aqaba. We have seen Gaza turned over to the Palestinian Authority. We have seen Bethlehem turned over. Some prisoners have been released.

And we have seen reduction in the number of terrorist incidents and violence, but I am concerned that with the two suicide bombers that we saw do their terrible acts today, we could be going back in the other direction. This would not be good.

Lives are lost today. Suicide bombings. What's been accomplished? Does this bring the Palestinian people one step closer to the day when they can have their own state? No. Does this help us in our efforts to push the roadmap forward? No. Does this help us in our efforts to work with the Israelis to achieve those objectives that the Palestinian people have? No.

And so this kind of action destroys the dreams of the Palestinian people, destroys the hopes of the Israeli people for peace between the two sides so that they can make a better life for their children.

MR. EL SETOHI: Are you worried at all about the roadmap now?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, the roadmap is in place. I would like to see progress faster on the path laid out by the roadmap, but we have seen some progress. But what I don't want to do is see us to stop and start to go back in the other direction. So I spoke to my associates in the region today -- Ambassador Wolf, Ambassador Kurtzer -- and I will be speaking to Israeli officials and Palestinian officials, as I have over the last three days, to encourage all sides to continue moving forward.

But you know it must begin with the end of terror. There is no substitute for this. Nothing will be accomplished by terror. And so I continually speak to my Palestinian colleagues, Prime Minister Abbas, security chief Mohamed Dahlan, and said this must be the sine qua non, you know, nothing is more important than cracking down on those who would use terror to kill innocent people in some hope that this will improve the lives of the Palestinian people or make it possible to move toward that Palestinian state that we are working for. It will not. It will stop moving us in that direction.

So I ask all of your viewers and all of the leaders in the Arab world to come together once again and to understand that the United States is a partner for peace, the other members of the Quartet are partners for peace. We are working with the Palestinian Authority, with the Israeli Government, in order to move this process forward down the path laid out by the roadmap. Do not allow terrorists to destroy this opportunity for peace for the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.

MR. EL SETOHI: But these organizations -- I'm talking about Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others -- are saying that we are just retaliating against the Israel raids which has killed more than a dozen Palestinians during the last few weeks. What's your take on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: These are excuses. Everybody can find an excuse for their action. Everybody can say, well, I'm doing this because of that. And then where are we? We're nowhere. We've moved no place forward.

Hamas has said they are entering a temporary ceasefire. Others have said temporary ceasefire. That's allowed the violence to go down a little bit. It's not enough. We need leaders who are strong enough and have enough vision to say I am only going to try to achieve my objectives through peaceful political means and not through the use of terror and violence. Terror begets a response. Response then gets us into another cycle. It is time to end this. It is time to end the use of terror as a way of achieving a political objective. It's part of the solution for the Middle East. It's also part of the global campaign against terrorism.

And so I hope that those who watch this program and wonder, well, what's going to happen next? Well, what can happen next is there can be progress toward the creation of a Palestinian state if all of us just stop now and say out loud to all, "End it, end it. The use of terror and violence must end." Because what is it doing for a single Palestinian child? What does any of this do to accomplish the goal that President Bush laid out for the world and for the Middle East last June 24th of 2002, when he spoke of a Palestinian state living side by side and our commitment to make that happen? Or the other members of the Quartet. Or all of the Arab leaders who met in Sharm el-Sheikh. Or the leaders who met at Aqaba, took the risk for peace. It is now for all of us to take this risk for peace.

Earlier today, I talked to a group of young people. They were Palestinians and Israelis and they were from other countries in the Middle East. They're Egyptians, they're Americans. Teenagers wearing green tee shirts, "Seeds of Peace." And we owe these youngsters more than they are seeing now. We owe them an opportunity to grow up in peace so that when they become adults, when they become leaders of our countries, they will not have to worry about whether or not bombs are going off or people are retaliating for bombing, or where the cycle begins or where the cycle end; but they can, instead, worrying about growing an economy in the Palestinian state, they can worry about educating the next generation of young people -- Israelis, Palestinians, all the Arab nations coming together so that we could recognize each other, work with each other, develop economies in concert with each other, move to achieve the aspirations of their peoples.

The United States wants to help. That's why President Bush has proposed a free trade agreement for the region. That's why we are working through our Middle East Partnership Initiative to help Arab states to improve their infrastructure and their ability to put in place forms of government that benefit the people.

MR. EL SETOHI: When you ask the Palestinian Authority to go after Hamas and Islamic Jihad and others or to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, for Israel it's clear they mean an all-out war against Hamas, but I'm not that sure what you mean by this.

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't call for an all-out war against -- I'm asking Hamas --

MR. EL SETOHI: I mean, I'm asking about going after Hamas. What do you mean by that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I -- Hamas says that they will use terror. Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other organizations that are representing what they say the Palestinian interests are prepared to use terror. They are prepared to kill innocent people through suicide bombings and through other means as a way of achieving what they say their goal is -- a Palestinian state.

But is that really what their goal is, or is their goal to destroy Israel? Israel is not going to be destroyed. Israel will be there. Israel is a nation that is an ally of the United States and can be a friend of other nations in the region. And so they will not achieve the objective they keep telling the people they are trying to achieve. It will not succeed. We have seen that.

What have we seen for the last three years? We've seen the economy of Israel damaged severely. We've seen the economy of the Palestinian communities almost destroyed. Children are not able to get to school. People are not able to get to work. Health facilities aren't working the way they're supposed to.

Is that what terror is going to produce for the Palestinian people? Is this what Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are doing for the Palestinian people? What does this do for them? It does not achieve their dreams of a home for the Palestinian people in a state called Palestine where young Palestinians can grow up in peace and security and freedom, living side by side with Israelis as neighbors, as partners.

MR. EL SETOHI: Okay. Tension has been rising on the Lebanese-Israeli border as well. What are you doing to stop the escalation? And are you willing to include Syria and Lebanon in the peace process?

SECRETARY POWELL: Syria and Lebanon have always been part of the President's vision. We fully recognize that their equities have to be taken into account. And so the comprehensive vision that we have for the region includes settlement between Israel and Palestine, and the Syrian problem and the Lebanese issue. But we have to begin with the Israelis and the Palestinians. That's the critical one. I've had a number of conversations with my Syrian colleagues and I've met with President Bashar three times and we've talked about these issues, and he knows that I am interested in a comprehensive settlement and we have to start with Israel and the Palestinians.

At the same time, Syria can play a more helpful role than it has played in the past. Syria says it's interested in peace, a comprehensive peace. Well, then help us get started by not allowing extremist elements to conduct their work from Damascus. We know that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others are plotting these kinds of actions in Damascus. Maybe they're doing it a little more quietly than they used to, and maybe they're not in the same office building they used to be, but they are still there and they are damaging the prospects for peace.

So we want a comprehensive peace, and if Syria wants a comprehensive peace then Syria should begin helping us by evicting this kind of individual, these sorts of organizations, from Damascus.

It is not -- the way you pose the question, "What are we going to do?" I pose it back to you. What is the Arab world going to do? What is Syria going to do? What is Iran going to do? What is the Arab world going to do to end the terror, end the violence, and create conditions that will allow us to proceed on the roadmap?

We are in touch with Syria through our ambassador and other means, and people will be going to Syria in due course to speak to them about the problem on the northern border. Any instability on the northern border just makes the situation that much worse and creates conditions that would damage the prospects of peace even further.

So, as we have said to Syria and Iran and others, stop supporting Hezbollah interactions, stop serving as transshipments points for weapons going to Hezbollah, and contain, constrain, stop Hezbollah activity in the southern part of Lebanon that places at risk our efforts toward peace and puts people in northern Israel in danger.

MR. EL SETOHI: And my last question is about Iraq. The Governing Council wasn't recognized by the Arab League, and maybe by the United Nations as well. What are you doing on the political level to have it recognized as a legitimate authority?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, the government of Iraq right now is the Coalition Provisional Authority. The Governing Council has been put together as a group of distinguished Iraqi leaders who have come together to begin writing a constitution, to appoint ministers for the ministries of the embryonic Iraqi government. We want to grow this Governing Council into a full government over time, as a constitution is written and available and as people can vote for who they want to be led by. We want to do this as quickly as possible.

The issue right now is really twofold. I'd like to see the Governing Council become more active in reaching out to the international community and by traveling and visiting with Arab leaders in the region so Arab leaders can meet the members of the Governing Council and hear from them what their dreams and aspirations are for the Iraqi people and what their plans are to achieve those dreams.

At the same time, we are working on a resolution that I hope to put before the Security Council in the next couple of days that will ask for Security Council endorsement or in some way an endorsement of the Governing Council as the beginning of a government of Iraq that will ultimately assume full sovereignty and full responsibility for the people of Iraq.

You have to start somewhere. This Governing Council is a good start. The U.S. -- the UN Special Representative Sergio de Mello accompanied representatives of the Governing Council to the United Nations a few weeks ago. They presented their case to the Security Council. It was a good start. And so I hope that we will keep moving in the right direction.

I would have preferred a stronger statement from the Arab League Executive Committee when it met last week, but I hope that by the time the Arab League meets in September, they will have gotten to know the Governing Council more, they will have a better understanding of their goals. I hope we will have a UN resolution by then, and I hope that the Arab League, at that point, will issue a more forward-leaning statement than the one the Executive Committee did last week.

MR. EL SETOHI: And, Mr. Secretary, as usual, many more questions, but my time is up. So maybe next time.

SECRETARY POWELL: I look forward to it. Let's not make it only twice in 19 months.

MR. EL SETOHI: Okay. In 19 months?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no, no. I want to speak to your viewers more often.

MR. EL SETOHI: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

Released on August 12, 2003

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