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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > March

Remarks With Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Jamil Al-Muasher After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
March 9, 2004

(11:40 a.m. EST)

Secretary Powell with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Jamil Al-Muasher SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Foreign Minister Muasher and I have just completed a very productive discussion. I, again, thanked the Foreign Minister for the support that Jordan has been providing in our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, especially with respect to law enforcement personnel.

I also had a good discussion with the Minister on the reform efforts that are much a subject of discussion these days. The Minister indicated to me that he and other Arab nation foreign ministers have been discussing reform efforts and some ideas are brewing, some ideas are coming forward that I think will be very positive with respect to principles of reform.

As I said to the Minister, the United States and other members of the G-8 have no intention of trying to impose reform on any Arab nation. That wouldn't work. It has to be an effort that originates in the region based on the desires, hopes and aspirations of the people of the region and the nations of the region.

And the Minister will be working with other ministers to capture those hopes, aspirations, desires and plans in a way that then can be discussed with the United States and others, and we can see how we can move out together in a partnership toward reform.

And so I thought that was a very important part of our discussion this morning.

We also discussed, of course, the Middle East peace process. We are examining very closely the ideas that have been put forth by the Israeli side with respect to Gaza. There are many other questions that we want to pose to our Israeli colleagues to make sure we have a good understanding of their plans for Gaza and plans for the West Bank as well.

So, as usual, it was a good discussion with the Foreign Minister. I always value his wisdom and his guidance.

So, Marwan, it's a pleasure to have you and I invite you to say a word.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: Thank you very much. I really appreciate this, and we had, indeed, a very good and detailed discussion about all these issues.

I am very reassured by what the Secretary said about the reform efforts coming from the region and not being imposed from outside.

I think it is important also for the region to come up with a credible and serious reform process, and this is, indeed, what we are doing. I briefed the Secretary on some of these efforts, both in terms of what Jordan is doing as well as what we are doing in the region.

I also emphasized the fact that any reform effort also has to include necessarily strong engagement and attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict; that while the region is not using this as an excuse for not moving forward, it also a fact that moving forward is going to be aided to a great extent by serious attention and resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that both efforts have to move in parallel.

We discussed the recent Israeli proposals. There are still many answers -- many questions that are not answered, and we are both seeking answers to these questions. I think that if this is done in the context of the roadmap, if this is done in coordination with the Palestinians, then this might present an opportunity. But it is important, before we pass final judgment, to talk to the Israelis and understand exactly what their intentions are regarding this issue.

Again, thank you very much for receiving me here, and I look forward to continued consultation with you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Iraq, the Shiites have, for the time being at least, have withdrawn their objections to the interim constitution. Do you see any bumps down the road that you have to be careful about, any anticipated problems?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are involved in a democratic process and I am very, very pleased that the administrative law was agreed to unanimously yesterday, even though there were some reservations expressed and some belief that as we move forward some members of the Governing Council or other leaders might propose revisions and changes. That is all part of a democratic process. Remember, there is yet a constitution, final constitution, to be written.

But this was such a breakthrough in terms of the region, in terms of Iraq. Just imagine a administrative law that enshrines for the Iraqi people a bill of rights, freedom, openness; all men, women and children in the country equal; a free, independent judiciary; the military firmly under civilian control; putting in place the conditions under which an interim government will be created, and then a transitional government.

All of this, I think, is historic. And as we move forward, certainly there will be new issues raised and difficulties to be overcome. But this was such an historic step that I am confident we will be able to deal with these other challenges as they come along.

I should put it another way: that the Iraqis will be able to deal with these other challenges as they come along because this is now an Iraqi process. We will help them, assist them. The UN will help and assist. Other nations will help and assist.

But what we have launched now is an Iraqi process that will be driven by the Iraqis as they move forward, and they will have to reconcile the differences that might still exist within Iraq. And we will provide our assistance, guidance, but it is for them to determine how they will be governed, what kind of constitution they will have and what kind of political system they will have within the guidelines of this administrative law and the constitution that will follow.

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister --

SECRETARY POWELL: Young lady.

QUESTION: How can you explain this new adventure between Jordan and Israel setting up this scientific research center in Wadi Araba with American help, considering that the whole region is suffering from a stalemate on the peace process?

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: This is not a political issue and this is an issue having to do with scientific cooperation. The fact that we are doing this does not mean that we don't have political differences with Israel. We do. And we have been very frank whenever we had political differences.

But I think it is also important to advance other areas of cooperation, where needed, and this is one of them that is being done not only with Israel, but in conjunction with some very respectable American institutions, Stanford and Columbia, for that matter.

SECRETARY POWELL: Young lady.

QUESTION: Dr. Muasher, can you expand on some of the unanswered questions that you have about the Sharon plan and how you think that it might present an opportunity?

And, Secretary Powell, you also said you have some things that you'd like to get more clarification on, if you could talk about that.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: Well, it's important to know whether this will be a full withdrawal from Gaza or not, whether this would be in connection with other withdrawals from the settlements in the West Bank, whether this is going to be done in the context of the roadmap or as a replacement to it.

There are many questions that need to be answered here, and I think that if they are answered in the proper way that we are going to have an opportunity to finally move the roadmap forward. But this is not an issue that should be done without coordination with all the respected parties, including with the Quartet.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Minister covered it all, as well as after the withdrawal of the settlements and the Israeli forces, what will be the arrangement in Gaza? Will the Palestinian Authority be prepared for the task of managing the region? So there are a lot of questions of this nature, and I would certainly endorse what the Foreign Minister said.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Dr. Muasher, Prime Minister Sharon today said that he's looking forward to an upcoming meeting with His Majesty King Abdullah. Could you tell us a little bit more on that? Could you expand on that?

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: There are no plans so far to meet with Prime Minister Sharon. This is not to say that His Majesty is not ready to meet with him; anytime we feel that a meeting is going to help move the peace process forward, we are ready to do this.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.


Released on March 9, 2004

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