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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2006 Secretary Rice's Remarks > November 2006: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Roundtable with the Travel Pool

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Dead Sea, Jordan
November 30, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Let's go, who's going to start? Glenn.

QUESTION: Well, I was interested in knowing, what exactly are you trying to achieve with this kind of regional strategy here in the Mideast? I mean, there are a whole host of issues that seem to be very problematic and you just had this meeting with the GCC and I'm not sure how it all knits together or if it does. The Egyptian Foreign Minister told some of us that he thought it was a mistake to link the Israeli-Palestinian issue and what's happening in Iraq; that that shouldn't be, that it was an unhealthy thing to do, in fact, to link them.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the fact of the matter is that we have multiple changes going on in the Middle East and they do all have one common characteristic. Obviously, they're all very different circumstances, different situations. The Palestinian-Israeli issue has a logic of its own, a history of its own, many attempts to solve it of its own. The Iraqi circumstance is a circumstance of liberation from a tyrant of decades. And of course, the Lebanon situation also has a special character, having now gotten rid of the Syrian occupation and so forth. And so each one has its own dynamic and so, in that sense, I would completely agree.

But what is clear is that in all of those cases, you have the obvious contest between moderate forces and extremist forces, and I think that's what is common to all of them. And you do have in all of those cases, as well, an Iranian factor that is undeniable. But to the degree that we have to resolve them each on their own merit and think about them as circumstances that are very different, I think that's absolutely the case.

But in terms of the regional strategy, the President has a vision for a Middle East that is democratic and therefore, stable. Let me be very clear, I don't consider what we've had before a stability. I considered it, then, a stagnation which then led to very unhealthy developments like the development of al-Qaida. What you see now is a different set of -- a different configuration emerging in the Middle East, in which the very terms of what is going on in Lebanon without Syrian occupation, in Iraq with the end of the Saddam Hussein regime, in the Palestinian territories with different -- you know, without Yasser Arafat and a sort of -- a democratic Palestine.

These are all elements of a changing Middle East and so, the region as a whole is going through enormous change. And I think that's why it's important to keep engaging the states like the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Gulf states.


QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you started in September, kind of a real flurry with the Palestinians (inaudible) President (inaudible) at the UN General Assembly. And it seems like things have only gotten worse, with the exception of the very recent ceasefire, there's been (inaudible) little progress. What can we do now?

SECRETARY RICE: Except for the recent ceasefire, the Olmert speech, the Abu Mazen efforts to form a national unity government, his clear --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, which I think he -- but he gave Hamas this chance and it -- you know, we'll see whether or not there's anything to be revived there. But, you know, in the period between kind of September and the end of November, I think that's actually not a bad set of events to have take place and particularly in a conflict as intractable as the Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I want you to recognize that this is -- we're doing this on a different basis. You're doing it with a situation in which Abu Mazen is committed to a particular path, the Israelis are committed to the same path, and the issue is how to isolate those elements that are not committed to that path.

Abu Mazen gave Hamas a chance to be committed to a two-state solution and they, thus far at least, have demonstrated that they're not. And so I think you are seeing forward movement on a number of fronts and I think it's been a hopeful week and there's now a little opening and we'll see if we can help the Palestinian and the Israelis to push forward through that opening. But it's -- this is the kind of thing that takes time. It takes laying fundamental work and you don't expect great leaps forward; you expect just progress and I think we've seen some progress.

QUESTION: What is that little opening?

SECRETARY RICE: The little opening is --

QUESTION: Olmert speech?

SECRETARY RICE: Olmert's speech and the ceasefire, which, by the way, is very fragile. The ceasefire's very fragile and one of the issues is to help the Palestinians be capable with their security forces of -- when a ceasefire like this comes along, of helping to enforce it.

QUESTION: To follow up, it has to go back to the unity government. I mean, a lot -- most people seem to have interpreted it -- Abu Mazen's statement today as meaning that it's finished those negotiations. And Yasser Abed Rabo later on talked about that soon, they'll be announcing what he called an unprecedented political measure in response to that. I mean, you're seeming to think that the door isn't all the way closed.

SECRETARY RICE: No, no, I didn't say that. I said I'm not the one to declare that. It's up to Abu Mazen to declare the state of his negotiations. But I think it's very obvious that he doesn't think that there's much life left in them. I guess the question is whether or not anyone thinks they can be revived. I don't -- he certainly didn't give me the impression that he does think they can be revived. But I just -- I don't -- I'm not going to be the one to declare whether they are or are not dead. That's really up to him.

QUESTION: Could you give us a little bit of sense of the give and take you just had with the (inaudible) plus two ministers? And specifically, I'm interested in hearing from you what specifically you want from them, vis--vis Iraq.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, it's very interesting. We agreed that, you know, there has to be support for Abu Mazen and there has to be support for the Siniora government and there needs to be concrete ways to support the Iraqi Government. And we began to discuss how that might be and I think there will be some discussions at the level below ministers of how that support might be signaled for the Maliki government.

Everybody recognizes that an Iraq that is stable and moving forward is going to be a positive thing and that we can't afford an Iraq that is not, an Iraq that fails. And so I found a great deal of interest in what concretely could be done to support the Maliki government. And at a kind of David Welch's level, they're going to think about that and it -- certainly the political support of groups like this is extremely important to an Arab state like Iraq. The reconstruction support and the like obviously would be very important, too. But I think really the political support rallying around the democratically elected government of Iraq and saying it has the support of this very important group of Arab states would be an important signal and I think there is --

QUESTION: Can I just (inaudible.)


QUESTION: There are some people who are skeptical about the ability of Sunnis in Saudi Arabia or in Jordan or whatever to actually persuade Sunnis in Iraq to give up violence and join the political process.

SECRETARY RICE: They're trying. There are Sunnis who have joined the political process and I think that base has been broadened by the efforts of states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia in encouraging Sunnis to be involved. For instance, they were very active in getting Sunnis to be involved in the elections as well, but -- and in the -- after the drafting of the constitution, but I think the base has been broadened. By no means, has everybody been able to get all of the Sunnis, particularly some of the ones who've turned to violence, to give up their arms and join the process. But that's going to be obviously something that these states can support. But really as the Iraqis said to us today, reconciliation begins in Baghdad, not in Riyadh, not in Amman, it begins in Baghdad. And they understand that it's their responsibility to reconcile the various communities. But they can certainly use the support of these states. And I think they have had an effect in broadening the base of Sunnis who are part of the political process.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, did you get any concessions from the Israelis or any offers from the Israelis to ease restrictions on the Palestinians? The Egyptian Foreign Minister was saying that he had urged all the (inaudible) and urged the United States to put more pressure on the Israelis.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we continually talk to the Israelis about movement and access issues. I had a conversation with the Defense Minister. I wasn't able to see him because he was in Tel Aviv, but we talked by phone when I was leaving Jerusalem. And he has been very actively pursuing what more can be done on the movement and access issues. Now if the ceasefire can hold that's going to make it easier to make some progress on movement and access. It's somewhat difficult when you have constant (inaudible) rocket attacks coming out of the Gaza to make the movement and access work in the way that we would like.

Those meetings have begun again. General Dayton has told me that he thinks it's more active than it's been in quite some time and so hopefully we'll see some progress. But we have to recognize that the security situation has not been very favorable in the last couple of months. Hopefully that security situation is now going to be more favorable.

QUESTION: In terms of the security situation, are you going to -- is the United States going to be offering more support for Abu Mazen's security forces and are you going to offer more material support and funds? Are you putting in a funding request?

SECRETARY RICE: We are working on what we might do to support the building of the security forces. The Arab states are also I think prepared to make resources available for the building of those security forces. But I think the United States would like to participate in that and we obviously have some -- we'll have to have some congressional consultations about that and what we might be able to do. But General Dayton has a very good security plan. He's been working it with the Europeans. He's been working with the Arabs, particularly with the Egyptians and we do need to find ways to fund it more.

QUESTION: Will Israel allow that in (inaudible)?

SECRETARY RICE: The Israelis have been willing to talk about what needs to be done in terms of strengthening the security forces that General Dayton has had a lot of discussions with the Israelis about this because it goes without saying that if you want the Palestinians to take more responsibility for security, then they have to have adequate security forces to do it and I think the Israelis understand that.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about Iran?

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, certainly.

QUESTION: Tomorrow is going to be sixth months since we said Iran had three and a half months to suspend enrichment or face sanctions and this draft resolution will come up at the Security Council. Do we ever reach a point where the whole unity of the P-5+1 becomes secondary to actually coming up with something (inaudible) them? And do you think that -- do you still think we're going to be able to get Russia to sign on to anything that's meaningful?

SECRETARY RICE: I think we will get a Chapter 7 resolution. But obviously, we'd like to keep the unity of the P-5, but the -- the P-5+1, but unity is not an end in itself. The goal is to get a resolution that makes sense in terms of convincing the Iranians that their behavior is not acceptable in the international community and I might just note that we just had a recent report by Mohamed ElBaradei as well that is very clear about Iranian non-cooperation and his own frustration in being unable to answer important questions about the Iranian so-called civil nuclear program. And so yeah, we have to do something. And I'm all for maintaining unity, but I'm also in favor of action. And we'll just have to look at what the options are. I still think that we had very good discussions with the Russians when we were in Hanoi and I hope that that's soon going to be reflected in what happens at the Security Council. But the passage of a Chapter 7 resolution will make a difference because whatever is in it, the Iranians will be in a very small club of countries under Chapter 7 resolution and that has an effect on your reputation. It has an effect on people's willingness to deal with you. It has an effect on what political scientists call the shadow of a future if people start making decisions about what they will or will not do with Iran. So getting a Chapter 7 resolution is very important.

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)


QUESTION: North Korea. Two days of talks didn't result in an agreement, do you anticipate more discussions on that. And were you able to get any agreement from the North Koreans that they would meet again? Anything on a date?

SECRETARY RICE: We didn't. But what we are doing is preparing the talks and so if it takes some time to prepare the talks, that's worth doing. The North Koreans have said they'll come back to the talks. That's a done deal. But we don't want to just have people come back to the talks. We want to have -- come back to talks that have some possibility of having an outcome and that's what these discussions are about. And it's not really -- I wouldn't think of it as having to come to an agreement.

I think that what we're trying to do is to get a sense of what the expectations are of parties when they come back to the talks. So it's not a -- an agreement, but then we walk into the six-party talks and now -- it really is what are the expectations of this next round and that may take some time. And it may take further discussions.

I might just note that it's not the United States and North Korea; it's the United States, China, North Korea. The Russians have been having conversations with the North Koreans and others have, too.

QUESTION: Did they ask the United States to, for example, lift financial sanctions?

SECRETARY RICE: They're always asking --

QUESTION: Or the (inaudible) six-party talks?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, they've been very clear that they're -- that they will come back to the six-party talks without preconditions. And we expect them to hold to that word.

QUESTION: Don't you think it's a little (inaudible) --


QUESTION: I 'd like to get to the Russia question --

QUESTION: I was going to ask the Russia question.

SECRETARY RICE: All right. You can have the Russia question after Libby gets --

QUESTION: I'd like to go to Iraq.


QUESTION: You know, we've heard in recent weeks that you're doing some "deep thinking" on that and the policy within the State Department and the policy as a whole. Can you reflect on what that deep thinking is and -- you know, perhaps what is coming as far as U.S.-Iraq policy?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President asked us all to take a hard look at where we are in Iraq because obviously, the circumstances on the ground are not what anybody considers to be where we are -- want to be. The progress isn't what we need it to be and the relatively new factor of the sectarian violence which really comes out of the Samara bombing last February -- something, by the way, that was set off by al-Qaida on purpose. We read Zarqawi's emails that he was saying that it needed to be a -- that he needed to set off the Shia against the Sunnis and that was the purpose of the Samara bombing. And to be fair, it had some success.

And so the sectarian violence now is a factor that has to be taken into account when you ask, how can American assets be best used to help the Iraqis take care of their own problems. I think today's meeting with Prime Minister Maliki and the President was very much in the spirit of where we're all thinking, which is that the Iraqis both need to and want to take responsibility sooner and more completely for the security situation.

Now they recognize and we recognize that they don't have the forces that they need to do that just yet. And so the briefing by the joint committee that Ambassador Khalilzad, General Casey, and on the Iraqi side, their national security adviser, Dr. Rubai, has put together this briefing. They gave it to the President and Prime Minister Maliki today. It was about how to accelerate the capabilities and the responsibility, what changes in capabilities might need to be made in order to do that, given the nature of the violence.

And I think that that's one important direction that this is going. But the President's going to, obviously, receive the report of the Baker-Hamilton Commission. That'll be important. He is listening to what the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been doing, what others of us have been doing. And then I think he'll set out a direction that adjusts our policy for the -- to be appropriate to the circumstances that the Iraqis now face. And so that's the nature of what's going on.

QUESTION: Can I follow really quickly on Libby's question?

STAFF: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY RICE: We'll get your question. Yeah, real quick.

QUESTION: Do you know -- I assume you've been briefed about this that people close to Maliki came out of that meeting and told the media that when the President asked about Sadr, Maliki basically said, no problem, and that there were repeated attempts by the President to get to his question and he sort of got slopped off, no big deal.

SECRETARY RICE: And that's really interesting, because the President and Maliki met one on one, so people who tell you they know what went on in that meeting, I'd take it with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: Well, wait just a moment --


QUESTION: They met solo, but they also met as part of a larger group.

SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, but I would --

QUESTION: Does that comport with what you saw --

SECRETARY RICE: Look, I think that the Prime Minister recognizes that he has a problem of sectarianism and a problem of militias. The Sadr forces, obviously, are part of the -- they have ministers in the government, they have seats in the parliament, they are a political movement as well. But they -- he was very clear that anybody who is operating outside of the law and anybody who is killing innocent civilians, whether they are Sunni or Shia, have to be subject to Iraqi action. And he was very clear.

But again, I would be careful with people who are telling you what the President and Maliki said to each other, since they were alone together for at least 45 minutes.

Yes, Glenn.

QUESTION: Yes, since we have a conference here tomorrow --


QUESTION: Isn't it ironic to have Russia co-host a forum that is devoted to telling Arab countries that they need to listen more to NGOs, have rule of law, open up their economies?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let's remember that Russia is not the Soviet Union anymore, that it is not where we would hope it would be in terms of the separation of power. You know that we feel very strongly, I feel very strongly that the Kremlin is too powerful at the expense of other countervailing institutions. The free press is a problem.

The NGO law, which we were very concerned about, we've been very clear with the Russians and working on the issues of implementation of the NGO law. And NGOs are getting registered and I think the Russians have responded to international concerns about that law and international pressure on the NGO law.

When it comes to matters of democratic elections and so forth, the president of Russia was elected and Russia does have a constitution. And I do think that the -- this is a country that has gone through a tremendous transition from the Soviet period to now. Now there are enormous problems and there have been real setbacks in terms of Russian democracy. But I've never thought that it was going to be -- we were going to be better off by isolating Russia somehow from democratic fora, that that was somehow going to be better for Russian democratic development than engaging them in it.

And when you sit around that table, as I did last year in Bahrain, and you hear all of these countries that are at very, very different places in terms of their democratic development, still talking about democratic principles and the NGOs sitting there with them, with a voice, it's a positive way to push political change. And that's what we're doing here, is we're using this international forum to push political change. It doesn't mean that everybody that's sitting around the table is a perfect example of democratic development.

Thanks, guys. I've got to run.

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