U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video

Press Availability with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Berlin, Germany
May 30, 2007

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you on the occasion of this meeting of the Mideast Quartet. I'm very pleased about the fact that the Mideast Quartet meets again in Berlin during the German presidency of the European Union. It is its second meeting. Of course, this is not the end of today's meeting. We have interrupted our meeting for the press conference and will continue our discussions over dinner.

You may be aware of the fact that today's meeting takes place against the background of renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Once again, people on both sides had to give their lives. And of course, we are seriously concerned about the developments in the regions and this has left its mark on today's discussion.

We all agree and have agreed on that the spiral of violence and counter-violence has to be broken up. Today, the Quartet sends out a signal, a signal that the international community will continue to be ready to support the conflict parties in these difficult times. We want to be very clear about this to the parties involved. We want to make it clear to them that what is important here is that we do not lose sight of what is at stake and what has to be done, and that is that violence has to come to an end. But in order to allow a precarious ceasefire to lead to a situation where we can speak of permanent stability, we have to develop concrete political perspectives for a settlement of this conflict.

No one, of course, of those represented here can take the place of the conflict parties and we're very much aware of that, ladies and gentlemen. The political courage, the willingness to make peace, is something that Israelis and Palestinians have to show. But one thing is quite obvious, and that is if we allow ourselves to subside in escalating violence, this conflict is not going to be settled sometime soon; rather, the opposite is going to happen.

That is our urgent appeal to the parties involved, is to restore the ceasefire immediately. We have to go back to where the negotiations were broken off, and that is to go back to the question of how we can bring about concrete improvements in the daily living conditions of both sides and how we can see to it that the vision of a two-state solution becomes reality. The Quartet is ready, ladies and gentlemen. We are willing to do our bit to help resume negotiations and it is to this end that we want to once again meet with the conflict parties in June this year, that is to say with the Israelis and the Palestinians. And we also want to continue our dialogue with the countries of the Arab League. We hope that direct negotiations of the Arab League with Israel will lead to continuing dialogue.

The conclusion that I can draw from today's meeting is that beyond the daily violence that we are witnessing unfortunately, there are initiatives and developments on which we can build. Thus, today's appeal that goes out from Berlin is to use these chances and opportunities and not to let them pass without using them, benefiting from them. We owe it to the people concerned.

We have agreed on a statement today, ladies and gentlemen. You may have it before you. Before you put your questions, I'd like to ask the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, to take the floor.

SECRETARY GENERAL BAN: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. Ladies and gentlemen, good evening. The Quartet expressed its deep concern over recent factional violence in Gaza. It called for all Palestinians to immediately renounce all acts of violence and respect the ceasefire. It called upon the Palestinian Authority government, in cooperation with President Abbas and regional actors, to do everything necessary to restore law and order, including the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

The Quartet strongly condemned the continuing firing of Qassam rockets into southern Israel as well as the buildup of arms by Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza. It endorsed Palestinian President Abbas' call for an immediate end to such violence and call upon all elements of the Palestinian Government and all Palestinian groups to cooperate with President Abbas to that end. The Quartet called for the immediate and unconditional release of Israel Corporal Gilad Shalit. The Quartet urged Israel to exercise restraint to ensure that its security operations avoid civilian casualties or damage to civilian infrastructure. It noted that the detention of elected members of the Palestinian government and legislature raises particular concerns and called for them to be released. The Quartet noted its support for the May 30th Security Council Press Statement on the breakdown of the ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The Quartet welcomed continued dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, including bilateral summits, and expressed support for U.S. efforts to effect progress on security and movement and access issues. The Quartet agreed that movement and access are essential and in this regard called on both parties to implement fully the Movement and Access Agreement of 15 November 2005. The Quartet urged the parties to work positively and constructively in order to build confidence and to create an environment conducive to progress on the political horizon for Palestinian statehood, consistent with the Roadmap and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, which should also be addressed in these bilateral discussions. Palestinians must know that their state will be viable, and Israelis must know a future state of Palestine will be a source of security, not a threat.

The Quartet commended the excellent work of the Temporary International Mechanism and endorsed its extension for three months from July until September 2007. It called on donors to follow through on past pledges of support. The Quartet noted that the resumption of transfers of tax and customs revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority would have a significant impact on the Palestinian economy. The Quartet encouraged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to consider resumption of such transfers via the Temporary International Mechanism to improve the economic and humanitarian conditions in the West Bank and Gaza. In light of increased regional support for the Palestinians, the Quartet agreed to review where additional donor assistance should be focused, with particular consideration for infrastructure and development programs that can directly improve the daily lives of Palestinians. The Quartet invited concrete proposals from the parties on specific international support that could be useful at this stage.

The Quartet welcomed the extension of the EU Border Assistance Mission at Rafah. It reiterated the importance of resuming normal operations at the Rafah crossing. Taking note of the continuing threat to Israel and Palestinian security posed by smuggling, the Quartet welcomed progress in the Quadrilateral Security Committee and called for greater efforts by all parties to improve security along the Egypt-Gaza border.

The Quartet welcomed the re-affirmation of the Arab Peace Initiative, noting that the initiative is recognized in the Roadmap as a vital element of international efforts to advance regional peace. The Arab Peace Initiative provides a welcome regional political horizon for Israel, complementing the efforts of the Quartet and of the parties themselves to advance towards negotiated, comprehensive, just and lasting peace. The Quartet noted its positive meeting with members of the Arab League in Sharm al-Sheikh on May 4, and looked forward to continued engagement with the Arab states. It welcomed the intention of the Arab League to engage Israel on the initiative, and Israeli receptiveness to such engagement. Recalling elements of the April 18 decision by the Arab League Follow-up Committee, the Quartet urged all involved to demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to making peace. In that context, the Quartet reiterated the need for a Palestinian Government committed to nonviolence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, including the Roadmap, and reaffirmed its willingness to support such a government. The Quartet encouraged continued and expanded Arab contacts with Israel, and Israeli action to address concerns raised in the April 18 Arab League decision, including a cessation of settlement expansion and the removal of illegal outposts, as called for in the Roadmap.

Looking ahead, the Quartet discussed a calendar for the coming months to support and encourage progress on the bilateral and regional tracks. The Quartet principals agreed to meet in the region in June with the Israelis and Palestinians to review progress and discuss the way forward. The Quartet also agreed to meet in the region with members of the Arab League to follow up on the Arab Peace Initiative and efforts to advance the regional track. Principals instructed the envoys to meet beforehand to follow up and explore options for the way forward.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: Thank you, Secretary General. Time for a couple of questions.

QUESTION: (In Russian.)

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Well, you know, that is really what the statement is about. Actually, it is true lately the Quartet has devoted the lion's share of its work to looking at the problems and assessing the problems which exist between Israel and the Palestinians and above all problems which we know are linked to the need to stop the violence, to guarantee better security and make sure that all institutions of the Palestinian Authority can actually work. This is very important.

The way the situation has escalated also puts the whole situation in question, which is why we need to devote attention to that. And "we" means the international community of nations. But of course, we also simply need to find a solution for these problems, however difficult it may be. It is extremely difficult if you can't move forward and we need to really realize these objectives which we've put on the table in the Quartet, which the United Nations have been really advocating time and again. We need a comprehensive solution of the Middle East conflict, and in order to achieve that we've tried even last September where we agreed to have a more active approach by everybody concerned together with the Palestinians. And secondly, we've also advocated cooperation with countries in the region which are also able to make a contribution so that together we can achieve something.

We've also had meetings with the Arab League representatives. That was last month in Sharm el-Sheikh. And we will be building on this joint activity and today, I must say, we also will invite all sides concerned and Arab countries to talk to us. In June there's going to be a meeting of the Quartet together with the Israelis and the Palestinians, and of course we'll also have a delegation from the Arab League present at that meeting. And we will look at the initiative and see how much has been realized of the Arab League peace initiative. So you will see we are indeed listening to what the journalists tell us and we are working very closely and achieving something.

SECRETARY RICE: I would just say that the situation is difficult and we all recognize that if you wait for favorable circumstances in the Middle East before you try to achieve anything, then you're never going to achieve anything because the circumstances are never so favorable. You have to deal in complicated situations.

And I would add in addition to what Sergey has said about what we have been doing that, of course, there has been great support from the Quartet for the building of Palestinian institutions and also for the bilateral track between the Israelis and Palestinians. We need to realize that there is no substitute really for dialogue and discussion between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and so we have tried to be supportive of that track as well.

I do believe that the Quartet has been more active in the last six months or so than at any time since I have been Secretary and maybe at any time in recent memory. We have been meeting regularly. We have been discussing regularly. You see the meetings that we have together here in Berlin or in other places, but we quite frequently also have conference calls in which we discuss matters when something happens in the region. So the Quartet is very active and I think that is only as it should be because the Quartet is really the international mechanism for pressing forward for implementation of the Roadmap, for implementation of a successful movement toward a two-state solution and for implementation of a broader comprehensive peace.

MR. SOLANA: Very briefly to put in context what we have decided today. Today is the last day of the month of May. Before the last day of the month of June, we will have two meetings in the region for the first time: the Quartet plus the two, Palestinian and Israeli; and the Quartet also with the Arab League. So it is a very important decision we have taken today and this is something that was called for many, many people to take place. It is taking place in a few days. This is really a very important (inaudible).

MODERATOR: Thank you. The second question, Ms. Sylvie Lanteaume, Agence France Press.

QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Lavrov. You expressed today serious reservations about the UN resolution on the Hariri tribunal. I wanted to know if Russia would veto it.

And also, I would like to have your opinion on the shipment of U.S. arms to Lebanon. I would like to know if you think it's a good idea.

And Madame Secretary, what do you answer to the accusations that U.S. is meddling into Lebanon affairs by sending these shipments?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Concerning the question of the UN resolution, I would like to say regarding this tribunal and the Rafik Hariri murder, the investigation pertaining to that murder, I can only reaffirm what I said earlier and what you have heard already. And as far as the concrete vote on that resolution is concerned, I think the next few hours we'll see what will happen. As you know, this is going to happen in New York, but we're in Berlin now.

And as far as the shipments of arms to the region is concerned, we have always assumed that it is necessary for international agreements to be adhered to. We also know that it is necessary to prevent the shipment of arms which might serve to destabilize the situation. I also assume that other countries will keep to these same principles.

SECRETARY RICE: On the matter of the shipment of arms, indeed the rebuilding of the Lebanese army is envisioned in any number of international agreements, including in Security Council resolutions that say that the Lebanese army has to be capable of defending its sovereignty. And that is what we are doing. We are supporting the Lebanese army, which is an all-Lebanese institution.

And I think you are seeing that, for instance, Resolution 1701 could not be carried out if the Lebanese army is not capable of defending its borders, if the Lebanese army is not capable of moving into the south to prevent the kind of situations that led directly to the Lebanese conflict last summer.

And so we are doing this as a part of the international community's effort and the United States is not the only country that is helping to equip the Lebanese army, which needs to have the modern capability to defend its sovereignty and to defend its state. And that's the only purpose of this. This is not a matter of interfering in Lebanese affairs. It is helping Lebanon to be able to defend its own sovereignty. And I think you would find that the U.S. efforts in this regard, as well as the efforts of a number of other countries -- for instance, France has been very involved -- would very much be faithful to the principles that Sergey stated.

MODERATOR: Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner, please.

COMMISSIONER FERRERO-WALDNER: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, in this statement today you will also find first an extension of the Temporary International Mechanism because we still have to go on and help the Palestinian people on humanitarian assistance as long as they are really in such a difficult and dire situation. But we are also going beyond that and indeed we try to decrease our current concentration on mostly emergency assistance and gradually shift towards resumption of institution building and also development projects. Already we are working with Salam Fayyad on technical assistance, be it revenue collection, be it customs and be it auditing. So you see, we try also to shift and in the future we are reflecting now on the question of development assistance, particularly on those projects that are really important for the Palestinian people in order to make their daily lives better but particularly also in order to enhance the economic part of it. And therefore also free movement of access, of goods and people, is highly important.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIR: One last question. Is there one last question? If that is not the case -- yes, there is one right up front.

QUESTION: Mr. Lavrov, could you clarify what you meant when you said -- when you were speaking about the shipment of arms that might serve to destabilize the situation and international agreements?

And Mr. Solana, could you give us a preview of your meeting tomorrow with Mr. Larijani in Madrid, what you expect to come out of that meeting?

FOREIGN MINISTER LAVROV: Well, I'm not quite sure of why you are addressing this question to me. As far as the arms shipment is concerned which I referred to, the people who are sending these arms know very well which actions might be destabilizing and which might not be.

MR. SOLANA: (Inaudible) in view of the meeting that will take place tomorrow -- maybe some other day, Friday. As you know, we have tried to pave the way with (inaudible) to help the starting of a negotiation that will guarantee with objective conditions that the program of Iran is a peaceful program and that the engagement of the European Union plus the other members of which are engaged -- the United States, Russia, China, et cetera -- to get with Iran the possibility of developing a peaceful nuclear program, and no more than that. And that's what we want to do. But we cannot start even now the negotiation. It's a paving the way for the negotiation. So I cannot give you a preview of what is going to happen, but I hope very much that we will be able to move the preparation for the actual negotiation which still have not started.

FOREIGN MINISTER STEINMEIER: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.


Released on May 31, 2007

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.