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Secretary of State Powell Meets With Israeli Foreign Minister

Aired May 2, 2001 - 14:37   ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to have to interrupt here the Sherri Sylvester report. The secretary of state meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the State Department have now stepped out to brief reporters.

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: ... do everything it can to help solve the problems that we see there now, to do everything we can to bring down the level of violence so that we can get economic activity moving again in the region and hopefully soon get back to negotiations which will lead to peace; peace that all parties need, peace that will finally bring an end to this difficult situation.

I explained to the foreign minister that President Bush will be engaged and is engaged and continues to be engaged on a regular basis, as I will be.

We also talked about the negotiations that might be in the future as a result of the nonpaper (ph) that the foreign minister has been discussing with the Egyptians and the Jordanians and the Palestinians. It is the beginning of a dialogue, but, of course, that dialogue cannot really get under way until violence is brought down, brought significantly down.

The United States continues to deplore violence and terrorist action in every manner that we see it. And I just wanted the foreign minister to know of our continued engagement. And the good offices of the State Department, of course, the good offices of the White House, will be available in any way that can be useful to the efforts that are under way.

Mr. Foreign Minister, a pleasure to have you. And I would ask you to say a word or two.

PERES: Thank you very much.

For me, it was a good occasion to express our gratitude to Secretary Colin Powell on two issues.

One is the Desert Storm, which took place 10 years ago and saved the Middle East for 10 years from the danger of nuclear bombs in the hands of a crazy leader. I think it was a historic event, and we shall always carry our deepest gratitude to the United States, its Army, and the then-commander of the Army.

And then I apologized for not letting the secretary fall asleep.

PERES: We call him day and night, to let him know what's going on in our region.

Right now, the situation is worrying. There is no end to terror and violence, which overshadows the real need to start again the negotiation in order to bring peace to all the people, Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel is determined to bring an end to the violence and to bring a beginning to peace. Actually, we would like to stop violence as soon as possible because we're interested to start the negotiation at the earliest possible date.

We see eye-to-eye with the American position, standing against terror by anybody, not only the Palestinians. We are not fighting the Palestinians. We are fighting terror. And today, terror became an un-American act, which is right, in my judgment.

And also encouraging us to return to a face-to-face negotiation where the United States will serve as a facilitator and not a negotiator.

We shall try to coordinate our efforts to bring tranquility to all people in the Middle East and try again our hands, as seriously as we may, to pacify the region.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you clarify a little bit? You spoke of the hope that negotiations could be resumed soon. You didn't say violence must end, you said violence must go down.

POWELL: We need violence to start going down. We need to start going down the escalator of violence. You can't have the kind of negotiations that will be needed between the parties under the current conditions of violence.

What the foreign minister has been doing is exploring with Egyptian interlocutors, the Jordanian interlocutors and Palestinian interlocutors some ideas on a nonpaper (ph) that has been well-covered and well-reported. But you can't move in that direction until we really see the violence go down and until I think economic activity gets started up again between the two sides.

And so, it is not going to happen all at once, and it's not going to happen all three pieces at once, but we've got to get started.

And it has been my judgment from the very day that I became secretary of state that the first thing that has to happen in a serious way, in a way that everybody can see in a demonstrable way is a lowering of the level of violence.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Palestinians should get anything in return for setting fires, for incidents (OFF-MIKE) POWELL: I think the Israelis have indicated that they are anxious to work with the Palestinians and reduce the level of violence. We have security coordination going on between the two sides at several levels, hosted by the United States. And I think once the violence level goes down, more will be forthcoming from the Israeli side.

The foreign minister described to me a number of things that the Israeli side is doing now to give greater access to the workplaces of Palestinian people, to allow commerce to start to move back and forth.

POWELL: And they're going to be moving more aggressively in that direction, even at the current level of violence.

But what really is at the end of this process of eliminating, reducing, getting rid of violence is peace, peace that will bring new hope to all the people of the region. And so this is not the time to do anything but work on getting the violence down and that is the primary goal of American policy at this moment.

QUESTION: Did you raise the question of the withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon? Did you demand that?

And my second question, if you are so keen to help the Palestinian economy, why don't you release the $50 million-plus in taxes instead of asking the American? And Mr. Secretary, the foreign minister is meeting -- the Qatari foreign minister, (inaudible), was that in your prompting or was it your idea, sir?

PERES: Well, we certainly raised the situation in Lebanon, and my view is as long as Lebanon will have three armed forces, there won't be one Lebanon.

There is not a country which is so interested in the independence of Lebanon, her territory integrity, more than Israel. We really wish all the best to Lebanon. But Lebanon is being destroyed by an occupation of one army and by the terror of another armed group and this is dangerous to Lebanon.

Lebanon is saying that they have expelled the Israeli army. It's not true. They forced us to come into Lebanon against our wish and we don't want to see it again. We want it to bring an end and good relations.

The problem of the money, the money is Palestinian money, but as long as Palestinian policemen are on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority while participating in the shooting and bombing, it will be unaccepted by us to supply them with the necessary money to do so.

PERES: About the meeting with the Qatari foreign minister, it won't be the first, it won't be the last, and I hope that our relations will improve with time.

POWELL: And I was aware of the meeting, but I did not arrange it. They do not need me to arrange meetings between two foreign ministers.

QUESTION: What kind of assurances did you get from Foreign Minister Peres (OFF-MIKE)

And to the foreign minister, what specific ideas do you have to offer the Egyptian-Jordanian peace plan? You said it's too one-sided. What Israeli ideas would you like to add to the plan?

POWELL: We talked about settlements, obviously, and there are no new settlements, so you have that assurance. And we had a good discussion of the controversial issue of growth and expansion of existing settlements, and that, obviously, will be something that both sides will have to talk about in due course. But we had a full discussion of the whole issue of settlements.

PERES: It is a guideline of the present government not to establish new settlements, stop. About existing ones, we think that we have to enable them to continue their life uninterruptedly.

I know there are some who feel that we may use it wrongly; it's not our intention. And if there are any suggestions on settlements, the right place to do so is around the negotiating table.

Now, about the ideas of the Egyptian-Jordanian paper, we set the following principles: Everything that was agreed, should be implemented; things that we are not agreed, should be negotiated. You cannot put in a paper agreements before negotiations.

And by the way, I think we have to learn from our own mistakes. Previously, we put too much attention to the print and to little attention to the deeds. This time we have to emphasize the implementation, not just the definition of words.

And then we told the Jordanians and the Palestinians that we are seriously and sincerely anxious to re-enter into negotiations, provided the bombing and the shooting and the fire will stop.

POWELL: Thank you very much.

WATERS: Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at the State Department today meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell. Subject of discussion, peace and the puzzle that is the Middle East and the possibility of resumption of negotiations, although both of the top diplomats from Israel and the United States agree that no negotiations are possible under the current conditions.

There is a plan, however, designed by the Jordanians and Egyptians, an initiative designed to bring an end to the last seven months of violence. Both Peres and Powell telling us the negotiations under current conditions cannot go on. The violence must stop.

Tomorrow, the foreign minister meets with the president of the United States and his national security team, and we'll keep up to speed on the story.



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