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Colin, Sharon Hold Press Conference, Discuss Meeting

Aired April 12, 2002 - 06:35   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And we are still awaiting Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell to come out of the prime minister's home there to hold a joint news conference. You can see the reporters eagerly awaiting in the audience. Security is very tight around this compound. Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell have been meeting for about two-and-a-half hours now, and supposedly they are preparing to come out to hold this news conference.

We have been talking to David Horowitz (ph) to get some background on this and to better understand what is going to happen. And you did tell us something interesting that the prime minister's house is located across the street from what used to be a cafe that was destroyed by a suicide bomber. So apparently, they want to illustrate to Colin Powell just what has been happening in Israel.

DAVID HOROWITZ (ph): Yes. I am not sure whether that was the actual motive, but I am sure -- I am pretty sure that they wouldn't have passed up the opportunity really to hammer home, again, this very key point as far as I think you'd have to say most Israelis see it. That the suicide bombings have not been taking place in the West Bank, in the disputed areas of East Jerusalem, in the Gaza Strip. The bombings have taken place in Tel Aviv and Netanya and Haifa and West Jerusalem, in areas where supposedly the Palestinians have no dispute with Israel.

And that very fact, the fact that Israelis, wherever they have lived, have felt uniformly and universally vulnerable goes to really illustrate and explain why it is that the Israeli public has lost so widely its faith in Yasser Arafat.

The opinion polls today, again to come back to Israeli public opinion, maybe one in five Israelis now are believing in the viability of any partnership with Yasser Arafat. And remember, just two short years ago in late spring of 1999, the Israeli -- or nearly three years ago now -- sorry -- in late spring of 1999, the Israeli public by a 56 to 44 percent majority elected Ehud Barak as their prime minister. They ousted Benjamin Netanyahu, a hard liner, under whom the country, it has to be said, felt safe. There were very few suicide bombings when Netanyahu was prime minister between '96 and '99. Yet, they kicked him out, because they felt he wasn't...

COSTELLO: David, David...

HOROWITZ (ph): ... making enough of an effort to make peace with Yasser Arafat.

COSTELLO: David, we've got to stop you now. The news conference is about to begin. We see Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell now approaching the podiums -- let's listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The press conference will start with the prime minister. Then we'll have Secretary of State Powell. Then we'll have two questions, one in Hebrew and one in English.

MODERATOR: The press conference will start with the prime minister. Then we'll have Secretary of State Powell. Then we'll have two questions, one in Hebrew and one in English.

(through translator): Prime Minister, please.

ARIEL SHARON, PRIME MINISTER, ISRAEL (through translator): Thank you. I would like to welcome Mr. Secretary of State, Mr. Colin Powell. You are here among friends. You are a friend of Israel, and you are here among friends.

From here, I send my greetings to the president of the United States, George Bush, who is such a great leader of the free world in his war against terrorism. He is a true friend of Israel.

Mr. Secretary, I am very happy for this opportunity that I had to talk with you this morning. It was a very good conversation, a conversation with my friend. We discussed the situation on the ground. We discussed the dangerous situation in the north, and we discussed possible solutions.

Israel is conducting a war against the Palestinian infrastructure of terrorism, and it does hope to conclude this shortly. There can be no peace with terrorism. The terrorism called suicide bombers is a danger for Israel and the entire free world. Israel is the only democracy in the world where every single kindergarten and every single school have to be guarded in order to prevent attacks by Palestinian terrorists on the children.

The friendship between the United States and Israel extends over years and years, and it's based on shared values, liberty, freedom and democracy. This friendship has always been there and always will be there, continue forever.

I thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your efforts. And secondly, I would like to welcome you to Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of Israel.

POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, for your very warm welcome. I am indeed here today as a friend of Israel and a personal friend of yours. I value our relationship and the many conversations we have had over the length of your prime ministership so far, and I look forward to many such conversations in the future.

I am pleased to be here representing President Bush, also strong friend of Israel, but beyond that, the American people. American people have stood by and with Israel for many years. And as you noted earlier, it is a friendship that cannot ever be broken.

I come on a mission of peace. I enjoyed and treasure very much the conversations we had earlier. I take away from that conversation your commitment to peace, your commitment to finding a way forward that will result in a peace so that these two peoples can live together side by side.

I welcome the efforts that you are making as part of the campaign against terrorism, and I know what a difficult time and situation this is for Israel. And as President Bush has said on a number of occasions, especially in his speech on the 4th of April, terrorism is something that must be fought, must be destroyed.

But at the same time, we recognize that eventually to reach the kind of solution that is needed parties must talk, parties must begin negotiations. I am pleased that we have that mutual commitment to get to that point and find a political solution.

The Prime Minister and I had good discussions on the nature of the operations that are under way. He understands President Bush's position. We had a chance to exchange those positions, and I am pleased that he is anxious to bring these operations to an end as soon as possible. And I hope that in my stay here we will have time to discuss this at some greater length.

Mr. Prime Minister, I hope that in the course of my visit and my conversations, not only with you and members of your government, but with Chairman Arafat and other Palestinian authorities, a way can be found to move forward.

I also want to share your concern about the situation on your northern border. I think this is a time for all parties in the region who have a commitment to peace, who truly believe in peace and want to see the end of violence, all parties in the region must play a role to restrain any aggressive activities across Israel's northern border. We have been in touch with governments in the region on this subject, and we'll continue to press that point with them.

Mr. Prime Minister, I thank you for your welcome, and I look forward to our further discussions over the next several days.

SHARON: Thank you.

MODERATOR: First question, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), please?


POWELL: The president and I have spoken about this. We understand the need for Israel to defend itself. We understand that Israel is under threat from terrorist attack, and we have been supportive. But at the same time, we believe, as a friend of Israel, we have to take note of the long-term strategic consequences of the incursions that are under way and its affect on other nations in the region and the international climate.

And so, I think in the conversations with the prime minister, I have explained our position to him and he has explained to me what he feels has to be done. And I hope we can find a way to come to agreement on this point of the duration of the operation and get back to the track that will lead to a political settlement, because I think that is uppermost in everyone's mind: How can we go forward?

We do understand what terrorism is. And as we have responded to terrorism, we know that Israel has a right to respond to terrorism. The question is, how do we get beyond just a response? What is the next step? How do we get past that? And that has been the subject of our conversations this morning.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, it sounds as if you didn't get a timetable for Israel to pull back. If that's so, please clarify that.

Has the prime minister convinced you of the efficacy of the operation, the need to do this to protect Israel's survival?

And do you have a commitment from the prime minister to get engaged in the political process that is part of your agenda, one that you have said could give the Palestinians hope for a state?

POWELL: On the last part, the prime minister has indicated his support for a process to move forward politically through his acceptance of the Mitchell report, and we have talked about ways to move forward.

With respect to specific discussions on timetables and the like, we shared and exchanged views. And I look forward to further exchanges of views in the next couple of days, but don't have a specific answer on timing.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much.


MODERATOR: There will be only two questions today. I'm sorry.

Thank you.

COSTELLO: And this news conference has just ended with Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell shaking hands. Ariel Sharon expressed his great friendship with the United States. In fact, he addressed Powell and the United States as a "friend forever," and in the translation, the translator left off the word "forever." Ariel Sharon made sure that she said that so the whole world could hear it. Powell also said that he considers Israel a friend, a strong friendship, a friend forever.

We want to go to Andrea Koppel right now who also listened in on this news conference to hear it from her perspective.

Good morning again, Andrea.

Andrea, can you hear...

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. Well it sounds as if Secretary Powell did not -- yes, I can. Can you hear me?

COSTELLO: I can. And this is Carol. We haven't gotten to Paula yet. I just wanted to hear your wrap up of the events this morning.

KOPPEL: Oh sorry. OK, I'm sorry, am I on the air right now or am I talking to a producer?

COSTELLO: Oh I'm sorry, Andrea, you are on the air with Carol Costello.

KOPPEL: OK, I'm...

COSTELLO: We just listened to the news conference from Ariel Sharon and Colin Powell and we want you to wrap it up for us right now.

KOPPEL: Yes. Yes. OK, I apologize.

Well what I was going to say is that Secretary Powell did not get, at least it sounds as if he didn't get what he -- what he came to get today here at the Prime Minister's residence, and that was an assurance from Secretary Powell and -- excuse me, from Israel's Prime Minister to withdrawal rapidly from West Bank towns and cities. You heard Prime Minister Sharon couch this as a war against terrorism. It's a war that Secretary Powell said the U.S. can understand, but you need to move beyond it. You need to talk about what do you do after you've begun fighting it.

And this really, Carol, is something that Secretary Powell heard a lot of when he traveled through the Arab world before arriving here in Israel, and that is that it's the Arab world -- excuse me, if the U.S. and Israel wants the support of the Arab world, it must get a full Israeli withdrawal from the territories. It sounds as if we weren't expecting a lot out of this -- out of this trip. In other words, expectations were not high but there was going to be a breakthrough, but it sounds as if this is going to be very tough slogging.

The meeting lasted for four-and-a-half hours. It was only supposed to run for about three to three-and-a-half hours. The -- you could sort of see that while there were obviously public exchanges of affection and friendship between the two men, the U.S. and Israel have gone head-to-head on this one and it appears that Israel is not backing down. This is a rare moment of controversy and conflict in the U.S.-Israel relationship.

And why is that important beyond the obvious? Well Secretary Powell stated there that this is about also U.S. strategic interests in the region. It's also about the threat of a wider war. There's already fighting on Israel's northern border, and the U.S. wants to try to prevent this from escalating it any further. And also it's affecting support within the Arab world for the U.S.-led war against terrorism -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right. Thank you, Andrea Koppel, reporting live for us from Jerusalem this morning. We thank you.




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