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Powell, Shalom Hold News Conference

Aired May 10, 2003 - 15:02   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you now to Jerusalem, where U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is stepping up to the mike momentarily. He's meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister Shalom there. Let's listen in to Jerusalem.

We are now after the war in Iraq and following the dismantling of Saddam Hussein's regime. It is clear that strategic changes has started in this region. And it is very important that the regional leaders will realize that the time has come to take a serious choices toward peace.

We said more than once that we share the vision of President Bush as outlined in his speech of the 21st of June. And if the new Palestinian leadership will be ready to move for us toward peace, we will be able to move together in order to achieve piece. The vision of President Bush give us an opportunity that we are determined to seize.

I want to thank you personally for your support and your friendship for the state of Israel, for what you have done to help us to get the long-term guarantees. And I'm sure that, together, we will find a way to work in order to bring a better future to this region.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for your hospitality and for receiving me. I'm very pleased to be back in Jerusalem for the third time since I became secretary of state.

On this trip, I believe that I'm arriving at a moment of great opportunity. The war in Iraq has now come to an end, and we're in the reconstruction phase. We will put in place in Iraq a government that is representative of the people, that will live in peace with its neighbors. And this fundamentally changes the strategic situation in this area.

Another strategic change is the fact that there is new leadership emerging from within the Palestinian people in the form of new prime minister and a new cabinet that is prepared to work with the state of Israel, with the United States and our colleagues in the quartet and other members of the international community to move forward toward peace.

President Bush laid out a clear vision, as the minister said, of a way forward. And we have a road map that I believe shows us how to get to where we want to go: peace and two peoples living side by side in peace.

There is enough agreement on the road map that we can get started. Not all aspects are agreed, and obviously they will be comments as we move forward, and there will be serious discussions as we move forward.

But as we think about these issues, and as we receive comments, and as we hear comments about the road map, what is absolutely clear is that there is more than enough for us to get started.

We have tried to communicate with other nations in the region that this is time for everybody to join in this effort. I'll be visiting other nations in the region. I'll be visiting Jordan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and I look forward to conversations there.

I visited Syria last week to make absolutely sure that Syria understood that there was a new strategic situation in the region that they should take into account. And we will see how that develops in the weeks and months ahead.

I look forward to my meetings tomorrow with Prime Minister Sharon and other members of his government. And I certainly look forward to my meetings tomorrow with the new prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Prime Minister Abbas and his cabinet as well.

So, Mr. Minister, thank you for receiving me. And I look forward to my conversations tomorrow.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is your position about the so- called right of return? Do you accept the Israeli position that it's something that needs to be finalized now before implementation, that the Palestinians need to declare that they give up on that in order to get Israel approval for a provisional state?

POWELL: This is one of the more difficult issues that has to be dealt with between the two sides. It has always been a difficult issue, not just in this particular process that we're entering into now, but all along. And so I think the two sides have to deal with it in due course.

But I think it's important, because there are areas of agreement. There is a need to end violence now. There is a need to end terror now. There is a need to take some steps that will make life a little better for the Palestinian people.

So I think we should get started now, recognizing how difficult issues such as the right of return are, and don't gloss over those difficulties. Recognize it's going to be very, very hard to resolve between the two sides. But let's not let it be a roadblock now to getting started. Let us get started now.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you accept the idea of hudna, sort of a cease-fire between the Palestinian terror organization? Or do you support what Prime Minister Sharon is demanding for the Palestinians, a total disarming and dismantling of these terror organizations?

POWELL: I support the end of terror. And we must not allow organizations that have conducted terrorist activities to continue to either conduct those activities or have the potential to conduct those activities.

And so one of the great challenges that is before Prime Minister Abbas is how to deal with organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad to make sure that they do not continue to constitute a threat to the safety of the people of Israel.

A cease-fire that does not deal with the fundamental issue of an armed group is not a complete solution. And so I'm sure we'll have conversations about this tomorrow, both with both prime ministers in the course of the day's proceedings.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what steps is the United States prepared to take specifically to ensure that there is an end to violence, either providing assistance through the CIA or other agencies to the Palestinian Authority, or to provide monitors to monitor the situation?

POWELL: We are prepared to assist the Palestinian Authority with reconstructing their security organizations, and we already have contact with them through a variety of U.S. government agencies that might play a role.

And as we have said previously, with respect to monitors, the United States is prepared to put the monitors in as part of a process of moving forward -- United States' monitors. And this was announced at the G-8 summit meeting in Genoa some two years ago, and that continues to remain our position.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you be more specific about what immediate steps you'd like the two sides to take and what your prospects are for getting that this weekend?

POWELL: I have a number of ideas, and we have been in discussions with the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side. And if I may, I'd like to have the conversations tomorrow before I discuss specific steps that may have been requested and what might have been responded to.

QUESTION: Same question to Secretary Powell, then to Foreign Minister Mr. Shalom. What specific steps would you expect from the Israeli side to take in order to take forward the peace process? And in your answer, please relate to the issue of settlement activity.

Second question to Mr. Shalom, (SPEAKING IN HEBREW)

POWELL: We'll be talking about specific steps tomorrow, I'm sure. So I would rather not answer the question directly until we've had a chance to have our conversation tomorrow.

And with respect to settlements, as President Bush has said in his speech the 24th of June and as he reiterated when he spoke last evening in South Carolina, we expect settlement activity to end. And I believe we have assurances from the Israeli government that that is their position as well. The question is, natural growth and issues of that nature.

SHALOM: Israel is prepared to make humanitarian gestures toward the Palestinians if they put an end to incitement, terrorism and violence against Israeli citizens.

We have no conflict with the Palestinians themselves. The only conflict that we had, and unfortunately we still have, is with the Palestinian leadership. This new Palestinian leadership will have to take measures against the extreme organizations that are still planning to implement terror against the Israelis. And if they will do it, it will be easier for us to make more gestures toward the Palestinians.

We are working on it. We -- I said more than once that if the Palestinians will be serious, there will find us as a real partner for peace. We are willing to resume the negotiations. We think the time has come that will have meetings with these new Palestinian leaders.

And if these leaders will think that the only thing that they are expected to do is to get a cease-fire with that organization, I don't think that this will bring us to a better atmosphere and better future.

We are now willing to resume the negotiations. The prime minister has said more than once that this government will do everything in order to find if there is a way to achieve piece between Israel and the Palestinians. We are looking forward to see -- to do it.

This is the time that the Palestinians have to decide if they want to remain in the same track of violence or they want to move to the second track that might bring us a glimmer of hope.

QUESTION: Two questions, one for each of you.

Firstly, Secretary Powell, did you detect this evening in your meeting any indication that Israel was moving closer toward agreement to the road map in total?

And to Foreign Minister Shalom, Secretary Powell has clearly come here to start the movement on the details of the road map before complete agreement comes about. As a matter of principle, what does the Israeli government think of that approach to the way ahead?

POWELL: We had a good discussion of the president's vision and how best to achieve it.

And we've known all along that the Israeli government has had comments that they wished to provide us with, with respect to the road map. They gave us some tentative comments sometime ago in Washington, and we expect to hear more.

But I think I could speak for both of us when I say that we find that there is enough in the road map at this point that we can agree to that let's get started, and not find obstacles to keep us from getting started.

This is an opportunity that should not be lost, and I think we're both committed to trying to seize that opportunity.

SHALOM: It was agreed that there is very much to do. I think that if the Palestinians will end incitement, it can bring better lives to the Israelis. And if we will make gestures toward the Palestinians, it might bring better lives to the Palestinians.

After the war in Iraq, the game has changed. There are new rules. And they will have to adopt a new way of behavior to move toward peace.

The new approach must bring them to realize that the change must come. We want them to be our partner. We want them to live with us in safety, in better conditions, in better economic lives. And I think it can be done.

It's only a question if they understand that this government won't march through both tracks in the same time. I mean that there will not be a track that we will fight one each other on daily basis while in the second track we negotiate at nights in nice hotels.

I think it's understood by our friends, the Americans, it's understood by the Europeans, and it must be understood by the Palestinians. If they will understand us, we will understand them, and together we will be able to start.

Secretary Powell said that he's willing to start to move the process, and we are here to help you to do it.

POWELL: Thank you very much.

SHALOM: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: This has been the first joint news conference out of Jerusalem there involving U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, stumbling there as he is getting off the stage there, meeting up with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, both implying that they are optimistic about their road map to peace, but specifics -- Colin Powell says he'll talk specifics after he looks forward to meeting tomorrow with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.


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