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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Powell, Abbas Hold Press Conference

Aired May 11, 2003 - 09:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ARTHEL NEVILLE, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we are going to take you over to the Middle East. We are to -- promised you that news conference from Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian prime minister, newly appointed, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. And, they are approaching the podium right now and we are going to take these remarks from both the gentlemen shortly and we will, of course, have all necessary translation.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Just earlier in the morning, as we await their first comments, we heard from Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. We are...

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): For the progress of the peace process in our region in our country, the serious peace process that will lead to ending the Israeli occupation and the establishment of the independent state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, within the borders of June 4, 1967.

As well, we also welcome the speech from Mr. Bush on May 9 in which he reiterated his commitment to work (ph) but similarly to achieve peace in the Middle East.

And we affirm today for the American people that we are interested to develop the relations between our two countries and two governments.

Our discussions today were deep and serious and were positive. We look forward toward an effective and participant role by the government of the United States in the road map which was originally a proposal by the United States that was endorsed by the quartet and the Palestinian leadership agreed on it.

We believe that the opportunity is there for -- is set out of a real political process, and we think it is necessary that the government of Israel agrees on this plan so that we can start a peace process altogether.

But the road map should not be dealt with in a selective way or through separating its own components from each other and dismantling it, because we have seen in the past how many previous plans ended as a result of that.

While the government and leadership of Palestine are ready to cooperate to implement what is their commitments, we also expect the Israeli party to implement their duties as well. And in this respect, we are committed to what we committed ourselves to before the Palestinians Legislative Council with the unilateral unity (ph) of the rule of law and plurality within democracy, and we also reiterate our rejection to violence from any party.

We are also ready to make the statement that is needed on the same day and hour on the road map when Sharon will make his own statement, which is requested from him, according to the road map. We expect from the quartet and from you, sir, to make a effective control system in order to guarantee balanced implementation of the road map, whether in the security, political and other fields as well.

We look forward to stopping, ending, totally ending settlement, ending the siege, ending the separation wall, assassinations, the collective (ph) punishments, destruction of farms and the infrastructure and restricting the movement of citizens and Palestinian institutions and to set out or to free thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

We also demand to guarantee the movement, freedom of movement for President Arafat and stop all measures against him.

We have handed you today, Mr. Minister, a letter from the families of prisoners. We hope that you'll give it the needed consideration, because this is an issue that is of most importance for our people and our nation. Our dear friend, I talk to you today while our people are aspiring for achieving the minimum of what other peoples reach in living in dignity and freedom without occupation, without settlement, without infringing on our national dignity and our right to establish our own future by ourselves.

With this, the opportunity will be open for establishing a real peace in the region, in the whole region, in accordance with the Arab peace initiative that was endorsed by the Arab Summit and according to which everybody will enjoy security, stability and good neighborhood.

As President Bush said the day before yesterday, freedom is the way to peace. I add my voice to the president's voice, hoping that what he said will be achieved. We have come to a promising moment, and the United States will seize this opportunity for peace.

Thank you, sir.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: (OFF-MIKE) have created a momentous opportunity for allowing peace to take root, where so many have been convinced that it could not or should not do so.

No one should underestimate the challenges ahead, but neither should we underestimate the power of hope and courageous leadership. Your people and the world look to you to provide both.

You have my congratulations, my best wishes, and my promise that the United States is committed to ending the conflict that has brought such suffering and grief to this region for most of our lifetimes. And you have President Bush's commitment as well. That commitment is embodied in the speech President Bush delivered on June 24th of last year and in the road map that I have come to discuss with you and with the Israelis.

President Bush feels strongly that a historic moment has come for this entire region. Momentum for reform and peace is building.

(AUDIO GAP)

QUESTION: Do you find them ready to start implementing the agreement?

POWELL: Yes. I've had extensive talks with both sides now on the road map. And I believe that there is sufficient agreement on the provisions within the road map so that we can get started.

Obviously, there are still comments to be received from the Israeli side, and we look forward to analyzing those, and the two sides need to talk to each other. But I believe that there is sufficient good will, sufficient commitment that we can get started.

And as I said, let's get started now. Let's not waste another day. Let's not waste another discussion session. Let's get on with the actions required.

The Israeli government, earlier today, indicated to me some actions they would be taking immediately. And the prime minister and I discussed some of the actions that he is planning to take.

So I'm pleased that both sides are committed to action, and let's get going.

QUESTION (through translator): Mr. Prime Minister, Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, you have met today a very important meeting, as I believe, with the secretary of state, Mr. Colin Powell. Did you notice, did you feel that the discussions of Mr. Powell with the Israeli prime minister produced anything?

Did you feel that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, agreed on the road map? Or will he wait until the 20th of this month, until he meets with American President George Bush?

ABBAS (through translator): Well, through the discussions that we did today, that we had today, I felt that there is an American insistence on achieving piece in the Middle East area and achieving the vision of President Bush that was declared on June 24th, last June 24th, and also on what was mentioned in his speech the last few days.

I believe that the American party, with what it represents, including the members of the quartet, are determined to go ahead on this issue until the very end, because everybody believes that this opportunity, the road map, should not be wasted.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how are you going to get out of this cycle of the Israelis saying they're not going to give any substantial concessions until there's an end to the violence and the Palestinians calling, above all, for concessions first from the Israelis?

POWELL: Let's not talk about concessions. Let's talk about steps that both sides can take to move forward.

The Israeli side indicated to me a number of steps that they are prepared to take and are starting to take now to show their commitment to the process of moving forward -- and within the context of the road map. And the prime minister has made it clear to me today that he understands the importance of ending terrorism and ending the activities of those organizations committed to terrorism.

And as we have seen so often in recent years, that it is absolutely the case that we have to do something about terrorism and, at the same time, we have to take steps on the Israeli side that give hope to the Palestinian people and ease their lives and make it possible for them to get to their workplaces and for them to begin to live normal lives and for their children to do so.

So both sides are taking steps. If these steps do not lead to progress, then we will be back into the same cycle of despair that we're trying to break out of now.

But I believe this time things are different. We now have a new prime minister with a new cabinet that is committed to the president's vision and the moving forward with practical steps. We have an Israeli government that is firmly in place and has years to go on its current term so that it too can take positive actions to move forward. We have a changed strategic situation in that one of the threats to Israel that was part of the background noise, the regime of Saddam Hussein, is gone. And the United States has demonstrated its willingness to engage more fully in the peace process. And we have a road map that gives us a way forward, and the United States is commit to the road map.

And so I think the strategic environment in which we are trying to achieve peace has changed. And I hope that the steps that the two sides are now not only willing to take but are, in fact, taking will move us in the right direction.

QUESTION (through translator): Mr. Prime Minister, you indicated (OFF-MIKE). Does this mean that there are certain steps that you'll take that (OFF-MIKE).

ABBAS (through translator): I think it is not for the -- a good thing to -- it is not good to think of any dismantling or separating or disfiguring the road map. The road map was formulated by the American party in coordination with the quartet, and therefore, they are responsible for it.

We have accepted it as it is. True, maybe we have some reservations. But in order to give a way for the peace process, we have dropped down all our reservations and we said that we accept it as it is.

And, therefore, we believe that it is necessary that the road map remains as it was adopted and as it was accepted, in order to serve the interests of everybody and to be implemented in a good way.

QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, can you tell us specifically what you plan to do in dealing with extremists? Do you plan to negotiate with them, or to detain and disarm them?

And secondly, you asked for U.S. help in monitoring. Did the United States offer you any specific assistance on monitoring?

ABBAS (through translator): Part of your question regarding monitoring, there is now -- a part of monitoring is on the ground, and it can't (ph) start working until the whole system is completed for monitoring, and that will be mandated to monitor and to judge what is going on on the ground. Therefore, we have accepted what is existing now in order to be completed in the future.

As for the security issue, we have made it clear several times and, also, before the Palestinian Legislative Council, we said there is only one authority, one law. And this law and this authority should be dealt as such, and it should not be violated. We said there is political plurality that democracy allows and that allows everyone and every party or every group to express themselves democratically, the way they like to do.

This is the policy of our government, and this is the policy of our government that we've got the confidence in the PLC.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell...

ABBAS (through translator): I think I have answered your question as much as possible.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, in the last weeks we've heard all kinds of commitments from the American officials that the road map will not be open to negotiation.

Now you're talking about discussing it with both sides. You're talking about waiting to receive comments from the Israelis. You're talking about talks between both sides, which actually means that it's open for negotiations? Is this true or false?

QUESTION (through translator): And, Abu Mazen, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) boycotted President Arafat, and Mr. Powell also asserted that boycotting Arafat will continue. How do you think this will impact the progress of the peace process and even implementation of the road map?

POWELL: On the first question, with President Bush and the American government and I believe that the road map achieves a vision that he laid out in his speech of 24 June of last year. So we're committed to the road map.

But it is a document that both sides have to review and look at. And if one side says they wish to discuss it and have comments about it, that doesn't change it. Means they wish to present comments with respect to it, comments that will be considered by the quartet and, I'm sure, by the other side. It's important that the two sides, as soon as possible, begin talking to one another and, through their dialogue, find ways to work through difficulties that one side or the other might see, with respect to the road map. But we haven't changed the road map since it was finalized last December.

And I think it's important not to get so hung up on a particular word or a particular statement that we lose the opportunity to get started, to get going. There will be more than enough time in the future to discuss some of the more contentious issues that will have to be dealt with. But right now, let's get started. And I think both sides have demonstrated a commitment to get started and are taking steps on the road to progress. And let's not get distracted from what we are able to do now by debates about particular items that can be debated at a later time.

ABBAS (through translator): We have said more than once about the freedom of our brother, President Yasser Arafat, and the possibility that -- and his enjoying his freedom of movement inside and outside, wherever he wants to go, because he's the president of our -- elected president of our state who is recognized internationally and legally.

And I don't think boycotting him will be of any benefit to anyone, and we are going to urge the parties to end this situation.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

POWELL: Thank you.

COOPER: You have been listening to the secretary of state, Colin Powell, and Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, speaking in Jericho. Earlier, Secretary of State Powell also spoke or conducted meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as gave a short press conference there, basically saying -- the headline from this, Powell saying, I believe there is sufficient agreement on provisions in the road map to get started, let's get going.

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