LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Interview With Condoleezza Rice
Aired June 3, 2003 - 19:31 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For the road map to succeed, it's going to require a lot of work from Israelis as well as Palestinians, and cooperation from other players in the Middle east. More from John King now, in the form of a cable exclusive interview with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, on making the road map work.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Dr. Rice, thank you for joining us. I want to begin, there's a sense of optimism at the meetings here in Sharm el-Sheikh today, but I'm wondering if you're worried at all about a potential problem down the road? Many of the Arab leaders the president met with today say that the administration wants to push Yasser Arafat out of the picture completely too soon. And in their view, if there is to be an agreement, that he will have to be there at the end to sign it and to sell it to the Palestinians. Is that a problem?
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Clearly, this is a difficult process and it's going to be a long process and there will be bumps in the road, we understand that. But we got a very important start under new conditions today. And the new conditions include, of course, the end of the war in Iraq, but also the appointment of Prime Minister Abbas, who is the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. He was here today, he was representing the Palestinian people. He had a great delegation with him of people who are committed to creating democratic institutions in the Palestinian Authority, in fighting terrorism, in having institutions that are accountable and transparent.
I can't help but believe that if he is able to deliver for the Palestinian people -- and everyone should do what they can to help him do so -- that he will have the support of his people.
KING: Yet, Yasser Arafat blocked a meeting between Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon at one point. Are you worried that without the support of these Arab leaders that there will not be enough pressure on Arafat to stay out of the way, to not cause trouble, to not interject himself at key moments and either slow or destroy the process?
RICE: I have to assume that everybody -- most especially the leaders in the neighborhood who want this process to go forward -- will simply not allow anyone to block it for personal reasons.
The important thing here is the Palestinian people. The Palestinian people probably have the best chance in quite a long time now to try and make some progress. The Israelis have said that they will begin to open closures, that they will try to improve the mobility and the daily lives of the Palestinian people, that they will increase revenue transfers to the Palestinian Authority. They released some important political prisoners today. We have a new atmosphere of optimism.
Now, no one should doubt the difficult times ahead, the difficult issues ahead, the fact that there will be bumps in the road. But all of that said, this is a time for optimism and the Arab leaders who were here today expressed their optimism, expressed their support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of Prime Minister Abbas.
KING: The president addressed some of the skepticism the Arab leaders had about whether he was willing to pressure Israel by saying quite bluntly in his opening statement this morning: Israel must deal with the settlements, Israel must create a Palestine that is working and workable, a contiguous area of land.
We are told that Prime Minister Sharon at the three-way meeting is prepared to publicly commit to dismantling some of the illegal settlements. How many and how fast?
RICE: Well, I think we'll wait until tomorrow, when we meet tomorrow to see what statements come from the leaders. But what the president was here to do today and what he will do tomorrow is to call upon all of the leaders to do what they can do to improve the prospects for peace.
Sometimes there's a tendency in the Middle East to look over your shoulder and say, well, what is he doing to help with peace? The president has a different approach. He's asking everyone to take on their individual responsibilities, each party, to advance the process of peace. He did that today with the Arab leaders, he'll do that tomorrow with Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon. I think we're making very good progress.
KING: I assume, though, you would not be having a three-way summit to move the process along if it would be immediately deflated without getting a strong statement from Prime Minister Sharon. Are you convinced he will say something that is progressive in the sense of backing away on the settlements?
RICE: Well, he has already been saying some very important things over the last couple of days, to say that the time has come to divide this land with the Palestinians was important; to start to say to the Israelis it's probably time now to consider painful concessions.
The Israeli prime minister has always said that when he had a partner for peace, when he had someone who was really willing to fight terror and to remove the scourge of terror, that he would be ready to make the difficult choices that Israel must make. And I believe that we're getting to those conditions.
Again, it's a long road ahead. The president came here to start the process, but we believe we have a chance to make real progress.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com