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Condoleezza Rice & Mahmoud Abbas Hold News Conference

Aired February 7, 2005 - 05:30   ET


MAHMOUD ABBAS, PRES., PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY (through translator): Bush vision of establishing two states, an independent Palestinian state come (ph) to us and vital that lives, alongside with the state of Israel, in security and peace.
We also have started the process of reform by mention economic, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and others. And we are proceeding ahead on this track in order to lay the foundation, the sound foundations for the establishment of the Palestinian state.

Tomorrow we are going to Sharm el-Sheik and there there are issues that were agreed upon. And we hope that the results of this summit will be positive and all that on this summit. Then there will be other meetings between us and the Israeli prime minister.

And in this occasion we'd like to thank President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak for his generous invitation and for his initiative. And we'd also thank His Majesty King Abdullah who let in this summit and to contribute as a state and as a king in supporting the Palestinian Authority and the peace process.

I, once again, welcome Dr. Condoleezza Rice, and you are most welcome.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

I want to thank the president and the Palestinian leadership, the very productive discussions that we have just held. I am honored to be here at what is really a promising moment. The Palestinian people have a right to be very proud of the elections that they have just held. And I wish them well as they continue this year with municipal and legislative elections.

Palestinians voted last month for a president who ran on a platform of democratic reform, a negotiated settlement to the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians and an end to violence. That, in our view, is the right approach. And we are pleased that President Abbas is following through on his mandate to take concrete steps on security and to restore law and order.

We are also pleased that security coordination has begun taking place directly between the Israelis and the Palestinians and that other constructive contacts have resumed. This is indeed the way forward, and we hope that this bodes well for the summit tomorrow in Sharm el-Sheik. I want to join the president in thanking President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt for arranging that summit and for the attendance of King Abdullah of Jordan.

The United States will do its part. We will be active in this process with our partners. We will help with the consolidation of security and the rebuilding of the Palestinian security forces. We will work with our friends in the international community and here in the region to revive the Palestinian economy and to assist Palestinian efforts to build and strengthen democratic institutions.

And we will work hard to remind all parties, the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the regional state, that they all have obligations to make certain that we can realize the vision of two states living side by side in peace.

As you're aware, President Bush recently announced an increase in U.S. aid to the Palestinians of $350 million this year, all aimed at achieving these goals. I look forward to working with the Palestinian leadership and the ministers to determine the proper course for that spending.

But I'm happy to announce today that over $40 million will be provided over the next 90 days in a quick action program to make an immediate impact, an immediate positive impact on the lives of the Palestinian people, through, for example, job creation, private sector development and infrastructure development.

This is a time of hope, a time when we can hope for a better day for the Palestinian and the Israeli people, both. As we move forward, I would like to underscore to everyone what I know that President Bush's commitment is and that is to pursuing and achieving the vision of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We go to questions now.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) "The Washington Times."

Madam Secretary, you talked briefly yesterday about the municipal election in Gaza, but we know that in a few months there's another election there and Hamas looks likely to win that election, too. I'd like to ask you, what do you think the Palestinian Authority should do to make sure that that doesn't happen?

And, Mr. President, what can you do to persuade the Palestinian people in Gaza to vote for someone who does not use violence to achieve their goals?

Thank you.

RICE: Well I would just note that in the Palestinian national elections, President Abbas got numbers that would have made any American president extremely happy. It was a very strong vote for his program of a peaceful resolution to the conflict, of peace with the neighbor Israel, of a democratic reform and of reconstruction and development to improve the lives of the Palestinian people.

I have to believe that what the Palestinian people were responding to is the opportunity to have their children grow up in an environment of peace and opportunity, and that is what the president won his election on. And we are going to be supportive partners for him and for his leadership as they try and realize that vision for the Palestinian people.

ABBAS (through translator): The elections and other elections, presidential and in the future the legislative elections, we have already adopted a democratic approach, the free and integral approach through the elections and there will be no interference to prevent, to help or to deny anyone's rights in these elections. Of course people are free and their options.

But we have presented a program for the improvement of the economic, if I mention, and social conditions of all people. And we will start by implementing this program that we were elected according to and then the people after that will have to judge.

QUESTION: Again, Mr. Abbas, who do you have -- there's been an agreement there on an agenda. Will there be a declaration of a cease- fire agreed upon? Will political issues be discussed and that Israel should not take action schedules (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Palestinian (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

ABBAS (through translator): As for the agenda of the Sharm el- Sheik agenda, the summit was proceeded by negotiations, intensive negotiations that included several issues and Palestinian requests in light of the cease-fire that was taken by the Palestinian Authority.

These requests are embodied in an Israeli positive response to stopping the attacks against the Palestinian people, as well as other requests relating to evacuating cities and towns in the West Bank, solving the problems of the wanted people, prisoners, as well. And certainly issues related to settlement were discussed and also issues related to Jerusalem.

We are -- what is important for us is that we have started the process and this will have its face in Sharm summit. But it will not be the end of anything that will be needed for holding meetings on the highest level between us and the Israelis. And all there to pull up these issues in order to reach. to discuss or to reach a discussion of withdrawal from Gaza and the implementation of the road map.

RICE: Yes, it's an extremely important time, because we do have a new opportunity before us. And as I said to President Abbas, we recognize the very important steps that the Palestinians must take for a secure environment, to make certain that violence cannot take place, that there is, as the president says, one authority and one law and one gun, that security forces are united and that they're able to fight terrorism.

The Israelis have obligations, too. And I said to them that in addition to the obligation to do everything possible to help the emergence of a democratic state that it is especially important that there not be unilateral steps, unilateral changes to the status quo.

I think that it is well known that we've had concerns about the route of the fence. I think it's well known that we've had concerns about settlement activity and of course on the law on absentee landowners. And we -- of course we discussed this with the Israelis. And it's my understanding that the supreme court has set that aside. So we had a number of issues and we've talked about them.

The larger point is just that it is time for both parties to make their maximum efforts to give this change for peace a real chance. And I have been encouraged by my conversations here and my conversations with the prime minister in Israel that in fact both parties understand the moment before them and understand their responsibilities.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And we're going to break away now. You've been listening to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice holding a joint news conference with the leader of the Palestinian people, Mahmoud Abbas.

As you heard, they're talking about a summit that will take place tomorrow in Egypt between Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and of course the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, will be there. Condoleezza Rice will not, however, but you heard her pledging U.S. support in terms of money and perhaps security.

When we get more information, of course we'll pass it along to you.

Going to take a short break. We'll be right back.



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