Powell, Maher Press Conference
Egypt-USA, Politics, 4/10/2002
US Secretary of State Colin Powell voiced the American administration recognition of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as the official representative of the Palestinian Authority and the President elected by the Palestinian people.
This came at a joint press conference between Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and Powell following the latter's meeting with President Hosni Mubarak.
Powell reiterated the need for an immediate ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from the territories the Israeli forces reoccupied over the past few days.
Palestinian suicide operations should come to a halt, he added. The presence of American forces will be allowed once a ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis is reached, he said.
Powell said he intends to meet with Arafat following his return to the region from Madrid.
At the beginning of the conference, Maher described as "constructive" President Mubarak's meeting with Powell, and said they exchanged views on the current dangerous situation in the Palestinian territories resulting from the continued Israeli attacks on Palestinians
The meeting also took up ways to secure Israeli pullout from Palestinian lands, implement the Mitchell recommendations and Tenet plan in order to pave the way for serious peaceful negotiations, Maher added.
Egypt believes that the only way to guarantee security is to link security talks to the political ones, in other word to have them run in parallel, he added.
Security could not be realized by force but rather by creating a proper atmosphere that would help build up confidence between the two sides, he said.
Today's meeting provided a good chance to reaffirm Egypt's stance of rejecting any change in the Palestinian leadership.
Egypt believes that all negotiations should be held with Arafat as the President elected by his people, he added.
Concluding, Maher expressed his wishes for Powell to succeed in his mission.
On his part, Powell said he exchanged many views with President Mubarak, and that he arrived at a difficult time in the Middle East, with women and children being killed from both the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
Powell underlined the necessity of reaching a political-security solution for the Middle East conflict, and holding talks on establishing a Palestinian State that would co-exist with Israel.
The US top diplomat said Sharon assured him Tuesday that he was committed to end the current situation as quickly as possible and move forward in political talks.
Powell said his journey in the Middle East this week is aimed to consult with "our friends in the region", adding that US President Bush wanted him to talk with Arab leaders in the region, Russia, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
The US Secretary of State will meet with the Jordanian king, then will head for Israel for talks and finally meet with Arafat.
Powell called on the Palestinian people to exert more efforts to control violence so that a political development could be achieved.
President Bush made it clear on Thursday that the Israeli forces are required to withdraw now, and the Israelis should understand this, Powell said, adding his current trip was aimed to reach an international consensus before carrying a clear message to Israel.
Powell said President Mubarak fully supports his current mission and promised to extend all possible help to hold talks with Palestinian officials, including Yasser Arafat.
The US official said his country is working directly to end suicide attacks against the Israelis and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories because both have a bad effect on the region's peoples.
"The effect of the incursions throughout the Arab world and throughout the rest of the world is very negative with respect to Israel's long-term interests and in terms of Israelis' relations with its neighbours, and in terms of the US's long- term interests in the region," he said.
Asked whether there was an idea with regard to replacing Arafat, Powell said the Palestinian people considered Arafat their President, and that it was up to the Palestinian people to decide their leader.
Powell said he hopes to find an opportunity for talking with Arafat and his aides on steps to be taken in future to end the current stalemate and return to negotiations.
Powell urged all Arab leaders and Palestinian officials to denounce suicide attacks and declared it was high time to halt such actions because there was a chance waiting for US to achieve peace and establish a Palestinian State.
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