Powell discusses Palestinian elections with Israel's Shalom
Palestine-USA, Politics, 11/23/2004
US Secretary of State Colin Powell met with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom November 22 to discuss what Israel could do to facilitate the upcoming Palestinian presidential elections and to review the opportunities that the change in Palestinian leadership might present for a return to the road-map peace process.
Powell said that he was pleased with what Shalom told him about Israel's willingness to work with the Palestinian Authority in preparation for the January 9, 2005, elections. He said his Israeli counterpart assured him that Israel would take measures to ensure that Palestinian candidates and voters have adequate freedom of movement during the campaign and the voting period.
The secretary also welcomed Israel's willingness to allow Palestinians in East Jerusalem to participate in the elections.
Powell and Shalom looked ahead to the possibility that the change in Palestinian leadership might create renewed momentum for President Bush's road map for peace, which aims to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the adoption of a two-state solution.
"We all know that we need peace in the region: peace for Israel, peace for the Palestinian people. And that will come about with the creation of a Palestinian state that does not in any way harbor terrorism, does not cause incitement to exist for terrorism, a state that has solid democratic institutions, that is working side-by-side with Israel in the cause of peace," Powell said following his meeting with Shalom.
Powell said that this hope could be achieved if the new Palestinian leadership is willing "to speak out clearly against terrorism, and to gather in all of the elements of the Palestinian community and make it clear to them that it is time to stop all incitement, to stop all violence."
Following is the transcript of Powell and Shalom's press conference (Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt) yesterday:
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: Thank you very much. Good morning, all of you. It is a great pleasure once again to have my good friend, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, here in Jerusalem. Secretary Powell comes here after having announced that he will be leaving his post. Let me say once again, publicly, how sorry I am at his decision. During his tenure, Colin Powell has proved himself to be a great friend of Israel, a strong defender of our right to security and a courageous champion of peace in the Middle East. I have come to respect and admire his humanity and his courage in charting the course of American foreign policy, particularly during this time of great challenge to democracy and freedom caused by the global terrorist network.
In our meeting today I also asked him to convey to President Bush Israel's commitment to working with the administration and, of course, we will do it with Secretary-designate, Condoleezza Rice, to advance the special relationship between our two countries and to promote our shared commitment to peace and to the security and well-being of all the peoples in the Middle East. This close US-Israeli relationship is as important now as it has ever been. This is a time of great hope and opportunity for Israel and the United States and, indeed, for the Middle East as a whole.
The passing of Yasser Arafat, just like the progress towards elections in Iraq, represents an opportunity for real and positive change in our region, change toward greater democracy, freedom and security for all. All sides must take this opportunity. This first priority in the Palestinian elections, the first priority is the Palestinian elections, which will hopefully bring about a Palestinian leadership with whom we can sit down and address all the issues on our agenda. These elections are an internal Palestinian matter, but I have reassured the Secretary today that Israel will do everything in its power to ensure their smooth running.
At the same time, I warned the Secretary against the efforts of some in the international community to skip phases in the Road Map, like ignoring the crucial Palestinian obligation under Phase One to combat terror and incitement. There can be no shortcuts in the process. I would like to repeat, there can be no shortcuts in the process. The only chance for the success of any future talks between Israel and the Palestinians is if the terrorist option is removed from the creation. In a similar vein, I raised with the Secretary Israel's concerns regarding the increasing involvement of Hezbollah in Palestinian terrorism. Hezbollah, under the guidance of Iran and Syria, has replaced Yasser Arafat as the key driving force behind Palestinian terrorism and the desire to undermine any possibility of peace in the region. The international community, under the leadership of the United States, must act as one to address the threat posed to the stability of this region by Hezbollah and its sponsors.
Finally, I also raised with the Secretary Israel's deep concerns regarding Iran's ongoing nuclear program. Here, too, we look to the international community to join with the US to ensure that the danger of a nuclear Iran is stopped before it's too late.
Colin, once again, let me say how much I have enjoyed working with you and let me also wish you every success in the future. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet with you again. It was just a week ago that we met. We have stayed in close touch during the course of our mutual tenures and I thank you for all the hospitality and the kindness that you have extended to me.
I've had good meetings with the Foreign Minister, as well as with the Prime Minister earlier this morning, brought them greetings from President Bush and once again reaffirmed to them President Bush's determination to take advantage of the opportunity that presents itself in the aftermath of Chairman Arafat's death. We are focusing principally on the election that is coming up in early January -- the ninth of January -- for a new President of the Palestinian Authority. I am pleased at what I have heard from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister about Israel's willingness to cooperate and coordinate with the Palestinian Authority as they prepare for these elections, to make it possible for Palestinians to participate, to include those in East Jerusalem. I also said to the Prime Minister and to the Minister that the President remains committed to the Road Map. The Road Map is the way forward -- the only way forward -- and it is nothing that can be jumped into, it has to go step by step. I will be communicating this to my Quartet colleagues when we meet in Sharm El-Sheikh tomorrow morning.
The United States has been a friend of Israel for many, many years, and I have been very honored to be associated with the State of Israel in so many capacities in the course of my public career.
We all know that we need peace in the region: peace for Israel, peace for the Palestinian people. And that will come about with the creation of a Palestinian state that does not in any way harbor terrorism, does not cause incitement to exist for terrorism, a state that has solid democratic institutions, that is working side-by-side with Israel in the cause of peace. And Israel has again, this morning, reaffirmed its commitment to the Road Map and the obligations that Israel has under that Road Map.
So, Silvan, thank you for hosting me, and I will be pleased take a couple of questions in the short time we have available.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you be specific about the requests that you have made of Israel to facilitate the election? And Mr. Minister, can you say what specifically Israel is willing to do to help the elections in areas such as redeploying troops in the Palestinian areas and speeding up tax revenues for the Palestinian Authority?
SESCRETARY POWELL: We discussed the fact that the Palestinians will need freedom of movement, and they will have to have access for candidates to move around, for people to get to polling places. We didn't get into the specifics or the timing of actions that Israel might take. But they understand what the need is, and with respect to East Jerusalem, there is past precedent for how such a matter can be handled. But, I would yield to the Foreign Minister for any specifics that he would wish to add.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: I ensured Secretary Powell this morning that Israel will do everything it can in order to ease the conditions for the Palestinians to have their own elections. And it includes, of course, freedom of movement. We will do everything we can in order to remove any obstacle that they might face in their preparations to have their elections. Of course we will do it under the possibilities that we have while we are not going to do anything that might damage or harm the security of the people of the State of Israel. I think we can coordinate about those issues, and of course we would like, and they would like, to ask the assistance of the Americans and of course, we will do it in coordination with the Palestinians and with the Americans at the same time.
QUESTION: Secretary of State, Foreign Minister Shalom, I would like to ask you today, in the post-Arafat era, is it the right time for a cease-fire initiative? And if yes, in what terms did you discuss it in your discussion, or in your talks with the Prime Minister. If you will allow me, Mr. Powell, in a more personal note, were you offended by the way, by the quick nomination of Dr. Rice as your successor?
SECRETARY POWELL: On the second question I was not the least bit offended. Once the President and I agreed that I would be leaving, it was appropriate for him to announce somebody as quickly as possible so there'd be no gap, no confusion. I am honored to be replaced by Dr. Rice, somebody who is very distinguished and knows this part of the world quite well, and has been deeply involved in the peace process, and somebody who is an expert in foreign policy matters and has worked so closely with the President over the last four years. I think she will do a terrific job, so, no, not in the least.
With respect to the first part of your question ...what we really need is for the Palestinian side in this new era to speak out clearly against terrorism, and to gather in all of the elements of the Palestinian community and make it clear to them that it is time to stop all incitement, to stop all violence. And, if they do that, they do that effectively, and if they also create the institutions that can impose that policy, then we, in effect, have a ceasefire and, what I have heard from my Israeli colleagues this morning is that they will act in kind. If terror goes down, incitement goes down and then the kinds of actions that Israel has found it necessary to take in the past will go down as well. That's what we are looking for, for both sides to be able to act in concert with one another and in a responsible manner. Right now, I don't see a need to talk about any sort of formal arrangements because it is not arrangements that count, it is actions that count and we are looking for those actions.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: We are talking this morning about full implementation of the Road Map. I said to Secretary Powell that in his meeting today with the Quartet, in Sharm El-Sheikh, he will talk with the Europeans about the necessity to implement all the phases in the Road Map. Of course, the Secretary told me that he would like us to implement all the phases as well as the Palestinians, and I accepted it. And, in Phase One it is written very clear that the Palestinians should put an end to terrorism and violence and incitement in the same time and they should dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations, and I think they must do it. We are talking about the necessity to give more positive atmosphere to the region by putting an end to the incitement and that is something they can do in a very short time. I have said it to Secretary Powell about a week ago in our meeting, that while they will, might have some difficulties in the first time to fight terrorism, they can't have those difficulties in their decision to put an end to the incitement. I proposed to reform, to re-establish, the Committee Against Incitement in order to try to give a positive signal to all parties in the region, those who would like to have peace.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, yesterday you told us the issue of whether Marwan Barghouti should be released would come up in your discussions today. I was wondering if that did come up and what the US thinks about that issue? And on that subject, Mr. Minister, is there any flexibility on the Israeli side on this?
SECRETARY POWELL: That did not come up in our meetings.
QUESTION: The US position?
SECRETARY POWELL: That did not come up in our meetings and that is all I have to say about it right now. It is not a position. He is subject to legal actions by the State of Israel and I would let the Minister talk to it.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: As the Secretary said, it did not come up in our meeting today but we have said, more than once, that we have our legal system. Barghouti was sentenced for life, and he should stay there while he is responsible for the killing and murdering of so many Israelis.
QUESTION: This is a question to both Secretary Powell and Minister Shalom. Minister Shalom, are you still opposed to the voting of Palestinian citizens in Jerusalem, and to Secretary Powell, do you think it is your view that it is imperative that they do vote?
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: As I said before and I said it to the Secretary as well, we will do everything we can in order to keep our sovereignty in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is one, internal capital, undivided capital of the State of Israel and we shouldn't take any steps that might split the united unification of Jerusalem. I think it should be understood, even those who were talking about the example of 1996, they should know that, even then, that Palestinians that are living there, they didn't vote in Jerusalem itself, they didn't have boosters and their vote was in envelopes in mail offices within Jerusalem. We are trying to find a solution, I said it to the Secretary today, and that is what we are looking now in order to let the Palestinians to have their own election. But, as I have said, we will do everything that will ensure the sovereignty of Israel in Jerusalem.
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it would be important for them to vote and, as the Minister said, we are going to be working with the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to see how they work it out so that the modalities are in place to give them the opportunity to express their view through a ballot.
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