Statements by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib following their meeting

Jerusalem, April 16, 2001

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome His Excellency the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Jordan, who is on a special mission by His Majesty the King – a mission whose nature can be described in one word: a mission for peace. May I say that the government of Israel appreciates very much the nature of the mission, the timing of it, the message that was delivered.

And may I say, also, this is the first time that we got a formal version of the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal. So, naturally, we are going to study it very carefully.

But while exchanging views, it came out that some things we can agree right away. The Minister referred to the situation in the territories. We see eye to eye about the existing problem, and it is the policy of the government of Israel to do – right away and unilaterally – whatever we can to ease the situation in the territories, to facilitate normal life, to avoid collective punishment, and to let civilian life be conducted as it should be, without unnecessary interference or threat.

I think we also agreed that, for the good of all parties, we have to stop shooting and stop talking. This is the essence of the peace. And this is also, by the way, the nature of our relations with Jordan.

I would like to say, too, that we appreciate very much the role of Jordan in bringing peace to the area – comprehensive peace. We were deeply impressed by the positions taken by His Majesty the King upon his visit to Washington, and we again appreciate the depth and the sincerity of the Jordanian position.

There are some problems that we have to solve – like, for example, the nomination of a new ambassador – but I understand that in due course it will be solved, too. We didn’t discuss the bilateral issues; we thought that the agenda is full for the time being with the burning issues. This we shall do in the future. The contact that we have started we shall continue again.

I think the two of us have agreed there is no solution to the present situation by force, but only by peace. We are not going to refer to force in order to impose a solution, but we are going to engage negotiation in order to have an agreed solution.

We have also agreed that whatever was agreed in the past should be implemented by the two sides. Whatever was not yet agreed, we shall have to continue to negotiate until we shall reach an agreement. We shall negotiation like equals, with full respect.

I think it is in the interest of all of us to see this region departing from blood and smoke and fire, into a reasonable peace under blue skies, that will enable the children to live without any fear or any dread.

Again I thank you very much for your visit and for coming, all of you.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdel Ilah al-Khatib: Thank you. I had a very candid and frank discussion with Mr. Peres. As you know I’m here on a mission of peace. I am carrying a message of peace to the government and the people of Israel. I’m here in an effort to lift the closure against the Palestinian people, to end confrontation, and create calm, and create the right conditions that will allow the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to get back to the negotiating table, to continue their negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – a settlement that would guarantee the national rights of the Palestinian people, and establish an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories, and also to guarantee the security of the Israeli people.

We face a situation today that is affecting the whole region, a situation that is the result of a political deadlock. We think that there is no security solution to the current situation, only a political solution can guarantee the rights of the Palestinians and the security of the Israeli people. The use of force will not provide any sustainable, permanent solution to the existing situation on the ground, and to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Unfortunately, my visit today was preceded by an air-strike, a military attack against Lebanon, against a Syrian position in Lebanon. We think that this is an unjustified escalation that may affect the overall stability and security in the region, and again this is another example of the use of force that will not solve any problem on the ground. We look at the Palestinian-Israeli track the same way we look at the Syrian-Israeli track and the Lebanese-Israeli track: negotiation on the basis of international legality, on the basis of 242, 338, ‘land for peace’, and the terms of reference of the Madrid Peace Conference, is the only way to achieve peace between Israel, the Palestinians, Syria, and Lebanon, in order to conclude comprehensive peace in the region.

I presented, as Mr. Peres said today, to him a set of ideas prepared by Jordan and Egypt that deal with the current crisis on the ground, deal with the ways and means to build confidence between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, and open the way towards the resumption of negotiations leading to a permanent, comprehensive agreement that, as I said, would guarantee the national rights and independence of the Palestinian people, and establishing their independent Palestinian state, and the security of the State of Israel and its people.

I look forward to discussing points with Mr. Peres regarding these ideas. As he said, the spirit and the approach are positive, and aim at creating right conditions for the resumption of the peace negotiations, of the peace process, between the Israeli and the Palestinian sides, on the basis of equality and partnership. These points aim at departing from the pattern of relationship that prevails today in the Palestinian territories, that is an occupier-occupied relationship, towards a relationship between partners leading to a peace agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli sides, which is the core of the conflict in this region.

I hope that we will receive a positive response on the overall paper by the Israeli government, and I hope that we will all succeed in our joint work to create the right conditions for the resumption of the peace process.

***

Q: Mr. Minister, what would be your reaction if Israel would reject the Egypt-Jordan proposal?

FM Khatib: As I said, I will not deal with hypothetical assumptions. We presented principles that have been agreed upon by the parties, and we hope that the Israeli side will accept these points that have been accepted by Israel before in the signed agreements, and will indicate that we will be able to create the right conditions for resuming the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians – because, as I said, there is no security solution to the existing situation. The use of force will only aggravate the situation, make it worse, and will put at risk and at great danger the interests of all in this region.

Q: (inaudible)

FM Peres: We think that Egypt can and should and did play an important role in the peace process, and we do hope that Jordan will continue to do so. Our reference to Jordan is full of respect and understanding. We see in Jordan a territorial neighbor and a political partner for peace with the highest respect for His Majesty, and actually if we could have achieved between Jordan and us existing between us and other parties in the Middle East, we would think that this is an important achievement.

I welcome the mission of Abdel Ilah al-Khatib here on behalf of His Majesty. We think it’s an important and a timely mission, and we shall handle the proposal with full respect. There are many references in the proposal, at first glance, to the existing agreements, part of which were implemented and part of which were not implemented. It is the policy of the present government of Israel to implement the signed agreements on the basis that both parties will do likewise.

Q: Minister Khatib, did you consider canceling your trip to Israel because of the Israeli attack on the Syrian position, and was Mr. Peres the one that convinced you to come anyway? And the second question, do you see any possibility in the near future that Jordan is going to send its ambassador back to Tel-Aviv?

FM Khatib: We thought that the aggression made my mission more difficult, but we decided to go ahead with my visit here in order to deliver a very clear message: that what Israel has done against Lebanon is not acceptable, it is not justified at all, it is an unnecessary escalation that as I said may affect the overall stability in the region and may endanger the interests of all, including Israel. The use of force, we are convinced, will not and cannot provide any solution to any of Israeli’s differences with the different parties in the peace process.

As regarding our ambassador, it is a very clear policy of Jordan to allow our ambassador to come back when the situation improves, when the closure is lifted, when our Palestinian brethren are not subject to the use of military power by Israel, when we get back to a viable peace process. Until then, we continue to work towards the improvement of the situation on the ground, lifting the closure, and improving the situation that our Palestinian brothers are facing.

FM Peres: I just want to add about the Lebanon situation: I am sure the Minister will agree that what the Hizbullah did against Israel is also totally unacceptable. We didn’t wake up one morning and bomb a target in Lebanon. After six consecutive attempts to kill and fire at our soldiers and forces, after Israel has fulfilled completely UN Resolution 425, and even the representative of the Secretary-General told Prime Minister Hariri that this is a flagrant violation of the agreement, after Israel kept postponing and postponing, it has had to send this signal to the Syrians. Not to the Syrians in Syria, but the Syrians in Lebanon, who didn’t allow the Lebanese forces to deploy themselves alongside the border and prevent the Hizbullah from shooting at their will, at our people.

I think what was done was the minimum, and Syria has to decide: either she is out of Lebanon, in which case she will not be a target. But if she wants to run Lebanon, a country that has three armed forces and actually three different governments, she will complicate the life of Lebanon and the future of peace.

Q: Mr. Peres, did you know about shelling Lebanon yesterday before it happened, and do you think this is the only way to send messages to the Lebanese and the Syrians? And what would make the Egyptian- Jordanian initiative acceptable for Israel?

FM Peres: I wish we were able to send messages by mail and not by planes, but unfortunately Syria would not accept our messages of peace.

The Lebanese situation a very unique situation, like nowhere in the world, and I think that makes Lebanon the most unfortunate nation on earth, to have three armed forces, none of them the sole force, following three different policies, in contradiction to peace, in contradiction to the interests of the Lebanese themselves. The Prime Minister of Lebanon has criticized the Hizbullah action. Why can Hizbullah act? Because there is a Syrian army on the land of Lebanon. The excuse for keeping the army there is over, by the way, because there are no more Israeli forces there. But they have not permitted the legitimate army of Lebanon, in accordance with the United Nations resolution, to guard the border, so that unnecessary provocations will not take place.

I am sorry, we are not playing with words; a soldier was killed the day before yesterday, without any provocation whatsoever. They do it time and again. We postponed our answer as much as we could. We appealed to the Syrians, through the United States, through France, through the United Nations, to tell them to stop it. They are the most important force on the Lebanese soil, and by the way, they permit the traffic of arms to the Hizbullah through Damascus.

You cannot have it both ways. Syria has to decide if she is for or against terror, for or against peace. They cannot teach us a lesson, and at the same time destroy the integrity and independence of Lebanon, endanger the United Nations resolution, and post a threat Israel – and we should stand by and smile. So I think time has come for Syria to draw the lesson as well, and we did it after a great deal of restraint and postponement.

Regarding the Jordanian-Egyptian proposal: I stated the principle that will guide us is: whatever was agreed should be implemented, and whatever was not agreed should be negotiated. This I think is the fairest principle, and I didn’t see that the minister thinks differently. Now we have to analyze, what were those parts that were already negotiated, and what were those parts that we have to continue negotiating. Because in the agreement between us and the Palestinians, there is a basic assumption, and that is that differences will be aired out by communications and not by bullets.

Q: (inaudible)

FM Peres: I can see eye to eye with the Foreign Minister about the need to change the policies in the territories to facilitate the lives of the Palestinians, to bring down the closure as much and as soon as we can, and this is the policy and will be the policy of the government of Israel, and we shall do it unconditionally and unilaterally.  

 Statements by Israel FM Shimon Peres and Jordan FM Abdel Ilah al-Khatib following their meeting-16-Apr-2001
 Statements by Israel FM Shimon Peres and Jordan FM Abdel Ilah al-Khatib following their meeting-16-Apr-2001
The Jordan-Egypt plan- J.Post, Apr 16, 2001