FM Tzipi Livni and Secretary Condoleezza Rice addressed the press prior to their meeting in Jerusalem, to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian bilateral track.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Good morning. This visit of Secretary Rice is part of the ongoing efforts to reach an understanding on the bilateral track between Israel and the Palestinians, an understanding that will be embraced, I hope, by the Arab world and the international community as well. The situation is complicated, of course. We need to find an understanding with the Palestinian pragmatic leaders while on the other side there are the extremists and the Hamas terrorist organization.
The Israeli decision to enter this dialogue is based on the understanding that implementation of future understandings between Israel and the Palestinians will be subject to the implementation on the ground of the Roadmap. What this means is that the path to a Palestinian state goes through the renunciation of violence and terrorism, of course. But we would like to reach an understanding with the pragmatic leaders because, even though the situation is complicated we believe that this is part of our responsibility.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much for inviting me again, It’s been several times now recent, and I look forward to working to try to advance the work that you are doing bilaterally with the Palestinians as well continuing to plan for the Annapolis meetings. We have a full program here and we’re going to get started on it very shortly.
QUESTION: Minister Livni, what progress has been made since Secretary Rice was here last time? And do you think you’re going to be able to bridge differences ahead of the Annapolis conference and agree on a document?
And Secretary Rice, have you spoken to President Musharraf today and could you please give us an update on what’s happening there?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Part of the trust that we have between the Israelis and the Palestinians is based on the understanding that the negotiations and the dialogue are in closed rooms and we are not sharing, unfortunately, with the press and the public – not the success nor the problems that we have.
But basically, we are just at the beginning of the process and the dialogue and there is a need to understand that even though we need to find the common ground with the pragmatic leaders, they need to understand that future understandings would be implemented only according to the phases of the Roadmap – meaning security to Israel first and then the establishment of a Palestinian state, because nobody wants to see another terror state in the region. It’s not the international interest, nor the Israeli one nor the Palestinian one.
So this is just the beginning and I think that the most important thing is the process itself. Annapolis is a point in time in which I hope everybody can meet and support the process, but it’s not going to be the end of the process. We need to address some of the differences, of course, but I hope that we can find a way to reach an understanding on the process – it is not less important
QUESTION: But you think you’ll get a document before Annapolis?
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: The problem is not to reach a document. The issue is what is going to be written in the document. And basically, I believe that there is a mutual interest for Israel and of course for Abu Mazena, Salam Fayyad their group, to reach an understanding on the process. This is something that was not here for seven years now. So basically, the Israeli willingness to do so even though the situation on the ground, especially in the Gaza Strip, is complicated is based on our need to reach an understanding. But more than ever the situation is complicated.
SECRETARY RICE: I have not spoken with President Musharraf. I have received reporting from our embassy overnight, and it’s consistent with the reporting that you’re seeing in the press about the steps that are being taken. I just want to repeat that of course the United States does not support and communicated to the Pakistani leadership prior to this action, that it would not support extra-constitutional means. I think the issue now is that it is in the best interest of Pakistan and the best interest of the Pakistani people for there to be a prompt return to the constitutional course, for there to be an affirmation that elections will be held for a new parliament, and for all parties to act with restraint in what is obviously a very difficult situation.
QUESTION: First question to Secretary Rice about a meeting between you and the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs. What was it about and is it a first sign of a change in American policy towards Syria? And a second question for Foreign Minister Livni, it seems like everything is stuck in the meeting and we hear about the tension in the meeting, especially since the negotiations got into a higher level on the two side. How are you going to prevent a dead end?
SECRETARY RICE: As to the matter of my brief meeting with the Syrian Foreign Minister, it’s not the first time. I met with him at the last neighbors meeting for Iraq because I think it is extremely important that all of Iraq’s neighbors do what they need to do to help stability in Iraq. In this case, I also had an opportunity to impress upon Minister Muallem the importance of refraining from any interference in the upcoming presidential elections in Lebanon, the importance of Lebanon being able to follow a constitutional course toward the election of its president, and that that should be done without intimidation or without interference.
I might note too that I met a little later on in the day with the foreign ministers of France and Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Jordan as well as the General Secretary of the Arab League and we have issued a statement that is similar, that calls on all to allow the Lebanese to carry this forward without intimidation and without interference. And that is being delivered on behalf of that group to Syria.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Well, there is no tension in the meetings, there is a good atmosphere, in fact, but yes, there are problems. As I said before, basically the Israeli decision to enter this dialogue is based on the understanding that the implementation of any understanding in the future is subject to the implementation of the Roadmap. The meaning is, of course, security. Israel is of course going to implement its part of the Roadmap. But basically, the idea to reach the basic understanding that the creation of a Palestinian state comes after the implementation of the Roadmap, including Israel’s security needs.