PRIME MINISTER SHARON (In Hebrew): We welcome Secretary of State Colin Powell on his visit to the Middle East. I want to thank him for his ongoing efforts, the President’s efforts, and all of their staff, to bring peace to the Middle East. Israel is committed to peace. We are all committed to peace. We have accepted the Mitchell Report and we have accepted George Tenet’s plan. Today a meeting was held in which the positions were clarified. We see the next steps as follows: a full and absolute cessation of terrorist incidents, violence, and incitement. When there is complete quiet, there will follow seven trial days to see how the Palestinian Authority keeps its obligations. After the seven trial days, the cooling-off period of six weeks will begin. During this entire period, there must be complete quiet. If complete quiet is maintained, we will proceed to the next stage of confidence-building measures, which I will not detail at the moment. We hope that indeed there will be quiet, and we can realize the wish of all of us to advance to peace at the greatest possible speed. I again thank the President of the United States and the Secretary of State for their tireless efforts to bring peace to the region. Thank you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. And thank you for your hospitality this evening. I have had a very productive 24 hours in the region, and I have had a chance to meet with the Prime Minister, with the Foreign Minister, with the President of Israel, and with Chairman Arafat. I applaud very much the Prime Minister’s statement just now of his total commitment to peace and his commitment to the Mitchell Plan.
The tragic death this afternoon, the assassination, the killing this afternoon, this horrible tragedy of a young mother reminds us all over again how we must move forward and get this violence ended. How we must move forward to rebuild trust and confidence between the two sides. How we must move forward towards peace.
In my conversations earlier today with Chairman Arafat we discussed this in considerable detail and he responded to me that he would take every effort he could to end the violence, to give the necessary instructions to speak out against violence. And, as the Prime Minister has just said, there will be a seven-day period starting at some point in the future when quiet occurs that we will measure the Chairman’s actions. And then following that successful seven-day period, which I hope will come about in the very near future, we will move into the Mitchell Committee sequence that the Prime Minister just discussed, and it is a total package that begins with a six-week cooling-off period, and then we move into the additional confidence-building measures over a period of time that we will not specify right now but, at the end of that confidence-building period, then into discussions on the difficult final-status issues. This is a package, it is a plan, it will work if we can get the violence ended and so let that be our strongest wish. Let that also be the object of all of our efforts in the days and in the weeks ahead.
I once again thank the Prime Minister for receiving me. It is the second time I have visited here since I became Secretary of State and, of course, I also saw the Prime Minister in Washington earlier this week and we talk on the phone on a very regular basis along with my conversations with the Foreign Minister and we will keep this dialogue up as we monitor this situation very carefully in the days ahead. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, then you are saying, are you, that the timeline has been agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians?
SECRETARY POWELL: The timelines that the Prime Minister had mentioned a few moments ago, and I repeated, are also consistent with what we discussed with the Chairman earlier today.
QUESTION: May I ask the Prime Minister a question please. Is there any room, do you see any room for some sort of monitoring arrangement to make sure that the cease-fire holds? Would that help Israel ward off attacks? (inaudible) universal monitors?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: I think we discussed, and as the Secretary just said now, it should be completely quiet and then we will start with those seven days but we have to check if it really works, and then, of course, we will continue for the six weeks. I think it is much simpler than it looks because when there is a mortar shell everyone hears, when there is a road-side bomb, everyone sees, when there are molotov cocktails thrown at a children’s bus, you can not hide. So we speak about things that are very clear, and if such will be that we need any more deliberation, so in any case, as the Secretary said, we’re in close contact, we talk on the phone sometimes several times a week, and we don’t have any problem with that.
QUESTION: You have no problems with observers, or you don’t think they’re needed?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON: No, we never supported, I would say, United Nations observers, with all our respect to the United Nations, and we never accepted European observers, not because we think professionally they are not good, but because I don’t think they are needed mostly when there is no balanced approach of some of the European countries, and we don’t expect that they are preferring us. I’m thinking about balanced support, therefore I think that the arrangement that we have now fits the situation.
SECRETARY POWELL: May I just add a P.S. on that. Earlier today when we were talking about monitors or observers. I had it in the context of what the two sides might decide to do within their own resources or whatever resources might be appropriate by mutual agreement. Not some outside group of forces coming in. The word "force" was used in one of the reports. No such thought, no such consideration, and we had spoken against that kind of intervention previously.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, first of all, is the idea of observer, was it on purpose to surprise the Prime Minister, because I understand that it wasn’t one of the issues that you discussed at the White House, and why did you raise that issue with Mr. Arafat? And if you will allow me just to ask the Prime Minister in Hebrew.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): Mr. Sharon, were you surprised by the issue of observers, and did you clarify to the Secretary today that you will not agree to that idea?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON (in Hebrew): No it didn’t come up at all today. We didn’t discuss this issue at all. We didn’t discuss observers at all. Our position on the issue of observers is known, and the issue didn’t come up at all in our discussions.
SECRETARY POWELL: It was not raised. It was not discussed, and I did not raise it with Mr. Arafat. It was in response to a question where I was trying to put in context that if the two sides, in the course of putting together their confidence-building measures, thought that, say within the, as an example – the trilateral security committee – among themselves thought that they should put observers out for one purpose or another, or monitors out for one purpose or another, and both sides agreed to it, that was it. There was no intention on my part to surprise the Prime Minister. In fact, the Prime Minister and I have an arrangement: no surprises.
QUESTION: Mr. Powell, according to the agreement that you have reached, who will decide when the cooling-off period begins – in other words, when it is sufficiently calm for the seven-day count to begin, and if something happens during that period, do you restart the count or do you just keep going?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t want at this session to try to operationalize that., now that it has been announced, and we have talked about this seven-day period, the whole world will be watching it; the international community will be watching it; I’ll be watching it. But most important of all, the Prime Minister and his colleagues will be watching it. And since they are the ones most directly involved, they are the ones who are so deeply concerned about the Obviously level of violence which is taking the lives of so many people, they will, at the end of the day, have to make a judgment as to whether or not it is quiet and by what definition, because they are party to the agreement. It is the two parties that will have to decide together that we can move forward into the cooling-off period. Both the Palestinians and the Israeli side. So, even though many of us will be watching now that it is an announced idea, concept, it is the Prime Minister who bears ultimate responsibility as to what direction his country will move into in with respect to the beginning of the Mitchell Committee sequence.
QUESTION: What happens if something happens (inaudible)
SECRETARY POWELL: Then we don’t have seven quiet days.
QUESTION: What happens when the cooling-off period has begun?
SECRETARY POWELL: Once the cooling-off period has begun, the six-weeks period, we hope that we will see evidence of increased confidence between the two sides – security consultations that are continuing; security coordination; more information being exchanged with respect to people who do not want to keep the peace and action taken against those who might commit terror acts, who don’t want to keep the peace. Those who are conducting acts that are not consistent with the terms of the agreement will be dealt with by both sides. Both sides will have obligations. And, what we are trying to indicate through this process, is you will slowly build up a level of trust and confidence through these measures that will lead to a point where the sides will feel that they have developed enough trust and confidence that they can go back into final-status negotiations, as the Prime Minister said.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a Jewish woman was assassinated today by the Fatah organization headed by Yasser Arafat. Can we hear a clear position of the United States about this murder. Do you condemn this act?
SECRETARY POWELL: We condemn it. We deplore it. It is outrageous. It is a crime. Those responsible for it should be condemned. They should be brought to justice and we have communicated this point of view to Chairman Arafat.
QUESTION: And a second question, Mr. Secretary. Did you get in your meeting with Yasser Arafat a clear commitment from Mr. Arafat to stop terrorism and violence all over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, in all the Areas A, B and C and not just in Area A?
SECRETARY POWELL: I did not have to specify all the areas because in our conversation it was clear that we were talking about ending the violence throughout the whole region, throughout all areas. Yes.
QUESTION: And did he agree to end the incitement also?
SECRETARY POWELL: We talked about incitement and all of it was part of a package of what it would take to start to create a quiet period.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): Mr. Prime Minister, there was a permanent, long-standing Israeli position that the trilateral security committee, that procedure which was established as a result of agreements between Israel and the Palestinians, and which included CIA personnel, that it will be the body which investigates what happens in the field. Did you change your position, and are you willing to accept a different type of observers, or is your position still that it will be the body which monitors all the security agreements between Israel and the Palestinians?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON (in Hebrew): First of all, no other proposal came up. We created a committee made of senior representatives of the United States, our representatives. This is a professional committee, which conducts meetings between military officers – both at the higher and at the lower levels. The American representative, the CIA representative, is present at those meetings. We attach great importance to those security meetings, to the contacts among officers in the field, as a calming element. Our position remains as it was, and the U.S. position also. We have not been asked to make any change at all. I will speak only from our position, but I hope that the Secretary of State will also support that both sides are satisfied with the way the contacts are being carried out between the officers.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): What’s your reaction to the murder? And do you intend to change Cabinet policy in any way?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON (in Hebrew): I think that the murder carried out today by Fatah personnel, which operates under the direct and absolute control of Yasser Arafat, is a hateful and serious action, and serious in any case, and I see it as even more serious that it took place at the time of the presence of the Secretary of State and at the time of his efforts to bring about peace in our region.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, if I could change the subject slightly. It appears that Mr. Milosevic is on the way to The Hague. Do you have any specific information about it? And do you have any remarks about his being presumably brought to justice?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, Mr. Milosevic is on his way to the Hague. I can confirm that. He may well be there by now, I don’t know. The White House issued a press statement a little while ago that we can make available to you if you have not yet seen it, and I am pleased that he is being brought to justice to face the international criminal tribunal and I am pleased that American pressure played a considerable role in that. We will be attending the donor’s conference tomorrow and now that he is in the custody of The Hague authorities, this will make it easier for us to be more forthcoming at the donor’s conference and at subsequent days and weeks. Thank you.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shimon Peres, will meet with Yasser Arafat in Lisbon?
PRIME MINISTER SHARON (in Hebrew): My relationship with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Shimon Peres is not based on giving permission. The very question doesn’t seem to me to be the way it should be presented. When there are issues between Foreign Minister Peres and myself which need clarification, we talk to each other. That is the way to work. We are members of a national unity government, which is of critical importance, which will continue until November 2003, and I hope that in its current composition, or something similar, it will continue afterwards until the elections of 2007. The relations are built on an entirely different basis.
Thank you very much.
(as published by the US State Department)