Statements to the Press following meeting between Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

Washington, DC, April 19, 2002

Secetary Powell: It is always a pleasure to greet my friend Shimon Peres, and we’ve just completed a good discussion of the situation in the region and once again gave him impressions of my trip. We talked over the framework that I described in my press conference the other day of security, followed quickly by negotiations for a political solution. And we spent quite a bit of time lingering on the humanitarian issue that is becoming uppermost in our mind, and how the international community has to be positioned to assist with humanitarian relief, reconstruction, economic activity in the territories once we get to that point.

As you all know, we are anxious to see the operation currently underway concluded so that we can move forward with security discussions again, but bring forward in an accelerated way a political process, so that we can substitute for hopelessness, hope, so that young people can see that there is a future for them. There will be a state for the Palestinian people living side by side in peace and harmony with a Jewish state called Israel, of course.

And so once again, I benefited from the Foreign Minister’s wisdom, and I look forward to our next meeting.

Foreign Minister Peres: Thank you very much, Colin. For me, it was an occasion to express our appreciation for the visit of the Secretary in our region.

I think in real terms there were three important achievements. One, which people don’t notice enough, and that is the harmonization of the international mind. If there will be a disagreement between Europe and the United States and Russia, or a disagreement with the United States and the United Nations, we shall feel it in the region. And I think one should pay the utmost attention to keep the camp together in a positive manner. I think the Madrid Conference, before the Secretary came, was in that sense a real achievement, and we appreciate it very much.

The second point was the tranquilization in the north. The tension reached a very dangerous point. It was almost like destroying the last hope for a controlled situation in the Middle East. It was very close to escaping the control of all people. I think, since the visit of the Secretary to Syria, we can see now a quiet north. It it holding water, and this is again a tangible achievement.

The third point was the clarification of the demands that were put to all sides. The Secretary spelled it out in unmistakable terms. Some answers were given, I think mostly by us; some answers were not given, and they still are awaiting the right opportunity.

What I tried to tell the Secretary, my own impression, is: we cannot permit a lull in the situation. His visit was an important step. It cannot end as it is. And we expect the continuation of the diplomatic, security, economic, and humanitarian activities, both by sending a representative of the United States in the near future, and we hope also the return of the Secretary to the region in due course, and also by nominating somebody to have a look how to offer immediate help to the Palestinian people, economically and otherwise.

We also attach great importance to the regional conference. In the conference, we can contain different visions, beginning with the American vision that was announced by the Secretary at the United Nations, and it was repeated by the President on two or three other occasions. There is the Saudian proposal, which we welcome basically. There is an agreement, understanding, between Abu Ala and myself. I think all those visions can be linked and can keep the Middle East busy not just in exchanging fire, but in comparing notes.

And I believe even if we have some more warnings about terror, we shouldn’t fall into the trap of just handling the situation military, but also offer a parallel line for negotiations and hope.

Needless to say, we see eye to eye. We appreciate very much the declaration of the President yesterday. We appreciate very much the visit of the Secretary. And we really mean well. Our aim is not victory in the military sense, but peace in the political meaning.

Thank you.

Q: Mr. Minister, if I may, you were speaking about unity. Let me ask about Israel. In Israel, political differences have been put aside in support of Mr. Sharon. Now that the administration is perceptibly day by day reaching out more and more to the Palestinians, more and more emphasizing how they oppose settlements, how they want Israel to pull back, calling it an occupation, etc., do you think that doves will ever fly again in Israel? Do you think the unity will remain behind a hard-line Prime Minister, or are we going to hear now more of a variety of positions?

FM Peres: Compared to the alternatives, the dove will continue to fly. Let’s distinguish between the declared positions and the real ones. We are convinced right and left in Israel that there is no alternative for peace, that it is impossible to achieve peace without compromise, including painful compromise, and the time available is not as long as people think. We are ready to move energetically ahead.