Press Conference with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom
London, 5 May 2004
JACK STRAW: Today [I met with] the Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. Our discussion focussed on the latest developments affecting the Middle East peace process, including the Quartet meeting which took place in New York yesterday and we’ve laid round copies of the conclusions of the Quartet meeting.
We also discussed Prime Minister Sharon’s recent announcement of Israel’s intention to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank and the results of the Likud referendum held last Sunday.
I took the opportunity of our meeting to express our utter condemnation and revulsion at the killing of the pregnant mother and four children that took place in Gaza at the weekend and to ask the Minister to pass on our sincere condolences to the family and to the community of those affected.
Returning to the statement issued by the Quartet yesterday I’d like to say that we welcome that statement. It said that the intention to withdraw from all Gaza settlements and parts of the West Bank and I quote should provide a rare moment of opportunity in the search for peace in the Middle East. The Quartet statement is a balanced one condemning continuing terror attacks on Israel and it calls on the Palestinian Authority to take immediate action against terrorist groups. Equally whilst recognising Israel’s legitimate right to self defence within international law it also goes on to say that action should be always taken within that international law.
We give our full support to the Quartet in its call for renewed efforts to reach a comprehensive ceasefire as a step towards the dismantling of terrorist capabilities’ infrastructure and renewed progress towards a negotiated final settlement through the Road Map. And we will work with the international community and most importantly with the Israelis and the Palestinians to seek progress away from violence and towards peace.
SILVAN SHALOM: It’s always a pleasure for me to be here and I welcome this opportunity to update my British counterpart on the latest developments in Israel and the Middle East. Israel welcomes the support of the international community as expressed yesterday by the Quartet for our efforts to breathe new life in to the peace process. The people of Israel know that a real and lasting peace is the right way for us and for the Palestinians and we will continue to strive for this goal.
We accept the vision of President Bush and we will continue to do everything in our power to help make it a reality. Any steps in this direction if they are to be viable, must enjoy broad national and international support. After the results of Sunday’s Likud referendum in Israel we are now reviewing ways in which we can proceed along this path. Israel will not be passive. The Prime Minister is determined to proceed. We will continue actively to pursue effective ways to promote the security of our people and advance the cause of peace.
Sadly, under the impact of continued Palestinian terrorism of the worst kind, just this week a pregnant mother and her four young daughters were shot in cold blood at point blank range by two Palestinian terrorists this efforts is more difficult than ever. The Palestinian Authority, our supposed partner for peace, would not even condemn this attack, let alone act to prevent it.
The international community has a key role to play in changing this situation. The international community can and must I believe, bring its influence to bear to ensure the necessary reforms in the Palestinian Authority as called for by the Quartet. It will produce a responsible Palestinian leadership. It will guide their people away from the path of terror and incitement and make negotiations and a peaceful settlement possible. The Foreign Secretary and I discussed today ways to promote this agenda.
QUESTION: To the Israeli Foreign Minister. At the end you said the international community must bring pressure to bear on the Palestinians. Are you implying that the European Union in particular has been too soft on the Palestinians?
SILVAN SHALOM: What I believe is that the international community can bring its influence in order to bring back the Palestinians to do what they need to do and it means to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist organisations.
As I’ve said to my friend, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, until few months ago it was always mentioned by the EU leaders and by the international community as a whole that the Palestinians should implement their commitments according to the Road Map. In phase one it means to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorist organisations, to confiscate the illegal weapons, to put an end to incitement and violence.
QUESTION: Mr Straw in the last twenty four hours you’ve heard a galaxy of views on the problems of the region. Just to take for example the Egyptian Foreign Minister last night who condemned any unilateral moves towards peace. Having heard all the views of the various partners in the peace process can you indicate as to why there are still problems in getting the peace process under way if Israel is prepared to talk but finds no partners?
And second one Mr. Shalom, what indications have you got now following the referendum result that there is any chance for taking the disengagement plan forward with a majority in both the Cabinet and the Knesset?
JACK STRAW: You need a very long time to go in to exactly why we are where we are, except to say that we know from our history that situations of conflict produce great difficulties in getting dialogue going. It is our belief that the approach of the Quartet and the framework proposed by the Quartet in the Road Map provides the only viable pathway to peace. It was because we judged and so did the European Union that the proposal from Prime Minister Sharon for withdrawal from the Gaza and the withdrawal too of the settlements within Gaza represented a constructive step towards the Road Map that we welcomed that as part of overall progress towards the fulfilment of the Road Map and the various stages of it. We will continue to stay engaged, including in respect of the security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority.
SILVAN SHALOM: The Prime Minister is determined to move forward in the peace process. He is looking now for ways in order to get the party leaders in the Likud to move with him toward implementation of a peace initiative. He will have some more meetings with Coalition members and he will do everything he can in order to bring peace and security to the people of the State of Israel.