Remarks by US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom after their meeting
The State Department
SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I just had an excellent conversation with my colleague, Silvan Shalom. It’s always a pleasure to have you here, Mr. Minister. And our conversation really focused on the opportunities that have been presented by the death of Chairman Arafat. We are pleased by the responsible manner in which Palestinian leaders have started to come together and we are pleased that they have set a date for an election for the new president of the Palestinian Authority, and the Minister and I spoke about what Israel will be doing to facilitate that election.
I said to the Minister that I hope that during my upcoming visit to the region, and especially when I’m at Sharm el-Sheikh, we’ll be able to convene a meeting of the Quartet to review the bidding and see what the Quartet can do, as part of our roadmap efforts, to assist in the process of moving forward down the path laid out by the roadmap.
I also expressed to the Minister my satisfaction that the disengagement plan that the Prime Minister has put forward and that we have endorsed back in April seems to be moving forward, and so there are new opportunities that have been presented by recent events, and I’m pleased that the Minister sees it in the same way, and that we will work together to take advantage of these opportunities and deal with the challenges that are ahead of us.
So Mr. Minister, it’s always a great pleasure to have you here. I invite you to say a few words, sir.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I’m very happy to be here once again, and to have this discussion with you. We had a very good and constructive discussion about what needs to be done in the day after in the Middle East. We have a glimmer of hope that the new leadership may be more responsible and more moderate. We would like to enable the Palestinians to have a free and fair election that is expected to take place on January 9th. Everything that is needed will be provided to them in order to ensure that they will have the possibility to elect their new leadership.
We would like to see this new leadership moving to a better understanding with Israel, moving toward peace with Israel, but there are no shortcuts. We would like this new leadership to implement its commitments according to the Roadmap. In phase one, it is written very clearly that they should dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist organizations, and that they will put an end to terrorism, violence and incitement. I asked the Secretary to help us to achieve these goals. We would like here to see the involvement of the American administration, which has been involved in all the peace processes that we had in the past.
We believe that this new leadership can take quick action by putting an end to the incitement in radio and television and in the textbooks, and afterwards to move toward the dismantlement of the infrastructure of terrorist organizations.
I would like to tell you, Mr. Secretary, that I was very sorry to hear that you have decided to leave your position. You are a very good friend of Israel, but more than that, you are a very good friend of peace. And you have done everything you can in order to have better time, better future in our region, to have more stability, to bring hope to our peoples there, and for that I would like to thank you very much for your efforts.
You will continue with your efforts next week when you come to our region, and I don’t want to summarize now. But still it’s a big loss for me personally, it’s a big loss for the State of Israel, and it’s a big loss for the peace in the Middle East.
Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, you said that Israel is prepared to cooperate with the Palestinians. On the issue of the 200,000 Palestinians or Arabs living in East Jerusalem, should they participate in the balloting, in the election?
And, Mr. Secretary, when the Quartet meets, is there a need to revise or update or seriously change the Roadmap?
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: Jerusalem is the eternal capital, undivided capital of Israel, and we, of course, will do everything to keep it this way. About the Palestinians that are living there, I would like you to know that even in the example of the last Palestinian election in 1996, there were no elections in Jerusalem. The Palestinians living in Jerusalem voted then only through envelopes by mail, and I believe it should be the same, that there should be no elections in Jerusalem.
The Prime Minister has said that the final decision on the participation of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem in the upcoming election will take place in few days. Our Prime Minister will meet with some of the ministers that are involved with this issue, and we will take a decision about it in the near future.
SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t see any need to revise the Roadmap. I think it lays out the responsibilities and obligations and commitments of both sides very, very clearly.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last week President Bush said that he was, his Administration, would be willing to spend capital needed to advance peace in the Middle East. What specifically do you envision the next administration doing to advance this process, and what do you hope to do in the remaining time of your tenure?
SECRETARY POWELL: I hope to meet with the parties in the region who will be attending the Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, dealing principally with Iraq, but so many parties will be there that I’m sure we will get into a discussion of the possibilities for moving down the trail of the roadmap, and then I’m looking at other opportunities to visit with leaders in the region.
As the President said, he is prepared to invest capital. He did it last year when we all went to Aqaba, and that process did not go as far as we would have liked, but he’s prepared to do it again when the conditions are right, when Palestinian leadership is in place, and when they have made clear what their commitments are and have started to act in those commitments, the President will invest political capital.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, won’t your departure inevitably slow down this process? And Mr. Minister, the Palestinians have said that they cannot do this alone, that even the moderates who are aspiring to leadership cannot do this without a significant redeployment by the Israeli Army and greater access among the settlements, and also, voting in Jerusalem. So how can you expect them to crack down on violence when say you’re not giving them what they need to take these steps?
SECRETARY POWELL: My departure does not make anything inevitable. We’re going to keep moving forward. It’s the President’s policies that are being pursued and implemented, not Colin Powell’s.
FOREIGN MINISTER SHALOM: As I’ve said, we’ll do everything in order to enable them to have their election, to hold a free and fair election. We will do everything that is needed to give them freedom of movement, but of course, we will not do anything to harm or to damage our security or our safety. We will assist them in a way that will enable them to vote without, as I’ve said, damaging our security. I think it can be done and we are planning to do it. We will give them all the assistance that they will ask for and that they will need because we would like them for the first time to enjoy free elections.
It will be a very positive signal that in January free elections will be held in Iraq and the Palestinian Authority. It might encourage some other countries in our region to ask for the same system of democracy – to have elections in their countries. We have had enough being the only democracy in our region for almost 60 years. We would like others to join us.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.