FM Livni: My visit to you comes a few weeks after Resolution 1701 was adopted by the Security Council. The question is if there is now a window of opportunity and whether we can change this window of opportunity into reality.
Joint press conference by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Livni after their meeting
September 13, 2006
SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. I’m very pleased to welcome Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to the United States. Tzipi and I have had a number of opportunities to meet here and also in the Middle East. We’ve had a wide-ranging discussion, including discussing Resolution 1701 on Lebanon and the need for its full implementation. We have discussed the situation in Iran. Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region and also concerns about the Iranian nuclear program. We have talked about the two-state solution and how to think about moving forward on Israeli-Palestinian issues.
I also wanted to say to Minister Livni and to the Israeli people that the United States continues to call for the unconditional and immediate release of the Israeli soldier in the Palestinian territory and the Israeli soldiers held in Lebanon. We pray for their safety and for their well being. But the international community has made very clear that they should be released and released unconditionally.
Thank you for coming.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Thank you and thank you for the invitation. My visit comes at a very special time when we mark the attacks of September 11th. I think that this was the day in which the world was divided in two, between those who mourned and those who celebrated – and Israelis cried with the Americans that day. Since then Israel and other nations, under the leadership of the United States of America, have been fighting terrorism.
My visit to you also comes a few weeks after Resolution 1701 was adopted by the Security Council. I believe that Resolution 1701 represents the interest of the region in order to promote the process and to change the situation in the region. This, too, is the result of the determination of the United States and of you personally, Secretary Rice – the determination not to return to the dangerous status quo that we faced before the unprovoked attack on Israel.
But of course the question is if there is now a window of opportunity and whether we can change this window of opportunity into reality. This depends on the determination of the international community to implement the resolution fully and completely, including the release of the soldiers being held hostages, the enforcement of the arms embargo, and the dismantlement of Hizbullah. I think that after the recent events in our region, in Lebanon, I think the Iranian threat is now also clearer. I think that it is now clearer that the world cannot afford a nuclear Iran.
With regard to the complicated situation between the Israelis and Palestinians, of course, we discussed this issue in order to promote a process. I can assure you that stagnation is not Israeli government policy. But since the Hamas won the election in the Palestinian Authority, the situation became more complicated and undermined, in a way, President Bush’s vision that the Roadmap represents. But we will make every effort and we take every opportunity to find a way to revive and to promote the process in order to achieve this goal and this vision for a better future for us all.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the efforts among Palestinians to form a unity government, do you see this as a way to eventually resolve the question of foreign aid to the Palestinians? Would you oppose this government if Hamas does not meet the three conditions you’ve laid out as a part of forming it?
And for the Foreign Minister, the idea raised, I believe yesterday, that Abbas could talk to Israel as part of a unity government even if Hamas did not, does that make you any more disposed to negotiate with that government, would that condition be satisfactory to you?
SECRETARY RICE: First of all, I think that the outcome of the process is not clear. It’s an ongoing process and our purpose has been to be very clear that we do believe that the Quartet principles represent the consensus of the international community about the way forward between Israel and the Palestinians. It goes without saying that it’s hard to have a partner for peace if you don’t accept the right of the other partner to exist. It goes without saying that it’s hard to have a process for peace if you do not renounce violence. And so we will see what the outcome is here.
But let me just say that we continue to believe that President Abbas, who is someone who has accepted these very important principles, is someone with whom we can work and with whom we are working and we hope that the opportunities will present themselves for the United States to continue to engage him and to continue to try to improve life for the Palestinian people. But the Quartet principles are important because they embody the very essential elements of how we would actually get to a two-state solution.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: Israel was and still is willing to meet Mahmoud Abbas, because we believe in holding talks with those who believe in a two-state solution, and Mahmoud Abbas is one of them. But of course, any government, or future government in the Palestinian Authority will have to meet the requirements of the international community – not only Hamas government, but also a unity government or any other government. We expect the Palestinian Authority and the future government to meet these requirements fully and completely, and we believe that these requirements are not negotiable. The existence of the State of Israel and the renunciation of violence and terrorism are requirements, and are not negotiable.
I think that now this is a moment in time in which Mahmoud Abbas has to decide whether the Palestinian Authority will operate on his terms or on the terrorists’ terms. This is the decision that he has to make, and this is the decisions that any future Palestinian government has to make. I hope that they will take the right decision in order to change the situation in the region. As Israel clearly said, any government that will fully and completely meet the requirements will be accorded legitimacy, not only by the international community..
QUESTION: Just to clarify though, could you go on dealing with Abbas if he was in a partner —
SECRETARY RICE: Mahmoud Abbas is the President of the Palestinian Authority, elected separately from the election of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the formation of a government. He is someone who personally accepts the Quartet principles and accepts the responsibility to move the Palestinian people away from conflict and toward peace. And we will continue to deal with him. I think the issue of the government is, however, an issue in which the Quartet principles are very clear. And the point that I was trying to make is that they’re clear for a reason. It’s not just that we say there have to be Quartet principles. It’s because they represent very important elements if you wish to get to a two-state solution to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the deadline to Iran passed two weeks ago and nothing happened. I wonder how many more deadlines the U.S. intend to give Iran till an action is really taken? And I’ll be happy also to have the Foreign Minister take on this issue?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, it’s not quite right that nothing happened. On August 31st the deadline did pass. And in fact, we have now been in very close consultations with the other six and with others about what the – what a Security Council resolution would contain. Now it is true that there has been an effort, because we’ve said the path is always open, to see if the Iranians still wanted to suspend. It’s my understanding that – perhaps, not surprisingly – they’ve canceled the meeting for tomorrow. That should tell us something. And we have always believed that the path was very clear for the Iranians: suspend and go down the path of negotiation or the international community would go down the path of the Security Council.
It’s quite clear we’re on the path of the Security Council. There will be a meeting in New York of the ministers of the P-5+1. I think that’s a natural time to assess where we are and to make some movement forward. But I would just not likely the impression that we’ve been doing nothing. Meetings began almost immediately – holiday notwithstanding – began almost immediately on how to move forward on a Security Council resolution.
If the Iranians wish to suspend their activities, which is important because they’re then not perfecting the technologies that could lead to a nuclear weapon, the road of negotiation is still open, when and if they decide to suspend it.
QUESTION: So you’re willing to give them more time?
SECRETARY RICE: No. I said we are working on a Security Council resolution now. We have to consult about it and we have to decide what the text will look like. There was a meeting of the political directors. There will be a meeting with the ministers. We are working on that track. If the Iranians still wish to suspend and begin negotiations obviously that would be a good thing. But given that they canceled the meeting, I don’t really know that that option is available.
FOREIGN MINISTER LIVNI: It’s easier for me to say that there is no time and that the international community should show determination and start with the sanctions. But as was said before, it easier for me to say this from the outside. The United States is demonstrating determination, but there’s a need to get more states onboard. Unfortunately there has been some hesitation from other parts of the world. But our expectation is that the international community will show more determination on this issue and an understanding that this is not a threat to Israel, but a threat to the entire free world. I think that there is an understanding, but now let’s see what happens next week.
SECRETARY RICE: That is our expectation, too. That is what we agreed starting all the way back at London to Berlin to Paris. And we now have to deliver as an international community.