Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice

Jericho, West Bank
November 30, 2006

PRESIDENT ABBAS: In the name of the God, the merciful. We strongly welcome Dr. Condoleezza Rice who is visiting us in these political times which the region is going through and particularly the peace process agenda. We have discussed with Dr. Rice today the issues related to pushing the peace process forward and to implement the roadmap entirely which includes the Arab Peace Initiative which entails President Bush's vision which lately he stated about certain principles referred to the Israeli Prime Minister Olmert when he spoke positively about the creation of a Palestinian, independent Palestinian contiguous state and when he indicated to the Arab Peace Initiative positively. I believe that what he said in this direction is very encouraging in order to push the peace process forward.

At the same time, we spoke about the truce, the ceasefire, which we have striking Gaza . And we — which we also hope that it will be applied to the West Bank mutually and hereby we can say that once we apply this in the West Bank and enhance the ceasefire in the West Bank and Gaza, to go back to the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, which we reached and signed with Prime Minister Sharon. Of course, this will naturally help us to calm the situation and prepare the path for the peace process.

And also we discussed with Secretary Rice our persistent efforts to create a national unity government. And it is known that this is — creating a national unity government and is an important goal for us and we believe that once this government is created will end the siege, the sanctions imposed on the Palestinian people. We have exerted all efforts and we work in different directions and through different proposals. But unfortunately, now we have reached an impasse, a deadlock. This is painful and very painful to us because we know how much our people are suffering in terms of difficulties for the past eight or nine months until now. The people are deprived of resources and salaries. But unfortunately, I say we have not succeeded. We have not reached the concluding end result that we wanted. We wanted to have a national unity government which is capable to move forward and is a government that is capable to deal with the international community, to understand the international resolutions, the Arab resolutions and the Palestinian understandings and commitments in order to end the suffering and the pains of our people. But this is what happened and we state the truth as is.

In addition, we also spoke about the prisoners. We have a chronic problem called the prisoners, 10,000 prisoners at the – this is the figure six or eight months ago, but now maybe there are more until when the Palestinian families and the prisoners will continue to suffer from being in jail. Of course, there are efforts exerted to release or free the soldier and we support these efforts and we want the soldier to be released. But at the same time and the same enthusiasm, we want to release Palestinian prisoners.

And unfortunately, I would like also to say that settlement and settlement activities are continuing. The Palestinian land is being undermined and taken away day after day. This of course, does not help peace and does not help our — does not help us to get to the aspired peace

that we want. We want the Palestinian state and the Palestinians to live alongside with Israel . We don't deny that. A contiguous state, as Olmert indicated and as was confirmed by President Bush, this is our goal and any obstacles on that path will obstruct and undermine these efforts. Therefore what we want is to have a political track, a track for political issues, and another track for daily issues, things that the people suffer from, prisoners, roadblocks, obstacles, deprivation of many things and issues that the Palestinian people are deprived from. If this happens, then we give the two peoples hope that the peace is coming and imminent. We must give people hope. People must not feel despair because — or feel frustrated because frustration leads to extremism and extremism leads to known consequences. We all know the consequences.

I, once again, welcome Dr. Rice, who is visiting us these days here in Jericho and this is the second time that she visits us in Jericho . And we hope that the next visit comes at a time that we have concrete results and steps that are implemented on the ground to give our people the hope that peace is coming and imminent. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all let me thank you for your leadership and for your compassion and for what you have been doing for your people in recent months. You have done it for a lifetime, but in recent months your efforts to forge a national unity government that would have been able to end the political crisis in which the Palestinian people find themselves with a government that could gain the support and respect of the international community. I think your efforts have been extraordinary. Thank you for those efforts. Thank you also for the efforts that you've made to bring about a ceasefire — in the ceasefire that is now in effect in Gaza and that we hope will be consolidated so that it can be extended because we would hope in time for a comprehensive ceasefire.

Let me also say that you enjoy and you have always enjoyed and you continue to enjoy the deep respect and admiration of the international community, of the United States in particular and of President Bush and myself. And one reason that I wanted to come today was to have an opportunity to talk with you about how we can intensify our efforts to support our commitment toward progress on a two-state solution. I think that everybody recognizes that the creation of a viable, independent democratic Palestinian state that can live side by side in peace with Israel would be not just a remarkable achievement but a just achievement for the Palestinian people. And I wanted to come and continue what has been an ongoing dialogue with you about how we accelerate our efforts. In that regard I agree completely that the speech of Olmert was a very positive development, I think an effort to reach out to a Palestinian partner. And I'm going now to Jerusalem . I will speak with Prime Minister Olmert about the positive elements in that speech and hopefully we can take this moment to accelerate our efforts that intensify our efforts toward the two-state solution that we all desire.

The President and I also did have an opportunity to talk about a number of other issues, including how to improve conditions for the Palestinian people. We're all concerned about the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people, but particularly in Gaza . And I want to repeat what I said many times: We want to do everything that we can to ease movement and access. The daily difficulties, the daily humiliations that are associated with life for the Palestinian people simply but be eased. And I will work with you, Mr. President, with the Israelis to do precisely that.

Well, thank you very much for welcoming me here in Jericho . It is actually our second meeting in Jericho . We met here when I was National Security Advisor a number of years ago and it's good to see you as always, Mr. President. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said that negotiations about creation of a national unity government has reached an impasse. Does this mean that you will take steps imminently or that you will continue to the dialogue again?

Secretary Rice, the President — Dr. Rice the President has spoken about the suffering of the Palestinian people and it's obvious that he asked you to intervene to put an end to the suffering. Does the U.S. Administration has guarantees that will be declared to the Palestinian people in this respect and will — the U.S. Administration would announce having an international peace conference?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: For the first question, I said that we presently, for the past six months, work on the creation of the government and we tackled the different topics and more than one proposal and ideas in order to create a national unity government. I, frankly, would like to say that a national unity government to break and end the siege. I'm not looking for names and I'm not looking for individuals and I'm not looking for factions. Who to be represented, who is not represented this is not a concern. I'm not concerned with these issues, whether from Hamas or from Fatah. What I want, I want individual personalities who are capable, decent experts regardless of their names and identities who believe that what we need to move forward, who would accept the Palestinian (inaudible) and Arab legitimacy. This is what I want in order to be able to break the siege.

The goal is to break the siege. And the government is not a goal by itself; it's not at all our goal. The goal is to create a government today and after an hour we would demand from the world to end the siege and to accept that. This is what I wanted. Unfortunately until now, I have not reached a result for the six months of pain and agonies of consultations and dialogue and lots of talk with an empty — or talk that I could not reach a conclusion. This is what I describe the situation. This is what I arrived at.

SECRETARY RICE: As to the U.S. role in terms of the Palestinian people, first of all, the United States has been very active in trying to help with the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people through the many nongovernmental organizations that we support. We've of course supported efforts also through international mechanisms to do so. Unfortunately, because there is not a government with which the international community can deal, it is very difficult to do more to help the humanitarian side. And we do believe that were there a government that accepted international standards that have been a part of the record, by the way, for a very long time. These are agreements the Palestinians themselves have signed on to like the roadmap.

It would be possible, of course, for the international community to do more if the international principals were respected. Finally, obviously as we work toward a two-state solution, it is to give Palestinians a control of their own destiny and their own lives and to do so recognizing that there are very good Palestinian leaders who are committed to peace, who are committed to a democracy, who are committed to the security of the Palestinian people and of their neighbors like President Abu Mazen.

QUESTION: Secretary, and what (inaudible) options?

SECRETARY RICE: Up next. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr. President, (inaudible) from Al Arabiya. To complete the question, you said that you're describing the situation today in terms of the creation of the government, the impasse, the block that you have reached, but what are the steps there and the measures that you will constitution responsibility to end this crisis? And you know that this is basically a test maybe from an international perspective.

And the question for her Excellency, Secretary Rice, you are talking about the creation of an integrated Palestinian state. And I quote from what the Palestinian President said as if he were saying maybe there will be no further or more land to create such a step because of settlement activities. So do you have measures of practical steps in order to convince the Palestinian people that you are serious in dealing with Israelis in terms of putting pressure?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: As for your first question, as when the — past few days, we have developed this realization that there will reach — to pass this needs for the Palestinian leadership at the executive committee and other leaders to study and examine what are the necessary steps that are required for the future. One point that we exclude and rule out and we don't accept it, which is the civil war. We will not accept this; otherwise, we will examine and study all the other options and to the benefit of our people.

And I said earlier that the government is for the benefit of the people and we don't want to continue looking for factional – and other factional interests. And starting with the Fatah — the people, the Palestinian people have so many genius people. It doesn't mean that they are — only exist in Fatah and Hamas. They are everywhere else and there are independent people, independent individuals, so if this is what composes the next government then we welcome that. Otherwise, we'll study our options and we'll look into it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. Yesterday, we have reached this conclusion and I can't say that I have decided as of today that we will do one or two, three steps. This is, please, pardon me that I will — Mr. (inaudible), and I will study that later.

SECRETARY RICE: Back to the question of the territories for the Palestinian state. First of all, the United States has made clear that we expect it to be a viable and contiguous state when it is created. Secondly, that no actions that are being taken now should prejudge the outcome of a final status agreement; that means, very clearly, that if actions are being taken now, they will not be considered by the United States to have prejudged the outcome of final status. The third point is that we have made very clear that Israel has obligations under the roadmap and that the obligations on settlements are clearly articulated in the roadmap. And so those principles guide American policy, they guide our discussions with the Israelis just as obligations under the roadmap guide our discussions with our Palestinian partners as well.


QUESTION: Jeff (inaudible) from AFP. Secretary Rice, Thursday you'll be meeting with ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council in Egypt , and Jordan . What kind of help will you be seeking from them — from Saudi Arabia and Egypt moving ahead on this peace process and breaking the deadlock (inaudible)? And what, President Abbas, what kind of help would you be hoping for when you meet?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just say that President Abbas has his own contacts and his own diplomacy with these states. He talks frequently to the Egyptians, to the Saudis, to the Jordanians, to others in the Gulf. So he has his own diplomatic activity. And it is my goal to support the request that he has been making of these states because I think it is in all of our interests to see a strong Palestinian partner who could engage in the efforts to create a Palestinian state.

I think it is in all of our interests to see reformed, unified Palestinian security forces that are capable of carrying out the obligations the Palestinians have under the roadmap and, by the way, not just the obligations concerning the roadmap but the obligations to the Palestinian people to keep them safe and to make law and order for the Palestinian people a way of life. And so we have had extensive discussions about reform of the security forces, equipping of the security forces, General Dayton is here and has been very active in those discussions with states in the region as well with the Israelis and with the Palestinians. And so the security element is important.

We also want to see support for the President's efforts to reform Palestinian political institutions and to make them stronger for the foundation of democracy and so there's a lot that all of those who are devoted to a peaceful Palestinian state can bring to the table. That is one the most important discussions that I have with the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Egyptians and the Jordanians. Of course, there are some specific issues that with the Egyptians we jointly, of course, are very responsible for the movement and access issues and we will talk about those with the Egyptians. But I think you should understand that there are several states in the Arab world that want to see Abu Mazen and the Palestinians who want a peaceful future succeed and I will continue to talk with them about precisely those matters.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice , U.S. officials have said several times that if Abu Mazen is unable to successfully form a unity government, he has other options available. He seems to be saying now that that's dead, what are those options?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's for President Abbas to say. And it is for President Abbas to decide what his options are. He's the elected President of the Palestinian people, not me. (Laughter.) And I'm grateful that he thinks highly enough of our partnership that we stay in constant contact and consolation about how he sees his options, about how he sees the future, about how he sees how the United States can support what he decides to do. But by no means am I going to try to prejudge what his options are or what options he ought to take.

Thank you very much.

# # #