|Press Availability with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas|
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
August 2, 2007
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate, once again we welcome Dr. Rice, and we thank her for her visit to us and we assert to her that we were and still are and we will always be seeking for peace that is just and this peace in this region, peace that is based on a two-state solution, the Palestinian independent state which is contiguous and the state of Israel that lives side by side with Palestine safely and securely.
Today, we speak about several issues that are of interest regarding the conditions that have emerged following the call that took place in Gaza, the economic situation, the financial and the security situation in the West Bank and about means of moving forward with the peace process.
However, today we have a project which will be signed today in order to revive and develop the security services. This project which is supported by the United States, I would like to point out here that we, two weeks ago, we signed another agreement with OPIC to provide fast loans for all who want to invest as small enterprises and we hope that economic conditions will develop and improve and the political conditions will also improve hence. And based on this, we will continue in our pursuit and our work.
We do not look right or left. We want to reach an independent state. We want to reach with our people to stability and good living economic conditions and to end the security disorder and the unstable security conditions so that the (inaudible) feels that (inaudible) lives in a safe homeland. And welcome, Dr. Rice.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you for welcoming me back. I have had very good discussions in the region, and yesterday in Israel in (inaudible). I came this time to pursue the initiatives that President Bush announced in his July 16th statement about the importance of recommitment and movement forward on the creation of two states living side by side in peace and freedom.
Mr. President, I think that everyone is impressed with the leadership that you have been showing, impressed with the work of your government under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and there is a great desire to be supportive of the Palestinian people as they make these efforts to lay a foundation for a stable, prosperous, and democratic Palestinian state.
I want to note that we will have a discussion about the political discussions that you are having on a bilateral basis with Prime Minister Olmert. The Prime Minister said to me that he looks forward to continued discussions with you and that he is ready to discuss the fundamental issues that will lead to negotiations soon for the creation of a Palestinian state. And I know that that is your desire too, and the United States wants to support that bilateral track.
We will also have a discussion of the international meeting that the President intends to call of those states that are devoted to the two-state solution so that we might provide international support and regional support for your bilateral efforts.
I am looking forward today to signing with Prime Minister Fayyad the $80 million assistance package for Palestinian security. This allows us to give a quick infusion of funds to security reform here that is consistent with a broader international effort to reform and professionalize the Palestinian security forces because, as you have said, rule of law and security are at the core of being able to have functioning government, to have functioning opportunities for your people. And this is first and foremost so that your government can provide security to the Palestinian people and, on that basis then, to be able to provide regional security.
And so I look forward to the signing of this document. Thank you for taking note of the OPIC arrangements that were signed a few days ago. And I think you can be certain that the American people want to be a good and committed partner of the Palestinian people as we move to realize the vision of two states living side by side in peace and freedom.
Thank you, sir.
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)
SECRETARY RICE: Oh, fine. Yes, we’re going to go to – fine, and we’ll come back and take Q&A.
(The Signing Ceremony for the Framework Agreement on Security Assistance takes place.)
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Your Excellency (inaudible), the U.S. President George Bush asked for in the region an international conference and most Arab countries expressed their support of the meeting. What is the nature of this meeting and will there be any declarations or visions coming out from this meeting for the final status solution, especially that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert still believes that the time has not come yet for getting involved into -- seriously into final status negotiations according to the statements that he has given yesterday following your meeting with him? Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the President wants to convene this international meeting sometime in the fall to provide international support to the bilateral efforts that the Palestinians and the Israelis are making and that we hope will intensify. I will note that, again, that Prime Minister Olmert has said that he is ready to discuss fundamental issues that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and I think there should be a deepening of the dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis on all of the issues that will lead ultimately to the foundation of a Palestinian – the founding of a Palestinian state.
I noted that it is – that many people with whom I spoke in the region said that they wanted to make certain that this conference, this meeting, was one that would be substantive, that would be meaningful, that would really advance the two-state solution.
That was the comment from the Saudi Foreign Minister, for instance. And Prime Minister Olmert told me last night that he too shared that view that this was a meeting that ought to be and needs to be substantive and meaningful and that will, in fact, help to get to a two-state solution.
The President of the United States has no desire to call people together for a photo op. This is to call people together so that we can really advance the Palestinian – Palestinian statehood. Now, we have a lot of work to do between now and the fall, but I am here to consult and have discussions about the meeting, but also to see what we can do to help advance the bilateral track. And I can assure you that between now and the convening of the meeting this probably won’t be my last trip to the region. So we look forward to a really meaningful meeting.
QUESTION: I have two questions, one for Secretary Rice and one for President Abu Mazen. Madame Secretary, you came into office – yes, two. You came into office pledging to push democracy and push for the Palestinian legislative elections that brought Hamas to power. What should Palestinian voters make of the fact that the Bush Administration refused to meet with Ismail Haniya, their democratically elected prime minister, but that you just spent an hour with Salam Fayyad, the new prime minister who was not elected, at a time when the Administration maintains it’s still promoting democracy?
And for President Abu Mazen, do you foresee a time when you might return to a political accommodation with Hamas in order to represent all of the Palestinian people?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, Helene, let me begin by saying that President Abbas actually does represent all of the Palestinian people. He was elected as the President of all of the Palestinian people and he has been recognized widely internationally, not just by the United States, as the president of all the Palestinian people. I would note too that the President appointed a government that is widely recognized as legitimate in governing for the Palestinian people.
Now, as to elections, we believe strongly in the ability and the will and the desire of people to express themselves in elections. But those who were elected then have responsibilities to govern responsibly. And one of the ways that you govern responsibly is to govern within certain international norms of respectability, and among those norms is to accept the agreements that past governments or past leaderships have signed onto. And one of the things that was asked by the Quartet of the Palestinians, all Palestinians who were elected, including Hamas, was that they commit themselves to the fundamental principles for peace; that is, recognition of the right of the other party in peace talks to exist, not the recognition of that party, just the right of that party to exist. Secondly, that there needs to be a renunciation of violence because you can’t have one foot in the camp of terror and one foot in the camp of politics. And third, that there would be a recognition and acceptance of all of the agreements that Palestinian leaders have signed on behalf of the Palestinian people for more than a decade.
And so it’s on that basis that the United States has made its decisions about who is governing in accordance with international norms and therefore deserves the support of the United States. And I might note again it’s not just the position of the United States; it is a widely held international position, including by the Quartet. But this President is the legitimate president of the Palestinian people, all the Palestinian people, no matter where they live, whether it’s in the West Bank or in Gaza.
QUESTION: I think she asked -- President Abu Mazen, do you foresee a time where you might come to a political accommodation with Hamas?
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) Hamas has committed what I would say a major crime as it precipitated a coup against legitimacy. Those who perpetrated the coup against legitimacy are members of the government, the Prime Minister and others, other members of the cabinet and the legislative council. And this coup does not give any opportunities for any dialogue and hence we said and we still say they have to reverse and return everything they did. They have to reverse all the things that they did to the conditions before. And they have to apologize to the Palestinian people and then we would – we might consider.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Your Excellency Mr. President, to what extent are you willing to negotiate with Israelis about the declaration of principles as Prime Minister Olmert wishes to go and negotiate in the fall meeting based on these principles?
And Dr. Rice, to what extent will the Arab initiative be a base for negotiations or discussions on the fall conference?
PRESIDENT ABBAS: (Via interpreter) As for the negotiations with the Israeli part, it is known what principles we base on, which are, in general, the roadmap, which includes two main issues, which are President Bush’s vision and the Arab initiative. These include all the issues that may be discussed for the final status, hence we will be discussing or focusing on means of implementing these principles which were mentioned in the roadmap which have become a UN Security Council resolution. When we end, possibly within the – in a framework agreement or a declaration of principles or anything, the important thing is that we reach in the end all we realize we know what will be the outcome and what is the ceiling where we should reach. For the phases of implementation, these are things that we can agree on.
SECRETARY RICE: And I think that the President has said that he sees the Arab initiative as a positive element and as one element in helping move forward to a two-state solution. We have encouraged, for instance, the Arab League to do precisely what the Arab League did, which was to send representatives to talk with the Israelis about the Arab initiative. And it is one of, I think, several bases, several documents, several elements that can help us point toward a two-state solution and toward a regional peace between Israel and its neighbors.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, to follow up on a couple of things. When you say that Prime Minister Olmert is ready to talk about fundamental principles, what do you understand those to be and what would you like to see on the table as the two go forward? And would you like to see President Abbas hold new elections anytime soon?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the matter of when to hold new elections is a matter for the President and for the Palestinian people. As to the discussions, the bilateral discussions, I take it that the Prime Minister and the President are going to meet frequently. I take it that they are going to deepen their dialogue. I believe that the word “fundamental” speaks for itself. And the desire to move toward a two-state solution seems to me to be there on both sides, and there are a lot of issues that are going to have to be discussed in order to get to a two-state solution.
But I do believe that this is a time when it is best for the United States to encourage the parties to these discussions and I’m doing so, and I’m doing so privately to make American views known of how those discussions might proceed. But ultimately, it’s the parties that will carry them out.