|Briefing En Route Jerusalem|
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
September 18, 2007
SECRETARY RICE: (In progress) how they see that. The trip is short in large part because I have to return to the United States because, as you know, the United Nations General Assembly will start this weekend. And at the General Assembly there will be a number of meetings that relate directly to the work that we’re doing on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. There will be a Quartet meeting. I’ll have a chance before that meeting to meet with Tony Blair. There will be an AHLC meeting chaired by Norway on assistance to the Palestinians. I have a number of bilateral planned with various foreign ministers from states that are in one way or another associated with the peace process. So this is going to be a very intensive period for diplomacy, but I wanted to come out even if it has to be for a brief time, to see what we can do to advance the process here on the bilateral track and also to talk to the parties about how we move forward.
This isn’t going to be the last trip, I’m quite certain, between now and the international meeting, and I suspect that we’ll have a number of other international events also leading up to that meeting. So that’s the purpose of this trip. Nick.
QUESTION: On the international meeting, you have said that you want to build on the progress that Abbas and Olmert are making on their own. But how will you define success for that meeting and are you concerned that in the absence of that definition others are defining it for you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think we’ll have more to say about the international meeting in the coming days. We are going to meet as a Quartet. I think that’s an important time also to discuss the international meeting.
But I’ve been very clear that this meeting has to, in a substantive way, support the activities and the efforts of the parties to lay a foundation for the negotiation of a Palestinian state as soon as possible. And that’s really what this meeting needs to do. I think everybody expects it to be serious and substantive. I think everybody expects it to address critical issues and, you know, we don’t expect anything less. I mean, the idea that somehow the President of the United States would call an international meeting so we can all have a photo op I think is just very far-fetched.
So we’ll be giving greater definition to the meeting in the very near future, but I do want to spend some time consulting with the parties on how the international meeting can support and advance their negotiations because – in their discussions. Because after all, the bilateral track has to be at the center of any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
SECRETARY RICE: There are a lot of issues that have to be discussed, and I’ll be saying more about this as we go along.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Israeli Prime Minister said yesterday that he was ready to start peace talks with the Syrians, and he said previously that he would have done that but he was prevented by U.S. opposition. So I wanted to know if you are opposed to peace talks between Israeli and the Syria, and if you think that Syria should participate in the international meeting you are preparing.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, I’ll have more to say about the international meeting after I’ve consulted with people and when we’re ready to give a little bit more detail to that.
But in terms of Israeli-Syrian negotiations, we’re not standing in the way. If Israel and Syria believe that they can come to agreement, then they should come to agreement. I think we haven’t seen anything in Syrian behavior to this point that suggests that Syria is doing anything but acting in a destabilizing way in the Middle East, but you know, the United States is never going to stand in the way of states that want to make peace.
Now, that is not, of course, a substitute for peace between Palestinians and Israelis because, as I’ve said many times, the Palestinians have waited long enough for their states and the Israelis have waited long enough for the security that’s going to come from having a democratic neighbor.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you feel confident – back to the Mideast conference and what you’re coming out here to do. Do you feel confident that you’re – when all is said and done, you’re going to be able to produce some sort of agenda that addresses the final status issues, as Saudi Arabia and some of the other countries are demanding in order to – for them to come? And if not, do you think it’s at all possible to have a meaningful conference without the attendance of Saudi Arabia?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, as I said, we’ll get to the question of participation at another time. But the key here is that everybody who is interested in and has an interest in this issue, and I would include in that the parties, the regional states and a number of international actors as well, the Quartet for instance – we all have an interest in a meeting that advances the cause of Palestinian-Israeli peace. Nobody wants to have a meeting where people simply come and sit and talk and talk and talk. We want to advance the cause.
Now, there are several ways to do that and we’re exploring them all. But the – what I have heard from everyone, and it’s not just the Saudis, I’ve heard it from everyone – is make this conference serious and substantive. And I think it’s extremely important from our point of view that it be serious and substantive. What are we trying to do here? We’re trying to support the forces in the Middle East, and in this case most especially the Palestinians and the Israelis, who see a future for the Middle East in which former enemies can live in peace and security side by side, people who believe that that is going to be achieved through a negotiated two-state solution, who believe in a two-state solution. And I’ve said on any number of occasions the people who believe in a two-state solution have got to be shown that, in fact, it is possible to have one. We can’t simply continue to say we want a two-state solution. We’ve got to start to move toward one. And I think the bilateral track that the Palestinians and the Israelis have themselves established and the teams that they are going to appoint are dedicated to doing exactly that. And this international meeting is also going to be doing exactly that. This is not a matter just to declare that we all want to see a two-state solution.