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Source: United States of America
21 May 2005



Move to Palestinian Democracy Important to Region, Zoellick Says

Deputy secretary, Palestinian prime minister confer in Jordan

Success in developing Palestinian democracy would be important not only for the Palestinians themselves but for many others in the Middle East, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick says.

Zoellick commented at a joint press availability with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei after the two had discussions while attending the third World Economic Forum in Jordan.

During their meeting, Qurei said, the two officials held a "constructive" discussion covering the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, security, reform of the Palestinian Authority, and economic and democratic development.

Both men said they looked forward to the upcoming visit of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to the United States.

Zoellick said he would not get into details when a questioner asked about "the Israeli targeting of Palestinians in Gaza over the past few days."

"The goal on that is obviously to try and calm the waters, to move the [disengagement] process ahead in the interest of both sides," the deputy secretary said.

The State Department transcript of the press availability follows:

(begin transcript)

Joint Press Availability

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick
With Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei
Dead Sea, Jordan
May 20, 2005

PRIME MINISTER QUREI: We had a very constructive discussion about the situation, about the peace process and about the withdrawal and disengagement from Gaza, about the security, and about the reform of the Palestinian authority. And more than that, we talked about the economy and how to give hope to the people on both sides in the region, and about democracy also. All of these were discussed in a very comprehensive way. We talked about the visit of the President to the United States also, and we have seen a good understanding of all this.

QUESTION: Did you complain about the Israeli aggression in Palestine refugee [camps]?

PRIME MINISTER QUREI: All the time we are complaining, and we want it more than...

QUESTION: Any obstacles, conditions by the Americans regarding the security affairs before the visit of the President to the US?

PRIME MINISTER QUREI: It is well known that the United States is concerned about security in the region, and between the Palestinians and Israelis. And we are concerned, therefore we have the same understanding in this regard.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first I want to thank the Prime Minister, Minister Dahlan, and their colleagues for taking the time to meet with me. President Bush is very much looking forward to the visit of President Abbas, and so, as the Prime Minister said, we covered a lot of topics. I talked about the success of the Palestinian democracy and how that's important not only for the Palestinian people but for many others, for many at this conference. We talked about some of the economic issues, and obviously the relation of that to the disengagement side, both the security and the economic side. And I appreciated the opportunity to listen and to learn more from the Prime Minister and his colleagues about some of the situations that they see among the Palestinian people and some of the ways that we can work together to help. I talked about some of the additional funds that we recently got from our Congress, 200 million dollars, on top of 75 million dollars this year, and we are seeking another 150 million dollars for next year. And I emphasize this because the success of President Abbas and his government is very important to us and we think this is a particular moment.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the security reforms now under way in the Palestinian territories and do you have any ideas or conditions before the visit of Abbas to the United States?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well as I said, on the visit of President Abbas, we are very interested in having him come. I know the President is looking forward to the meeting. In terms of the economic conditions, there is a lot of work ahead, but the government is taking important steps. I know that the Finance Minister has a lot of respect around the world for his efforts, and the things that the government is starting to do are the things it needs to because the goal is in common: the goal is to try and create jobs for the Palestinian people, to create opportunity. I mentioned some of my contacts in the past with Palestinian business people and said that I've seen a great entrepreneurial spirit, talked about some of the projects that we can try to create together. So the goal here is to try to work together and increase opportunities for people in Palestinian lands.

QUESTION: How do you describe the Israeli targeting of Palestinians in Gaza over the past few days?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well I'm not going to get into details. The goal on that is obviously to try and calm the waters, to try and move the process ahead, and we both emphasize the importance of making the disengagement a success for the Palestinians as well as for the Israelis.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)


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