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Powell Meets with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Qurei
Qurei terms talks on Mideast peace process "very, very constructive"
Secretary of State Colin Powell reaffirmed President Bush's commitment to a two-state vision for peace in the Middle East in remarks following the secretary's May 15 meeting with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei.
Powell described his talks with Qurei and Palestinian Minister Nabil Shaath as "constructive" and expressed hope that the announced withdrawal of Israel from Gaza offers a new opportunity to pursue the president's road map for peace.
"[A]s a result of this change in the dynamic, and the reengagement of the Quartet with a good Quartet statement out of New York last week, and a very good discussion with the G-8 ministers yesterday, we hope that we can get the [Mideast peace] process started again," the secretary said.
Powell's observations were mirrored by Qurei, who stated his hope that the "very, very constructive talks this afternoon" would soon be reflected in the situation on the ground.
Following is the transcript of remarks by Powell and Qurei:
Remarks With Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Queen Alia International Airport
May 15, 2004
PRIME MINISTER QUREI: We are very pleased to talk to Secretary Powell. We discussed about the situation, about the peace process, how to revive the peace process forward. And I think we had very, very constructive talks this afternoon and I believe that it will reflect itself on the situation on the ground, hopefully very soon. And therefore we are very pleased and we welcome Mr. Powell again.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much Mr. Prime Minister. It was good to be with you again, and I think we did have a constructive talk along with my colleague Nabil Shaath and so many others of my good friends from the Palestinian Authority. It has been a difficult time in recent weeks, but the President is committed to moving forward on his vision of two states living side by side in peace, Israel and Palestine. He has not stepped back one inch from his 2002 speech.
We think that in recent weeks, with the announcement by the Israelis that they intend to leave Gaza and certain settlements in the West Bank, we have been given a new opportunity, and we hope to seize that opportunity.
The President has been in touch with leaders of the region, he has written to Prime Minister Qurei, he has written to King Abdullah and has exchanged statements with King Abdullah, President Mubarak and others.
And so we think, as a result of this change in the dynamic, and the reengagement of the Quartet with a good Quartet statement out of New York last week, and a very good discussion with the G-8 ministers yesterday, we hope that we can get the process started again within the context of the Roadmap and with the help of the Quartet and other international organizations that wish to play a helpful role in the quest for peace. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, have you found Palestinians more receptive now to a Sharon dialogue? Will they seek the opportunity, or is it too early to tell?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that the Palestinians want to seize the opportunity. They want to know more about it, of course. They want to see if there are any restrictions on the proposal that would not be to their advantage, and, frankly, we have to wait to see what the proposal actually is. Prime Minister Sharon had one idea, but he's had to begin reviewing that idea in light of the vote in the Likud party. And so, we are all waiting to see what the actual plan is, and to see the details of that plan.
While waiting, we are beginning to -- I think I can say, Mr. Prime Minister -- organize ourselves with the development of security plans, how to go about taking control of Gaza when it comes to pass, and other territories when they become available, as we move forward toward final status issues.
I reaffirmed to the Prime Minister and his colleagues what they President has said; that final status issues can only be resolved by the two parties talking to one another, not by outsiders, not by the United States. We can help, and we may have opinions and ideas. But, ultimately, all final status issues must be resolved by the parties, as anticipated in the Roadmap, and on the well-known basis of 242, 338 and other relevant UN Resolutions.
QUESTION: [In Arabic]
SECRETARY POWELL: The President set the goal of a state by 2005 in his speech in 2002. That would certainly be our goal, our desire. But, time is passing, and we have to look at the reality of the situation, and I think if anything, this says we need to redouble our efforts and get on with it. And that's why, when Prime Minister Sharon came forward with his unilateral plan for departure from Gaza and some settlements in the West Bank, we said, let's grab it, bring it into the Roadmap, and make it part of the path forward in order to get going again. But I don't think anybody can predict right now whether we will be able to achieve 2005 or not. But, right now, it's more important to get started, and let's see progress, and then we'll see what date that state can be achieved in, but the President would certainly like to see 2005.
PRIME MINISTER QUREI: We discussed with Mr. Powell about the Roadmap and the implementation of the Roadmap, hoping that it will be from now up to the end of 2005. We have enough time to finish the negotiations and to have a Palestinian state according to President Bush's vision, which means that a Palestinian state in 2005 -- and according to the Roadmap, also, that the Palestinian state will be in 2005. I think, I believe, that we still have the time, with the support of the United States, with the support of President Bush, with the support of the Quartet, I believe that we can achieve this goal.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER QUREI: Thank you.