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Source: Department of Public Information
25 June 2002
Press Encounter by the Secretary-General
On Arrival at UNHQ
25 June 2002
(unofficial transcript)

...
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, former Senator Mitchell said this morning that President Bush’s proposal won’t work if it demands Palestinian reforms before requiring Israel to make any concessions. He also warned that changing the Palestinian leadership could backfire by installing someone more radical. Is this worrying to you?

SG: I think initially, earlier in the year, we had all indicated some reforms were necessary and the Palestinians themselves have indicated they want reform and have initiated reforms already. And we had also hoped that the reforms would not be a condition of the peace-process and moving forward. Obviously we need to sit with our colleagues in Washington, that is the other members of the Quartet, to determine how we implement the proposals put forward by the President. How do we operationalize it? Which comes first? Under what circumstances can one hold elections in the West Bank? In the current circumstances, obviously it is not possible. With the Israeli withdrawal to the 2000 lines be prerequisite for elections. Can you hold elections in the current atmosphere? And of course Senator Mitchell’s concerns are something that we should take seriously. The time for the elections is not optimal. You could find yourself in a situation that the radicals are the ones who get elected. And it will be the result of a democratic process, and we have to accept that. And as I indicated yesterday with regards to who leads the Palestinians, it is up to them to make that decision. They elected Chairman Arafat. They are planning new elections and let them elect their own leaders.

Q: Mr. Secretary-General, what do you think this speech, this outline, does in the short-term? I mean today, this week, this month to stop the cycle of violence that the Middle East is stuck in?

SG: I think it depends very much on how the parties see it. I think there is something in the statement for each party. For the Palestinians, the President reaffirmed the establishment of two states in accordance with resolutions 242 and 338. And I hope the Israelis and the Palestinians will have the courage, the wisdom, and the strength to seize this moment for us to work on the establishment of a Palestinian state, living side by side with an Israeli state in security. A time frame of three years was indicated, and I think it is important that it is done in a reasonable time frame or else people will loose hope again. You indicated what happens, how do they take it from there, and I think it depends on how the two parties react to the statement. And that is something for them to determine.
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Q: Does Yasser Afafat deserve to be dumped by the US? You’ve talked to him on the phone. What is his mind set. Does he sense the growing pressure? Is there any panic, or does he think he can hold on as usual? What’s happening with Arafat?

SG: I haven’t spoken to him since the President’s speech. I spoke to him over the weekend, and yesterday before the President’s speech. At that point he was talking to me aboaut reform and measures he was taking to rein in terrorism. I don’t know what his mind set is, but we have already heard that the Palestinians have indicated that while they are pleased with certain aspects of the President’s speech, as to the selection of their leaders, it is their responsibility. And I’m sure Arafat will share that view.

Q: Sir, do you think that the plan that Bush announced is a viable plan for going forward and are there any particular things about it that disappointed you?

SG: As I indicated, we need to sit down to see how one can implement this plan, how one can operationalize it with specific steps and timelines as to how this can be done. And obviously we need to sit with our colleagues in Washington who came up with the statement.

Q: Do you have any aspects that you’d like to point out that may have disappointed you?

SG: There are aspects that one would need to think through and clarify. There has been a call for a new Palestinian leadership. What happens between now and until a new leadership exists? Do we work with the government that we have or do we create a vacuum? These are issues that I think are on everybody’s mind and we need to work out.

Q: Is there a time schedule for a meeting and for an international conference?

SG: There is a discussion about a meeting at the envoy level of the Quartet: Terje Larsen and his colleagues meeting on this issue. And I’m sure there will be other subsequent meetings. And I have been in touch with Secretary Powell, Mr. Solana, and I’ll be talking to Foreign Minister Ivanov today.
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