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30 January 2006

We will now take your questions.

MR. MCCORMACK: The first question goes to Sylvie Lanteaume from AFP.

QUESTION: I have two questions, one to Madame Secretary. Madame Secretary, there is a strong concern that if all direct aid to a Hamas-led government is cut there will be chaos and Syria and Iran would take advantage of it. How would you avoid this chaos? And I have another question for Mr. Solana. Do you think that the international community should give some time to Hamas and keep financing the Palestinian Authority and even after Hamas takes power and in that case, how much, how long would you give them?

SECRETARY RICE: I think that the international community and the Quartet here today has been quite clear that we have deep concern for the Palestinian people and for their well being; that we're mindful of their needs. We have noted we're particularly mindful also of their humanitarian needs and everyone wants to see those needs met.

Those who have been elected by the Palestinian people have an obligation and that obligation is to speak to the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a better life and for a peaceful life. Now, that peaceful life can, the Quartet has reiterated, be achieved only through a two-state solution that recognizes the right of Israel to exist, that is a commitment to nonviolence, that undertakes the obligations of the roadmap. And I should just mention that there are a set of obligations that have been taken by Palestinian leaders over more than a decade and those obligations are noted here.

It is incumbent now on all to insist that any future Palestinian government will indeed live up to those obligations and that is what we have done here today.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: Well, you know the conditions are clear and it says very clear in the statement that is for the new government. Therefore, the time that go from today until the new government will be governed by a take-care government or caretaking government. It will be chaired by President Abbas, but there is no other time considered. What I would like to say on behalf of the European Union is that once these conditions are fulfilled, the European Union will stand ready to continue to support the Palestinian economic development and democratic stability, but it has to be compliant with all these conditions which are here.

QUESTION: Right now.

HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: The moment of the new government.

MR. MCCORMACK: Next question to Roland --

SECRETARY RICE: Could I -- Sean, I just wanted to clarify because Javier just said something very important. There is a commitment here to try and live up to the obligations that were undertaken to the caretaker government, which Abu Mazen oversees. There is then a question of a new government upon its formation, but I think it's important to note that we do believe that Abu Mazen deserves to be supported.

QUESTION: A question to Minister Plassnik. Minister, the conditions set out tonight are tougher than the ones drafted this afternoon by the foreign ministers of European Union. Did Secretary Rice convince the Europeans that a tougher line towards Hamas is necessary?

FOREIGN MINISTER PLASSNIK: We are working into the same direction with the same aspirations that have been readout by Secretary General Kofi Annan and we had a very good meeting today in Brussels to agree on the common position of the European Union. We had a very good meeting this afternoon and these elements that we have identified, the objectives and also the basic principles, we entirely share, and on the basis of these principles that have been outlined we will work in the future.

MR. MCCORMACK: Final question goes to (inaudible) from Al Hayat.

QUESTION: Good evening. (Inaudible) from Al Hayat newspaper. In the area there is quite concern about Hamas movement winning, of course, because many people are moderates and would like the peace process to go forward. Nevertheless, there is questioning about what democracy that Americans and the whole world wants in the area if indeed a government is elected democratically and then we ask them to change their position and their charter. How do you answer that?

SECRETARY RICE: You want to start?

SECRETARY GENERAL ANNAN: Well first of all I think we all must recognize that the elections were free, fair and secure. And obviously the Palestinian people have voted for a government of its choice. But I think most of them I believe were voting for peace, they were voting for better conditions. They were voting for an honest government, and they were voting in the hope that their lives and future would be better, but not necessarily for a basic covenant of one group or the other. And I think it is important that the government that is coming in, maintains the position that President Abu Mazen expressed that when we say that they should recognize all commitments made by the Palestinian Authority there is a need for continuity so that when they make agreement others will recognize it. On the question of recognizing the State of Israel, it’s a very basic part of the Road Map. And both Israel and Palestine have to accept the two-state solution and it is on that basis that we are moving forward. And of course, the question of disarmament and violence is also something that is part of the Road Map and has to be dealt with. And I think the fact that one has indicated that these three principles or requirements have to be met doesn’t mean one is walking away from Hamas. If Hamas accepts them and transforms itself from an armed movement into a political party respecting the rules of the game and representing its people, I think the international community should be able to work with them.

QUESTION: Can I ask Secretary Rice to answer that, please?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think that the Secretary General has affirmed, as the President did, President Bush did, on the very first day that we congratulate the Palestinian people on the exercise of their democratic rights. You know, there are those who ask whether the United States is really committed to democracy. We have, in fact, encouraged that when elections are to take place that they take place and that they take place in a free and fair way.

And I do think that there are obligations and responsibilities that come with governing and it is not the first time that elected representatives have then had to deal with those obligations and those responsibilities. And in the case of the Palestinian people, I think you see a group of people here who are committed to trying to help the Palestinian people secure a better life. They deserve a better life. These are wonderful people that are in their own lives and in their own interactions tolerant of one another. They have had a tolerance for many religions within their boundaries. They have had good relations with the outside world.

And I think you see here a commitment to want to see the Palestinian people have the best possible life. It is the assessment of all of us that the best possible life will come in the context of a two-state solution in which both Israel and the Palestinians are able to live side by side in peace, and in order to do that there are certain practicalities that have to be accepted and certain principles that have to be accepted by any government.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

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