|Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Roundtable with the Travel Pool |
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Dead Sea, Jordan
November 30, 2006
SECRETARY RICE: Let's go, who's going to start? Glenn.
QUESTION: Well, I was interested in knowing, what exactly are you trying to achieve with this kind of regional strategy here in the Mideast? I mean, there are a whole host of issues that seem to be very problematic and you just had this meeting with the GCC and I'm not sure how it all knits together or if it does. The Egyptian Foreign Minister told some of us that he thought it was a mistake to link the Israeli-Palestinian issue and what's happening in Iraq; that that shouldn't be, that it was an unhealthy thing to do, in fact, to link them.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, the fact of the matter is that we have multiple changes going on in the Middle East and they do all have one common characteristic. Obviously, they're all very different circumstances, different situations. The Palestinian-Israeli issue has a logic of its own, a history of its own, many attempts to solve it of its own. The Iraqi circumstance is a circumstance of liberation from a tyrant of decades. And of course, the Lebanon situation also has a special character, having now gotten rid of the Syrian occupation and so forth. And so each one has its own dynamic and so, in that sense, I would completely agree.
But what is clear is that in all of those cases, you have the obvious contest between moderate forces and extremist forces, and I think that's what is common to all of them. And you do have in all of those cases, as well, an Iranian factor that is undeniable. But to the degree that we have to resolve them each on their own merit and think about them as circumstances that are very different, I think that's absolutely the case.
But in terms of the regional strategy, the President has a vision for a Middle East that is democratic and therefore, stable. Let me be very clear, I don't consider what we've had before a stability. I considered it, then, a stagnation which then led to very unhealthy developments like the development of al-Qaida. What you see now is a different set of -- a different configuration emerging in the Middle East, in which the very terms of what is going on in Lebanon without Syrian occupation, in Iraq with the end of the Saddam Hussein regime, in the Palestinian territories with different -- you know, without Yasser Arafat and a sort of -- a democratic Palestine.
These are all elements of a changing Middle East and so, the region as a whole is going through enormous change. And I think that's why it's important to keep engaging the states like the Egyptians, the Jordanians and the Gulf states.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you started in September, kind of a real flurry with the Palestinians (inaudible) President (inaudible) at the UN General Assembly. And it seems like things have only gotten worse, with the exception of the very recent ceasefire, there's been (inaudible) little progress. What can we do now?
SECRETARY RICE: Except for the recent ceasefire, the Olmert speech, the Abu Mazen efforts to form a national unity government, his clear --
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, which I think he -- but he gave Hamas this chance and it -- you know, we'll see whether or not there's anything to be revived there. But, you know, in the period between kind of September and the end of November, I think that's actually not a bad set of events to have take place and particularly in a conflict as intractable as the Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I want you to recognize that this is -- we're doing this on a different basis. You're doing it with a situation in which Abu Mazen is committed to a particular path, the Israelis are committed to the same path, and the issue is how to isolate those elements that are not committed to that path.
Abu Mazen gave Hamas a chance to be committed to a two-state solution and they, thus far at least, have demonstrated that they're not. And so I think you are seeing forward movement on a number of fronts and I think it's been a hopeful week and there's now a little opening and we'll see if we can help the Palestinian and the Israelis to push forward through that opening. But it's -- this is the kind of thing that takes time. It takes laying fundamental work and you don't expect great leaps forward; you expect just progress and I think we've seen some progress.
QUESTION: What is that little opening?
SECRETARY RICE: The little opening is --
QUESTION: Olmert speech?
SECRETARY RICE: Olmert's speech and the ceasefire, which, by the way, is very fragile. The ceasefire's very fragile and one of the issues is to help the Palestinians be capable with their security forces of -- when a ceasefire like this comes along, of helping to enforce it.
QUESTION: To follow up, it has to go back to the unity government. I mean, a lot -- most people seem to have interpreted it -- Abu Mazen's statement today as meaning that it's finished those negotiations. And Yasser Abed Rabo later on talked about that soon, they'll be announcing what he called an unprecedented political measure in response to that. I mean, you're seeming to think that the door isn't all the way closed.
SECRETARY RICE: No, no, I didn't say that. I said I'm not the one to declare that. It's up to Abu Mazen to declare the state of his negotiations. But I think it's very obvious that he doesn't think that there's much life left in them. I guess the question is whether or not anyone thinks they can be revived. I don't -- he certainly didn't give me the impression that he does think they can be revived. But I just -- I don't -- I'm not going to be the one to declare whether they are or are not dead. That's really up to him.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, did you get any concessions from the Israelis or any offers from the Israelis to ease restrictions on the Palestinians? The Egyptian Foreign Minister was saying that he had urged all the (inaudible) and urged the United States to put more pressure on the Israelis.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, we continually talk to the Israelis about movement and access issues. I had a conversation with the Defense Minister. I wasn't able to see him because he was in Tel Aviv, but we talked by phone when I was leaving Jerusalem. And he has been very actively pursuing what more can be done on the movement and access issues. Now if the ceasefire can hold that's going to make it easier to make some progress on movement and access. It's somewhat difficult when you have constant (inaudible) rocket attacks coming out of the Gaza to make the movement and access work in the way that we would like.
Those meetings have begun again. General Dayton has told me that he thinks it's more active than it's been in quite some time and so hopefully we'll see some progress. But we have to recognize that the security situation has not been very favorable in the last couple of months. Hopefully that security situation is now going to be more favorable.
QUESTION: In terms of the security situation, are you going to -- is the United States going to be offering more support for Abu Mazen's security forces and are you going to offer more material support and funds? Are you putting in a funding request?
SECRETARY RICE: We are working on what we might do to support the building of the security forces. The Arab states are also I think prepared to make resources available for the building of those security forces. But I think the United States would like to participate in that and we obviously have some -- we'll have to have some congressional consultations about that and what we might be able to do. But General Dayton has a very good security plan. He's been working it with the Europeans. He's been working with the Arabs, particularly with the Egyptians and we do need to find ways to fund it more.
QUESTION: Will Israel allow that in (inaudible)?
SECRETARY RICE: The Israelis have been willing to talk about what needs to be done in terms of strengthening the security forces that General Dayton has had a lot of discussions with the Israelis about this because it goes without saying that if you want the Palestinians to take more responsibility for security, then they have to have adequate security forces to do it and I think the Israelis understand that.
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