"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
By Phillip Kurata
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- A senior U.S. official says it is critical that the Palestinian Authority disarm HAMAS and other terrorist organizations in order to take advantage of the opportunity for progress toward peace presented by the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
"In the road map, there is a requirement to take steps toward the dismantlement of the terror organizations. Hamas is for us [the United States] a terror organization. I would expect that the Palestinian Authority would do those things. We have made those requirements clear to them," Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch said in a briefing about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza August 24.
The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and several settlements in the northern sector of the West Bank is the first significant Israeli pullback from Palestinian areas Israel occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Welch said.
"[S]ecurity is the beginning, the middle and the end and security can not be had either for the people in those areas or for those who live around them if there is a variety of armed organizations that are allowed to operate," Welch said.
Welch said U.S. General William Ward is working with the Palestinian Authority to reform the Palestinian security apparatus and trim the number and size of its units so that they function effectively under the authority of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
"President Abbas is very clear that he sees the path forward to realizing the aspirations of his people to be one of peaceful engagement, not the use of violence and terror. He was elected on a platform of peace, and he advocates that. Of course, I believe that the central requirement of the Israelis is exactly the same," Welch said. Abbas won more than 60 percent of the votes in the January election for the Palestinian presidency on a campaign platform of seeking a peace with Israel.
Welch said that a number of countries, mainly from the European Union, are providing direct material support to the Palestinian security organization. "Non-lethal support, everything from radio equipment, to vehicles to office machines, computers, that kind of thing. There are other countries involved in providing uniforms, physical structures, in building infrastructure," he added.
Speaking in Donnelly, Idaho, August 23, President Bush said Abbas has made a commitment to fight violence "because he understands a democracy can't exist with terrorist groups trying to take the law into their own hands." (See related article.)
"Along these lines, we've also got General Ward on the ground, helping the Palestinians consolidate their security forces. It turns out that the post-Arafat regime is one of different factions and different security forces that were really in place to kind of maintain his power, but not necessarily to protect the overall security of the Palestinian people. It's in the interest to consolidate the security forces," Bush added.
Welch said Palestinian success in bringing the terrorist groups under control will provide a basis for both sides to make further advances toward peace according to an international plan known as the road map.
"[T]he road map ... has obligations on the part of both parties, which we believe they should act upon, again, to try to build confidence, so that we can open up the possibility that there be serious negotiations between the two, leading to a better future," Welch said.
Welch said the United States is the largest single donor of assistance to the Palestinian people, contributing approximately $350 million in 2005.
Welch said he personally delivered $50 million in U.S. assistance when he met with Abbas at his Gaza City office at the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal.
"[W]e've actually delivered the money becoming the first, I believe, to put cash on the table in support of jobs for the Palestinian people," Welch said.
He said that the participants in the Gleneagles summit of the Group Eight industrialized nations in July made commitments to secure up to $3 billion per year for three years in funding to support the revival of the Palestinian economy.
A transcript of Welch’s briefing is available on the State Department Foreign Press Center Web site.