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State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press August 17.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
12:44 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Can we go to the Middle East?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Without objection, so ordered.
QUESTION: As you know certainly, troubles have started in West Bank in the Gaza. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything in particular that you --
QUESTION: Yeah, the shooting of three Palestinians by a Jewish settler in the West Bank and the rocket in Gaza.
MR. MCCORMACK: We are deeply concerned by reports of settler violence toward Palestinians that has left several dead and wounded. We condemn this attack, condemn acts of violence committed during this -- as part of this withdrawal process and our condolences go out to the victims of the families. We have been in touch with the parties in the region, to urge calm and respect for the rule of law on all sides. We further urge those in the region to exercise restraint and avoid actions that could exacerbate this or any similar situation.
QUESTION: Do you know of anything more than the one incident? I got reports. This one incident --
MR. MCCORMACK: It's the one that's --
QUESTION: It's that one is --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- it is that incident, yeah.
QUESTION: Don't you care to put it in a broader context? One incident concerning -- one incident in the midst of this highly emotional difficult time, with soldiers' cheek, jowl, nose to nose with obstinate settlers who don't want their homes -- to leave their homes. And in one incident -- there's, unfortunately, fatalities. But don't you have any -- do you have any assessment of how the whole process is going and how the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, those are two separate questions. One, you know, I'm not going to certainly minimize an act of violence --
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. You make it sound like there's chaos there and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think --
QUESTION: I mean, anti-Palestinian chaos.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm not sure --
QUESTION: It's inter-Israeli chaos.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, I'm not sure that's the impression that I left. These -- we condemn this act of violence. It's a tragedy when human life is lost. It's a tragedy for the friends and families of those individuals.
But on the withdrawal process and where the Israelis and the Palestinians stand now, certainly, I think everybody who is watching this process unfold understands when they see the pictures and the television images that this is a very difficult moment for these people who are leaving their homes, in some cases, the only homes that they have known. It's a very difficult time for the Israeli people. But Prime Minister Sharon has made a bold and courageous decision to follow through with the withdrawal from Gaza and we certainly have supported him in that decision. And the Israeli people, I think, no matter how difficult, understand that this is a step that needs to be taken in order to realize a more peaceful, a more stable, a more secure Israel.
On the Palestinian side, I think that they have shown a seriousness of purpose in working with, very closely with the Israeli Government in seeing that the withdrawal is a success and part of that is the deployment of Palestinian security forces. And I think that the Palestinian people also understand that this is an important moment, a potentially important moment, an important step through which they might realize a better life, a better life for themselves, a better life for their children. If there is a successful withdrawal, free from violence and done in an atmosphere of calm, the Palestinian people will have freedom of movement within Gaza. They will have more freedom to go to work, to send their children to school, to visit beaches and that's certainly a hopeful thing for the Palestinian people and they should be -- and I think that they should take some pride in the fact that they and the Palestinian Authority are working well to this point with the Israeli officials. And I think that it could hint at the fact that the Palestinian Authority can have a -- provide a better horizon for the Palestinian people once the withdrawal is completed.
QUESTION: Do you have anything specific on the Ward-Welch venture into Gaza?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing beyond what I talked to you guys about yesterday.
QUESTION: I have two questions. One on mideast and then --
QUESTION: Can we stay on this one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, stay on this one.
QUESTION: My first question is the same subject -- and I'll get back to the other. You mentioned that the U.S. had been in touch with parties in the region to urge restraint. At what level were these discussions? Was this after the incident took place today? Did you make a phone call?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you -- there weren't any phone calls at the level of the Secretary. I think you can look at this as part of, and certainly when we talk to officials in the region, as part of our everyday diplomatic contacts with officials there.
QUESTION: Just wondering if there was anything special.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that Israel's exit from Gaza would enable to -- would enable it to expand other settlements despite its official commitment to the roadmap and the pledged settlement is a serious program that will continue and develop. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think that -- a couple of things. One, our views with respect to settlement activity are well known and the obligation of Israel under the roadmap on the issue of settlements is very clear. I think, talking about the larger issue of the roadmap and the withdrawal, we've said many times before and we continue to believe that a successful withdrawal can reenergize progress towards -- down the road -- down the roadmap, which ultimately would provide for two states living side by side in peace and security.