"As is" reference - not a United Nations document
Secretary of State Colin Powell characterized Syrian military withdrawals from Lebanon as "encouraging" but said the United States was waiting for U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559 to be implemented fully.
Speaking September 23 at the Foreign Press Center in New York, Powell said that during recent high-level discussions with the Syrian government, including his September 22 meeting with Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara, "we got the impression that the Syrians are taking the resolution seriously and are trying to be helpful."
Powell said his meeting with al-Shara was "rather candid and ended on a positive note," and called upon the international community to give Syria time to reflect upon the resolution and to "see what other actions they plan to take."
"The next steps, of course, are spelled out in the resolution. There will be a report coming from the secretary-general in due course with respect to Syrian compliance with the resolution and we will measure it at that time," Powell said.
Secretary Powell repeated his call upon Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to yield power and authority to the Palestinian prime minister, saying Arafat is not a responsible interlocutor and that an empowered prime minister would present opportunities for the Palestinian people.
Such a prime minister, he said, would have control over Palestinian security forces, could engage in discussions with Israel, and could put in place a government ready to take over political and security responsibilities for Gaza following an Israeli withdrawal.
Powell also warned of a "weariness in the international community" of providing desperately needed assistance to the Palestinians "unless we see some sort of political reform and determination on the part of the Palestinian Authority to improve itself."
Following is the transcript of Secretary Powell's September 23 briefing at the New York Foreign Press Center:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(New York, New York)
For Immediate Release
September 24, 2003
By Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
On The U.S. and the United Nations General Assembly
The Foreign Press Center
New York, New York
September 23, 2004
(12:52 P.M. EDT )
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon or good morning, everyone. In the interest of time, I won't have an opening statement. You've been following the statements coming out of Washington from President Bush and Prime Minister Allawi, and I have to leave shortly for a UN event. So we'll go right to questions and I'd be delighted to turn it over to Richard to take a questioner.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, Thomas Gorguissian of An Nahar, Lebanon. Yesterday my colleagues flooded you with questions about the Syrian talks with the U.S. From your point of view, what is next regarding two things: first the cooperation, military cooperation regarding the border with Iraq, and of course the withdrawal of the forces and U.N. Resolution 1559? What are the next steps? And do you think the Syrians are trying to gain time or playing with the time factor?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are pleased to see that there is underway a withdrawal of forces from Lebanon and from some camps south of Beirut that we had not previously seen withdrawals from, so I think that's encouraging. I hope that the Syrians are taking the UN resolution very seriously, and certainly in my conversations yesterday with Foreign Minister Shara and when Assistant Secretary Burns went to Damascus a few weeks ago, two weeks ago, and spoke to President Assad, we got the impression that the Syrians are taking the resolution seriously and are trying to be helpful.
Conversations are taking place between the coalition and the Iraqi Interim Government and Syrian authorities with respect to the border and people going back and forth across the border.
The next steps, of course, are spelled out in the resolution. There will be a report coming from the Secretary General in due course with respect to Syrian compliance with the resolution and we will measure it at that time.
And so let us give the Syrian Government time to reflect on the resolution, see what other actions they plan to take. I must say that I found my conversation with the Foreign Minister of Syria yesterday to be rather candid and ended on a positive note. We've seen some positive actions, but we're looking for full action and not just statements or claims to action. So we'll follow up.
QUESTION: Sir, the Quartet -- yes, my name is Talal Al-Haj with Al Arabiya TV, sir. The Quartet declaration that you are ready to engage with an accountable and reformed Palestinian Authority, it gives the impression, sir, to also the Middle East that the peace process and the roadmap is frozen until there is such a change in the Palestinian Authority. And the suffering is continuing, and absent such a requested change in authority or in power in the Prime Minister Abu Alaa, what are the Palestinians -- what light can they see at the end of the tunnel?
SECRETARY POWELL: We would like to see immediate progress, but as the United States has said for over two years now, since the President gave his speech in June of 2002, that we need an empowered prime minister. Chairman Arafat, we do not believe, was the individual who could serve as a responsible interlocutor.
The Palestinian people and the Palestinian legislator -- legislature responded by creating the position and empowering it, but Chairman Arafat will not yield power and authority to that Prime Minister.
So many opportunities lay before us if we could get that kind of empowered prime minister to work with Israel and to work with the international community. The President made it clear in his speech the other day that he is totally committed to his original vision of two states living side by side in peace and in security, the state of Israel and Palestine. And the roadmap is there; it is the only way forward. The Quartet will remain engaged with this, and we hope that circumstances in the near future will improve so that we can get going.
We are convinced that the proposal put forward by Prime Minister Sharon for withdrawal from Gaza settlements and the beginning of withdrawal from West Bank settlements gives us an opportunity to move forward and into the roadmap, but it requires action on the part of the Palestinian Authority.
In our Quartet meetings yesterday, we discussed the assistance that the Palestinian people continue to need from the international community, but there is a weariness in the international community to continue providing the kind of assistance that the Palestinian people so desperately need unless we see some sort of political reform and determination on the part of the Palestinian Authority to improve itself, and improve itself in the form of having an empowered prime minister who has control over the security forces, can rationalize the security forces, and can put in place a government that is ready to take over political responsibility for Gaza, security responsibility for Gaza, and to engage with the Israelis.
QUESTION: The Palestinians (inaudible) --
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you tell -- the question is not for me. The question is for the Palestinian people and for Chairman Arafat:
Mr. Chairman, how long can you wait? How long can stay in this position, where the Palestinian people are suffering, where it's difficult to go forward toward the objectives of the roadmap, where it's difficult to achieve what you say is your dream of a state for the Palestinian people? And the whole international community is waiting to engage with you.
And so it is a question, really, that should be put to Chairman Arafat.