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"As is" reference - not a United Nations document

Source: European Union
18 February 2004

Summary Transcript

Joint Press Briefing following the meeting and working lunch between

Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy

and Ahmed Qurei, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority

Brussels, 18 February, 2004, Council of the EU

Javier Solana: I am very pleased to have received here in Brussels a delegation from the Palestinian Authority (PA), headed by Prime Minister Qurei, who was also accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Mr Fayad, and by the Negotiator-in-chief, Mr Erekat. We have had almost three hours of very constructive and positive discussions. I hope that this meeting will contribute to move the Middle East Peace Process forward, a process that is very dear to our heart.

We know very well the difficult situation in which we are living today. The European Union (EU) would like to do as much as possible to help with the implementation of the Road Map in an atmosphere of dialogue. I can tell you that to have had the opportunity to meet with PM Qurei and with distinguished members of his government has been very important for us. I think that we have been able not only to talk about general things but to look in detail at important aspects of the cooperation between the EU and the PA.

I would like to thank PM Qurei for coming here and for spending up to three hours with us. I would also like to thank the contributions made by Ministers Fayad and Erekat during the meeting. We would like to contribute to building a brighter and more hopeful future for the Palestinian people.

Ahmed Qurei: I can say that we have had very constructive, positive and deep discussions about the situation on the ground and about the possibilities of a real breakthrough. This is how we talk with our friend Mr Solana. We looked at different alternatives, how to bring the peace process back on track. I'm very pleased with the discussion which dealt with all the aspects of the problem, including the role to be played by the EU and the Quartet, and how to activate this role. We talked also about the situation and the difficulties on the ground, about the wall and how much it worries us and how much trouble and problems it creates for us and for the two-state solution.

I'm very much satisfied with the discussion and I would like to thank my friend Solana and the European Union for the good understanding and the support that they are giving to our people.

Reuters: Mr Solana, the Palestinian PM said this morning in the European Parliament that he would like to see international peacekeeping forces if Israel withdrew from Gaza and the suggestion was made that some of these troops could come from the EU. Would you be sympathetic to that idea?

J. Solana: We have discussed the possibility of a withdrawal from Gaza and we will continue to talk about that. We have referred, on behalf of the EU, to several very important conditions. First of all, I think that if the withdrawal takes place it has to be in co-operation, in co-ordination and in dialogue with the PA. Secondly, we have to be very clear about one thing: if the settlements are dismantled in the Gaza-strip this should not lead to rebuilding in the West-bank. Thirdly, whatever happens in this area must be in line with the Road Map. This means that we cannot separate it from the Road Map. Should these conditions be met, we would be open to discussing any possibility, if needed, including the one that you have mentioned.

MENA: Mr Solana, what do you think is the way to get out of this deadlock? How many months are we talking about? To PM Qurei; what exactly could you do to implement your part of the Road Map? What do you need?

J. Solana: I know the frustration felt by all of us when it comes to the implementation of the Road Map. Everybody has to make an effort to see if we can bring it back on track. We have been talking of the immediate measures that could be implemented to arrive at a solution. We will continue to do so in the coming days.

The Arab League is going to hold a summit at the end of March and a preparatory meeting at the beginning of the month. We would like to contribute as much as possible to support any initiative coming from the Arab League which is constructive and positive to the problems that we have in the region, in particular an initiative that would revitalise the peace process. There are other problems in the region, but the Road Map and the peace process continue to be a very important and fundamental priority. I will probably meet with the Ministers of the Arab League and will also attend the summit, and I'm looking forward to contributing on behalf of the European Union to that aim.

A. Qurei: On our side we are committed to the Road Map and we are ready to implement all our commitments as stated in it. I believe that to implement the Road Map, as Mr Solana has said, we need immediate measures. First of all, to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinian people, of those who are under siege and to give free movement to the people in the West-bank and in Gaza, and to stop all kind of actions that will touch the dignity of the Palestinian territory, including the wall.

Nile News: Mr Solana, the Israeli Knesset approved 23 Million USD for the settlements, do you have a comment? Can you tell us how can the consultation of the International Court in the Hague on the wall have a negative impact in the peace process?

J. Solana: I am not aware of that decision. But when we are in a process of dismantling settlements it seems, to me at least, somehow contradictory to continue putting money into the development of settlements. I don't know the figures, so I can't be more precise on that , but, philosophically, it seems to be, to a certain extent, a contradiction.

Regarding the Court. We will respect whatever the Court will say, as we always respect the International Court. Whatever the result is, we will comply with it and we will fully co-operate with them, as we have done in the past.

MBC: About the possible withdrawal from Gaza by Israel, have you already checked what you have said to us with the US. Do you think that the US and the EU agree about this?

J. Solana: Let me say two things about that. I think that we have to welcome, if it happens, that the settlements are dismantled. This is something that we have been demanding all along. In that sense we have to welcome it. The question is how that is done and this something to be discussed. What I would like to say very clearly is that we would like these decisions, if they are going to be taken, to be taken in co-ordination. I have asked PM Qurei to do the outmost to have a meeting with PM Sharon to see if a discussion on these issues can take place. I think it will be very important that this will not be done unilaterally, but in a concerted manner by the two sides.

ZDF: PM Qurei, is the wall really going to bring security? How do you see the wall?

A. Qurei: Our understanding is that this not for security, if it were for security they could do that in their territory, to protect themselves as they say. It is an attempt to mark the borders unilaterally and this is not acceptable.

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