American Forces Press Service

President to Send Powell to Middle East

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 4, 2002 -- President Bush is sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Middle East to work toward ending the violence between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

"The world finds itself at a critical moment," the president said at the White House this morning. "This is a conflict that can widen or an opportunity we can seize."

Bush said Powell would go to the region next week and work to implement U.N. Resolution 1402, which calls for an immediate cease-fire; the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including Ramallah; and the implementation of the already approved Tenet and Mitchell plans, which will lead to a political settlement.

"We have no illusions about the difficulty of the issues that lie ahead," Bush said. "Yet, our nation's resolve is strong. America is committed to ending this conflict and beginning an era of peace."

The United States is on record as supporting the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for a Palestinian state. "The outlines of a just settlement are clear: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security," he noted.

What could be a time for hope calls for leadership, not terror, he stressed.

"For seven days, (Israel) has acted to root out terrorist nests," Bush said. "The United States recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror."

He noted, however, "Israel should also show . a respect for and concern about the dignity of the Palestinian people who are and will be their neighbors. It is crucial to distinguish between the terrorists and ordinary Palestinians seeking to provide for their own families."

The president called on the Israeli government to stop settlement activity in occupied territories and to withdraw its troops to secure and recognize boundaries consistent with U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.

"I speak as a committed friend of Israel," Bush said. "I speak out of concern for its long-term security, a security that will come with a genuine peace. As Israel steps back, responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel's Arab neighbors must step forward and show the world that they are truly on the side of peace.

"The world expects an immediate cease-fire, immediate resumption of security cooperation with Israel against terrorism, an immediate order to crack down on terrorist networks," Bush continued. "I expect better leadership, and I expect results."

Although Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has renounced terror and agreed to control it, Bush said, he "has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorists."

Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, has betrayed the hopes of his people, and as a result, "the Israeli government feels it must strike at terrorist networks that are killing its citizens."

The president called on the Palestinian authority and all governments in the region to do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities and disrupt terrorist financing. He also asked that they "stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media, or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs. They're not martyrs. They're murderers and they undermine the cause of the Palestinian people."

The United States, he said, mourns the dead and the damage the crisis has done to the Israeli desire for a peaceful Jewish state and the Palestinians' desire for an independent state.

"When an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is induced to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future itself is dying -- the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people," the president said.

"Those governments, like Iraq, that reward parents for the sacrifice of their children are guilty of soliciting murder of the worst kind," he said. "All who care about the Palestinian people should join in condemning and acting against groups like Al Aqsa, Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all groups which opposed the peace process and seek the destruction of Israel."

Bush called on the Arab world to deliver a message to the terrorists: "Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause. To the contrary, suicide bombing missions could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state."

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