21 April 2002
Transcript: Powell Discusses Middle East Crisis on ABC's "This Week"
(Sees need to move at same time on security, political and
humanitarian fronts) (1820)
Following is a transcript of an interview on ABC's "This Week" April
21 with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who answered questions on
Middle East developments:
Interview on ABC's This Week
Secretary Colin L. Powell
April 21, 2002
MS. ROBERTS: I talked a short time ago to Secretary of State Colin
Powell, and we started with the situation in Jenin.
SECRETARY POWELL: It's very troubling, and I don't know what we'll
find. Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns went in for three hours
on Friday, and his report to me was disturbing -- loss of life,
collapsed buildings, the potential for disease. And as a result of
that, we supported the UN resolution on Friday -- in fact, we helped
draft it -- that would send in a fact-finding team so we can not just
deal with anecdotes, but get the facts. And I'm sure that Secretary
General Annan is putting together a strong team that will do that.
While waiting for that to happen, however, the United States is
responding with humanitarian aid. We will be sending within the next
24 to 48 hours some 800 family-size tents for those people who have
been made homeless. We'll also be sending in water purification
equipment for 10,000 people, and a thousand or so disease prevention
kits, as they're called. And we're also working with friends and
allies around the world to send in explosive ordnance demolition
experts. That's one of the major problems. There are booby traps and
ordnance that has not gone off and is dangerous to civilians.
So we're doing what we can to relieve suffering, and we look forward
to the fact-finding team going in. And I'm very pleased that the
Israelis are agreeable to that as well.
MS. ROBERTS: Former President Carter, in a op-ed piece in the New York
Times today, says that it is clear that in Jenin the Israelis used US
weapons for non-defensive purposes, which is against our law. Is there
any plan afoot to cut off those weapons? Has this happened in the past
when they have used them for non-defensive purposes?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we'll examine all of that. Of course the
Israeli Defense Force is heavily supplied with US weapons, so any
operation they conduct there are always US weapons involved. And as
former President Carter noted, there are laws, and we are always
examining those to make sure that use is consistent.
And right now I don't have anything to say beyond that until we've had
a chance to examine it more closely.
MS. ROBERTS: Here is an article in today's Los Angeles Times saying
that the decisions about what the United States does in the Middle
East have reached "nosebleed levels," quoting a senior State
Department official, about what to do next; that it cannot be gradual
confidence-building and then a political process; it has to be
security and political process all at once.
How do you do that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I hadn't -- my nose hasn't started to bleed,
but it certainly is an intense series of discussions that we are
having. But you know, I put a framework out before I left Israel last
week in my press conference, where I said that we do need security.
You can't expect people to move down a road of peace when bombs are
going off and when they're afraid to step out of their homes. So there
has to be some -- there has to be a significant reduction, hopefully
to zero, of the violence so that people have confidence and have the
comfort level necessary to talk.
But the point I made is that beyond that you must immediately,
quickly, move to political discussions in the very future --
MS. ROBERTS: And do you do that through an international conference?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are examining ways to do it. An international
conference is one suggestion. Both sides have expressed some interest
in a conference of a regional or international level, and I know there
is quite a bit of support for such a conference. So that's one way to
There are other things that might be done -- just continue with
low-level discussions between the two sides -- but we're examining all
of our options.
The third part of this framework that I think is just as important,
and which I mentioned in my press conference in Jerusalem, is the need
for a humanitarian component to the strategy -- reconstruction,
economic development. Economies have been ruined on both sides, both
the Israeli side and the Palestinian side, especially the Palestinian
side. And we are going to have to help rebuild those economies. We're
going to have to help get schools opened up, put in place the
administrative infrastructure of a Palestinian state.
So there is a lot of work to be done on the humanitarian side, and I
think they are all now linked, not only in terms of the essentiality
of each component, but in the sense that they all have to be done
almost simultaneously. While we're thinking about security, we have to
be thinking about how to accelerate the political process leading to
negotiations, and we have to be working on the humanitarian piece.
MS. ROBERTS: There are reports that perhaps the British would convene
such a conference, or another European nation.
SECRETARY POWELL: There is no shortage at the moment of nations
willing to serve as the host of such a conference, but we are a long
way from such a decision. We have to consider, one, is it the right
thing to do; two, who would the conveners be, who would attend. Lots
of issues have to be discussed. What's the agenda? Why are we doing
it? And what's the follow-on to a conference? Having a meeting,
everybody comes together and it goes successfully, is not enough.
What's the process that we begin by such a conference?
MS. ROBERTS: Mr. Secretary, you know there's considerable domestic
politics involved in all of this, and the House of Representatives has
passed a resolution condemning Yasser Arafat as a terrorist. The
Senate has had the same thing before it, and senators have been quoted
as saying they would like to go on record. Is that helpful?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not at the moment. I mean, I understand the anger. I
understand the political issues involved. But what I have to
concentrate on right now is getting the violence down and getting the
political discussion under way. And the political discussion
ultimately has to involve the government of Israel; it has to involve
Palestinian leaders, and right now Chairman Arafat is the Palestinian
leader that the Palestinian people look to. He has associates who work
with him who are in leadership positions, but they are empowered in
their work by Chairman Arafat. And so that is the reality I have to
MS. ROBERTS: Whether or not he's a terrorist?
SECRETARY POWELL: The reality I have to deal with is that whether you
put a label on him or not is sort of irrelevant to the reality that he
is the leader of the Palestinian people, and if you're going to have a
discussion and you're going to have two people at a table in addition
to whoever convenes that discussion, there has to be a role for the
Palestinian people, and there has to be a role for the leaders of the
Palestinian people to sit at a table.
MS. ROBERTS: The voices of criticism about foreign policy have been
rising in both political parties, and part of that is this whole
situation, part of it is that Usama bin Laden is still missing and
there seems to be evidence that he might have been in Tora Bora and
the US military relied too much on the Afghans for information. Do you
think that's true?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have no idea if it's true or not, and I'd yield to
my colleague Don Rumsfeld on that. But let's remember one thing. There
is a new government in Afghanistan. The Taliban, Usama bin Laden and
al-Qaida, are on the run. If we missed him at Tora Bora -- and I don't
know if we did or didn't -- we'll catch him somewhere else in due
course. The fact of the matter is we have a new government in
Afghanistan. There is a Loya Jirga, a convening of the leaders of
Afghan society, in the near future, to make it a more permanent
government. The King has returned in triumph to be with his people and
has said he is supporting this process.
We are seeing refugees come home, internally displaced persons going
home. The international community has rallied with support. That is
the great success, not whether or not we nailed Usama bin Laden.
MS. ROBERTS: And the other area of criticism is Venezuela. Last
weekend, there was a coup that wasn't, and Mr. Chavez is back. There
was reports that the United States was involved in trying to get him
out and that it was inept.
SECRETARY POWELL: I know of no basis for a report that we were trying
to get him out. If you'll really look at the details of all of this --
and I also call your attention to the statement I gave before the OAS
the other evening, on Thursday evening -- we support democracy. We
support the community of democracy that exists here in our hemisphere.
President Bush launched this at the Quebec summit last year, and all
we were interested in is making sure that the democratic system, the
democratic process, the constitutional process, was followed.
Clearly we had disagreements with President Chavez in the past, and
may well have them in the future, but what we are interested in is the
constitutional process. And it was followed, and we are supporting it.
MS. ROBERTS: Finally, President Clinton has said that he would be
available to be helpful in the Middle East. Would it be useful to have
him be involved, or former President Carter for that matter?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I am pleased that both President Clinton and
President Carter continue to show an interest in the region. I speak
to both of them on a regular basis, as well as other former leaders
and other former presidents. And I don't have a role for either of
them at the moment, but I am pleased that they continue to keep their
interest in the region.
MS. ROBERTS: All right. Thank you so much. Thanks for being with us.
Secretary of State Colin Powell.
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Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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