21 April 2002
Transcript: Powell Discusses Middle East Crisis on NBC's "Meet the Press"
(Secretary says security concerns need to be linked to a political
vision for the region) (2190)
Following is a transcript of an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press"
April 21 with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who answered questions
on Middle East developments:
Interview on NBC's Meet the Press
Secretary Colin L. Powell
April 21, 2002
MR. RUSSERT: But first, joining us from the State Department is the
Secretary of State Colin Powell. Good morning, sir.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: You came home from the Middle East; despite your best
efforts, no peace agreement, no cease-fire. Will you be returning to
the region anytime soon?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have immediate plans, but I expect I will be
returning to the region in the not-too-distant future. I didn't go
over there expecting I would come back with peace at this time, and it
was a difficult mission, but I think we made some progress. I am
pleased to note this morning that Israeli forces are now out of the
towns that we have been following so closely, with the exception of
Israeli forces around Chairman Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah --
the Mukataa, as it is called -- and in Bethlehem at the Church of the
Nativity. But they are moving out of Nablus, moving out of other
sections of Ramallah, and they have been moving out of Jenin for the
last several days. So I am pleased that this withdrawal now seems to
be well underway and reaching the point that Prime Minister Sharon
said to me it would reach by the end of this week.
MR. RUSSERT: What is next, Mr. Secretary? Will there be an
international peace conference? Where do we go from here?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think what we have to do is resolve the two
difficult situations at Chairman Arafat's headquarters in Mukataa and
at the Church of the Nativity, and we're working that very hard this
morning. We have a number of ideas in play that we put forward, that
others have put forward, and I hope that we can find a nonviolent
resolution. We must find a nonviolent resolution to the situation,
both at the Church of the Nativity and at the Mukataa.
We are also very interested this morning in humanitarian aid. The
situation in Jenin is very troubling. I am pleased that the United
Nations passed a resolution on Friday night, drafted by the United
States and which has been accepted by Israel, which will provide a
fact-finding group to go see what happened at Jenin, as opposed to the
anecdotes that we're hearing. But it is a troubling situation.
In order to help the people in Jenin, the United States will be
delivering within the next 24 to 48 hours some 800 family-size tents
for people who have lost their homes, water purification equipment
that will take care of 10,000 people, and then several thousand
disease prevention kits, as they are called. And we are working with
friends and allies around the world to get explosive ordnance
demolition teams in there to start to bring some stability to that
town and to start the rebuilding process.
What's next? We have to get the violence down. We've said this many
times. And we'll be working to see if security coordination can begin
again with the two sides. And then I think we have to get to the
strategic framework that I laid out during my trip: security, followed
by a political move. We need to get to political discussions early,
negotiations early, between the two sides because there can only be a
political solution to this crisis, not a military solution.
And then the third part of that strategy is humanitarian and
reconstruction and economic development within the Palestinian
communities. So we have a strategic framework to go forward. Now that
the withdrawal is well underway, I'm going to be pressing to see if we
can get into that strategic framework.
MR. RUSSERT: It appears, despite all the debate that has played out in
the papers over the last several months, that the administration has
now decided that it is the United States that must play the central
role and must be fully engaged in the Middle East.
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have known that all along, and we have
been engaged from the very beginning. From the very beginning, we have
been trying to bring the violence down with the Tenet work plan and
the Mitchell Plan, which would get us to negotiations. But what we've
seen is that security alone is not going to be the answer right now;
we also have to put out a political vision of where we should be going
and how to get there rather quickly, get this started rather quickly.
And we're looking at different ways to make that happen, but I think
security and the political dimension have to be more tightly linked
than might have been the case over the past year.
MR. RUSSERT: I want to refer you to the United Nations resolutions
that have been adopted with the support of the United States. Way back
three weeks ago, March 30th, Resolution 1402, which called for the
withdrawal of Israeli troops from Palestinian cities, including
Ramallah. And then more than two weeks ago, on April 4th, the United
States again voted to demand the implementation of that Resolution
1402 without delay.
The Israelis appear to be ignoring that resolution, Mr. Secretary.
They have not withdrawn from Ramallah, as you insisted.
SECRETARY POWELL: They have begun withdrawing from Ramallah overnight,
and I expect most of that withdrawal to be complete with the exception
of the situation around Chairman Arafat's headquarters. We have two
unique situations that we are working on to see if we can resolve in a
peaceful way. And I would have preferred that the Israelis had
withdrawn immediately, but for reasons of their own, as a sovereign
democratic nation, they felt they needed time to do whatever they were
doing with their military operation -- going after terrorists.
And so in my trip over there, Prime Minister Sharon and I discussed
this three times. I impressed upon him the need to complete this
operation as quickly as possible, and he presented me, after three
meetings, with a timeline that is now being executed. And as of this
morning, he is right on the timeline that he and I discussed just a
few days ago in Israel.
MR. RUSSERT: Can there be serious peace negotiations as long as Yasser
Arafat is kept under house arrest?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think sooner or later he has to be given access to
the means of control, the means of communicating with others, and so I
think we will have to work through that problem. The reality is that
he is there; he is the leader of the Palestinian people, whether it is
liked by some or not liked by others. That is the reality we have to
deal with. Palestinian people look to him -- other Palestinian leaders
look to him for their instructions and for their guidance. And so I
think that the more access he is given, and the opportunity he is
given to show whether or not he can control forces and bring the
security situation under control.
He has disappointed us in the past, but I made it very clear to him in
my two meetings with him that that can't continue. He has to make a
strategic choice now. He has to move away from the path of violence
and terrorism, onto a new path, and if he moves onto that new path and
makes the very best effort he can to stay on that path and to convince
the Palestinian people that is the right path to lead to a Palestinian
state, then there is much the United States can do with him and for
the peace process.
MR. RUSSERT: Is it the United States position that Ariel Sharon is a
man of peace and Yasser Arafat is not a man of peace?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think everybody has expressed over the years a
desire for peace. Chairman Arafat has, Ariel Sharon has, we certainly
have. I think both of them understand that we have to get to some form
of negotiations, a political process that will take us to the desire
that all sides have expressed, for there to be a Palestinian state by
the name of Palestine living side by side with a Jewish state, the
state of Israel. We both -- both sides, both the Palestinians and the
Israelis, have made that their policies. Now they have to adopt the
right tactics and means to achieve those objectives.
MR. RUSSERT: Your friend, the Prince Bandar, the Ambassador from Saudi
Arabia to the United States, wrote this the other day: "It makes no
sense to ask President Yasser Arafat, who was elected by the
Palestinian people and who is currently under siege inside two rooms,
to stop the violence in the occupied territories while the Israeli
forces destroy his security apparatus and kill and detain his security
SECRETARY POWELL: There has been destruction of some of the means by
which he could control his security forces, and some of that will have
to be reconstructed. But I still believe that he has a powerful voice.
Just as Prince Bandar says, he is the leader of the Palestinian
people, so he needs to speak to the Palestinian people, and he can do
that. He has ways of getting information out, he has associates who
visit with him, he can communicate with the leaders of the Palestinian
movement and get the word out that it is now time to embark on a new
The violence has gone down somewhat in recent days as a result of the
Israeli actions, and perhaps as a result of some Palestinian leaders
wondering whether they were on the right track. We should not deceive
ourselves, however, into thinking that this problem is over and there
will not be new terrorist incidents. There are those who are
determined to destroy the dream of the Palestinian people for a state.
There are those who are determined to destroy Israel. That won't
happen. Israel will survive, and Israel will thrive. And the
Palestinian people can thrive if they choose this new path and move
toward peace and away from violence and away from terror.
MR. RUSSERT: President Jimmy Carter, in today's New York Times, writes
that perhaps we should consider cutting off aid to Israel. If the
situation in Ramallah and Bethlehem is not resolved quickly, would we
SECRETARY POWELL: We are not considering any cutoffs at this time. And
it would be hypothetical to talk about what we might do in the future,
but it's certainly not anything that's on our agenda right now.
MR. RUSSERT: The Transport Minister of the Israeli Government is
quoted in the London papers as saying that Ariel Sharon would like to
annex half of the West Bank land. Would that be acceptable?
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me talk to Prime Minister Sharon and his foreign
policy advisors. I'm not familiar with the view of the Minister of
MR. RUSSERT: How serious does this crisis remain?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is still pretty serious. I mean, things
are calming down a bit. We've got the withdrawal well underway, out of
Zone A, Area A, and so it has calmed down just a little bit. But I
wouldn't want to say it's over. It's a very tough one. The Middle East
is the most difficult account that we have to work with here in
Washington, if I can put it in those kinds of terms, and the passions
are high, not only between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but
throughout the region.
And I just want to reaffirm to the people throughout the region, to
all the Arab lands, to the Palestinians who might be watching this,
and to the Israelis, that the United States is committed to finding a
way forward that will allow these two peoples to live together side by
side in peace; both peoples doing the best they can for their
children, building an economy for each of those two states; exchanging
ideas with each other. We want to see this, and we're going to make it
come about, and we're going to work hard at it. We are very encouraged
by the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah, as reflected once again in
the Arab summit in Beirut a few weeks ago, of all 22 Arab states
living in peace with Israel at a time in the future. Let that be our
vision, let that be our dream, and the United States will certainly
work for that.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thank you very much for
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