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Friday, December 1, 2006

Press Conference: Secretary of State Rice and PA President Abbas After Their Meeting

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
After Their Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Jericho, West Bank
November 30, 2006

PRESIDENT ABBAS: In the name of the God, the merciful. We strongly welcome
Dr. Condoleezza Rice who is visiting us in these political times which the
region is going through and particularly the peace process agenda. We have
discussed with Dr. Rice today the issues related to pushing the peace
process forward and to implement the roadmap entirely which includes the
Arab Peace Initiative which entails President Bush's vision which lately he
stated about certain principles referred to the Israeli Prime Minister
Olmert when he spoke positively about the creation of a Palestinian,
independent Palestinian contiguous state and when he indicated to the Arab
Peace Initiative positively. I believe that what he said in this direction
is very encouraging in order to push the peace process forward.

At the same time, we spoke about the truce, the ceasefire, which we have
striking Gaza . And we -- which we also hope that it will be applied to the
West Bank mutually and hereby we can say that once we apply this in the West
Bank and enhance the ceasefire in the West Bank and Gaza, to go back to the
Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, which we reached and signed with Prime
Minister Sharon. Of course, this will naturally help us to calm the
situation and prepare the path for the peace process.

And also we discussed with Secretary Rice our persistent efforts to create a
national unity government. And it is known that this is -- creating a
national unity government and is an important goal for us and we believe
that once this government is created will end the siege, the sanctions
imposed on the Palestinian people. We have exerted all efforts and we work
in different directions and through different proposals. But unfortunately,
now we have reached an impasse, a deadlock. This is painful and very painful
to us because we know how much our people are suffering in terms of
difficulties for the past eight or nine months until now. The people are
deprived of resources and salaries. But unfortunately, I say we have not
succeeded. We have not reached the concluding end result that we wanted. We
wanted to have a national unity government which is capable to move forward
and is a government that is capable to deal with the international
community, to understand the international resolutions, the Arab resolutions
and the Palestinian understandings and commitments in order to end the
suffering and the pains of our people. But this is what happened and we
state the truth as is.

In addition, we also spoke about the prisoners. We have a chronic problem
called the prisoners, 10,000 prisoners at the - this is the figure six or
eight months ago, but now maybe there are more until when the Palestinian
families and the prisoners will continue to suffer from being in jail. Of
course, there are efforts exerted to release or free the soldier and we
support these efforts and we want the soldier to be released. But at the
same time and the same enthusiasm, we want to release Palestinian prisoners.

And unfortunately, I would like also to say that settlement and settlement
activities are continuing. The Palestinian land is being undermined and
taken away day after day. This of course, does not help peace and does not
help our -- does not help us to get to the aspired peace that we want. We
want the Palestinian state and the Palestinians to live alongside with
Israel . We don't deny that. A contiguous state, as Olmert indicated and as
was confirmed by President Bush, this is our goal and any obstacles on that
path will obstruct and undermine these efforts. Therefore what we want is to
have a political track, a track for political issues, and another track for
daily issues, things that the people suffer from, prisoners, roadblocks,
obstacles, deprivation of many things and issues that the Palestinian people
are deprived from. If this happens, then we give the two peoples hope that
the peace is coming and imminent. We must give people hope. People must not
feel despair because -- or feel frustrated because frustration leads to
extremism and extremism leads to known consequences. We all know the

I, once again, welcome Dr. Rice, who is visiting us these days here in
Jericho and this is the second time that she visits us in Jericho . And we
hope that the next visit comes at a time that we have concrete results and
steps that are implemented on the ground to give our people the hope that
peace is coming and imminent. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much, Mr. President. First of all let me
thank you for your leadership and for your compassion and for what you have
been doing for your people in recent months. You have done it for a
lifetime, but in recent months your efforts to forge a national unity
government that would have been able to end the political crisis in which
the Palestinian people find themselves with a government that could gain the
support and respect of the international community. I think your efforts
have been extraordinary. Thank you for those efforts. Thank you also for the
efforts that you've made to bring about a ceasefire -- in the ceasefire that
is now in effect in Gaza and that we hope will be consolidated so that it
can be extended because we would hope in time for a comprehensive ceasefire.

Let me also say that you enjoy and you have always enjoyed and you continue
to enjoy the deep respect and admiration of the international community, of
the United States in particular and of President Bush and myself. And one
reason that I wanted to come today was to have an opportunity to talk with
you about how we can intensify our efforts to support our commitment toward
progress on a two-state solution. I think that everybody recognizes that the
creation of a viable, independent democratic Palestinian state that can live
side by side in peace with Israel would be not just a remarkable achievement
but a just achievement for the Palestinian people. And I wanted to come and
continue what has been an ongoing dialogue with you about how we accelerate
our efforts. In that regard I agree completely that the speech of Olmert was
a very positive development, I think an effort to reach out to a Palestinian
partner. And I'm going now to Jerusalem . I will speak with Prime Minister
Olmert about the positive elements in that speech and hopefully we can take
this moment to accelerate our efforts that intensify our efforts toward the
two-state solution that we all desire.

The President and I also did have an opportunity to talk about a number of
other issues, including how to improve conditions for the Palestinian
people. We're all concerned about the humanitarian conditions of the
Palestinian people, but particularly in Gaza . And I want to repeat what I
said many times: We want to do everything that we can to ease movement and
access. The daily difficulties, the daily humiliations that are associated
with life for the Palestinian people simply but be eased. And I will work
with you, Mr. President, with the Israelis to do precisely that.

Well, thank you very much for welcoming me here in Jericho . It is actually
our second meeting in Jericho . We met here when I was National Security
Advisor a number of years ago and it's good to see you as always, Mr.
President. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. President, you said that negotiations about creation of a
national unity government has reached an impasse. Does this mean that you
will take steps imminently or that you will continue to the dialogue again?

Secretary Rice, the President -- Dr. Rice the President has spoken about the
suffering of the Palestinian people and it's obvious that he asked you to
intervene to put an end to the suffering. Does the U.S. Administration has
guarantees that will be declared to the Palestinian people in this respect
and will -- the U.S. Administration would announce having an international
peace conference?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: For the first question, I said that we presently, for the
past six months, work on the creation of the government and we tackled the
different topics and more than one proposal and ideas in order to create a
national unity government. I, frankly, would like to say that a national
unity government to break and end the siege. I'm not looking for names and
I'm not looking for individuals and I'm not looking for factions. Who to be
represented, who is not represented this is not a concern. I'm not concerned
with these issues, whether from Hamas or from Fatah. What I want, I want
individual personalities who are capable, decent experts regardless of their
names and identities who believe that what we need to move forward, who
would accept the Palestinian (inaudible) and Arab legitimacy. This is what I
want in order to be able to break the siege.

The goal is to break the siege. And the government is not a goal by itself;
it's not at all our goal. The goal is to create a government today and after
an hour we would demand from the world to end the siege and to accept that.
This is what I wanted. Unfortunately until now, I have not reached a result
for the six months of pain and agonies of consultations and dialogue and
lots of talk with an empty -- or talk that I could not reach a conclusion.
This is what I describe the situation. This is what I arrived at.

SECRETARY RICE: As to the U.S. role in terms of the Palestinian people,
first of all, the United States has been very active in trying to help with
the humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people through the many
nongovernmental organizations that we support. We've of course supported
efforts also through international mechanisms to do so. Unfortunately,
because there is not a government with which the international community can
deal, it is very difficult to do more to help the humanitarian side. And we
do believe that were there a government that accepted international
standards that have been a part of the record, by the way, for a very long
time. These are agreements the Palestinians themselves have signed on to
like the roadmap.

It would be possible, of course, for the international community to do more
if the international principals were respected. Finally, obviously as we
work toward a two-state solution, it is to give Palestinians a control of
their own destiny and their own lives and to do so recognizing that there
are very good Palestinian leaders who are committed to peace, who are
committed to a democracy, who are committed to the security of the
Palestinian people and of their neighbors like President Abu Mazen.

QUESTION: Secretary, and what (inaudible) options?

SECRETARY RICE: Up next. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Mr. President, (inaudible) from Al Arabiya. To complete the
question, you said that you're describing the situation today in terms of
the creation of the government, the impasse, the block that you have
reached, but what are the steps there and the measures that you will
constitution responsibility to end this crisis? And you know that this is
basically a test maybe from an international perspective.

And the question for her Excellency, Secretary Rice, you are talking about
the creation of an integrated Palestinian state. And I quote from what the
Palestinian President said as if he were saying maybe there will be no
further or more land to create such a step because of settlement activities.
So do you have measures of practical steps in order to convince the
Palestinian people that you are serious in dealing with Israelis in terms of
putting pressure?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: As for your first question, as when the -- past few days,
we have developed this realization that there will reach -- to pass this
needs for the Palestinian leadership at the executive committee and other
leaders to study and examine what are the necessary steps that are required
for the future. One point that we exclude and rule out and we don't accept
it, which is the civil war. We will not accept this; otherwise, we will
examine and study all the other options and to the benefit of our people.

And I said earlier that the government is for the benefit of the people and
we don't want to continue looking for factional - and other factional
interests. And starting with the Fatah -- the people, the Palestinian people
have so many genius people. It doesn't mean that they are -- only exist in
Fatah and Hamas. They are everywhere else and there are independent people,
independent individuals, so if this is what composes the next government
then we welcome that. Otherwise, we'll study our options and we'll look into
it tomorrow, the day after tomorrow. Yesterday, we have reached this
conclusion and I can't say that I have decided as of today that we will do
one or two, three steps. This is, please, pardon me that I will -- Mr.
(inaudible), and I will study that later.

SECRETARY RICE: Back to the question of the territories for the Palestinian
state. First of all, the United States has made clear that we expect it to
be a viable and contiguous state when it is created. Secondly, that no
actions that are being taken now should prejudge the outcome of a final
status agreement; that means, very clearly, that if actions are being taken
now, they will not be considered by the United States to have prejudged the
outcome of final status. The third point is that we have made very clear
that Israel has obligations under the roadmap and that the obligations on
settlements are clearly articulated in the roadmap. And so those principles
guide American policy, they guide our discussions with the Israelis just as
obligations under the roadmap guide our discussions with our Palestinian
partners as well.


QUESTION: Jeff (inaudible) from AFP. Secretary Rice, Thursday you'll be
meeting with ministers from the Gulf Cooperation Council in Egypt , and
Jordan . What kind of help will you be seeking from them -- from Saudi
Arabia and Egypt moving ahead on this peace process and breaking the
deadlock (inaudible)? And what, President Abbas, what kind of help would you
be hoping for when you meet?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, let me just say that President Abbas has
his own contacts and his own diplomacy with
these states. He talks frequently to the Egyptians, to the Saudis, to the
Jordanians, to others in the Gulf. So he has his own diplomatic activity.
And it is my goal to support the request that he has been making of these
states because I think it is in all of our interests to see a strong
Palestinian partner who could engage in the efforts to create a Palestinian

I think it is in all of our interests to see reformed, unified Palestinian
security forces that are capable of carrying out the obligations the
Palestinians have under the roadmap and, by the way, not just the
obligations concerning the roadmap but the obligations to the Palestinian
people to keep them safe and to make law and order for the Palestinian
people a way of life. And so we have had extensive discussions about reform
of the security forces, equipping of the security forces, General Dayton is
here and has been very active in those discussions with states in the region
as well with the Israelis and with the Palestinians. And so the security
element is important.

We also want to see support for the President's efforts to reform
Palestinian political institutions and to make them stronger for the
foundation of democracy and so there's a lot that all of those who are
devoted to a peaceful Palestinian state can bring to the table. That is one
the most important discussions that I have with the Gulf Cooperation
Council, the Egyptians and the Jordanians. Of course, there are some
specific issues that with the Egyptians we jointly, of course, are very
responsible for the movement and access issues and we will talk about those
with the Egyptians. But I think you should understand that there are several
states in the Arab world that want to see Abu Mazen and the Palestinians who
want a peaceful future succeed and I will continue to talk with them about
precisely those matters.

QUESTION: Secretary Rice , U.S. officials have said several times that if
Abu Mazen is unable to successfully form a unity government, he has other
options available. He seems to be saying now that that's dead, what are
those options?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, that's for President Abbas to say. And it is for
President Abbas to decide what his options are. He's the elected President
of the Palestinian people, not me. (Laughter.) And I'm grateful that he
thinks highly enough of our partnership that we stay in constant contact and
consolation about how he sees his options, about how he sees the future,
about how he sees how the United States can support what he decides to do.
But by no means am I going to try to prejudge what his options are or what
options he ought to take.

Thank you very much.
# # #

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