Friday, February 16, 2007

Rice Actually Being Robust

As I am subscribed to the State Department list, I just received the text of Secretary Condoleezza Rice's interview yesterday with Nadia Bilbassy-Charters of Al Arabiya.

Some questions (in italics) and her responses:-

QUESTION: As you head into the region to convene this trilateral meeting between President Abbas and the Israeli Prime Minister, we heard that a senior U.S. official has given a letter to President Abbas to say that the U.S. would
not recognize the unity government even if they recognize or they abide by the
Quartet conditions if Hamas is part of it. Is this the case?

SECRETARY RICE: Oh, we have given no such letter to President Abbas. In
fact, we have said that we will wait until the government is formed and then
we'll make a decision about how to deal with that government. We have made
clear that the Quartet principles continue for the United States, and indeed
continue now for the Quartet, to be the basis on which we would judge any
government. But we are waiting to see when the government is formed. There isn't a
government yet, and so I don't think we want to be in a position of making a
decision about it before it's actually formed.

QUESTION: That's true. We don't have a government, but we have the blueprint
for a government. We know how many ministers are going to be in the
government. We know who's going to be from Hamas and Fatah and independent.
So if they implicitly recognize Israel, are you going to negotiate with this government?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think it's extremely important that these principles,
which are not principles just for the sake of principles, but when you think
about it, if you are going to have a two-state solution you have to recognize
the right of the other party to exist. If you are going to have negotiations
for peace, you have to renounce violence. If you are going to be trusted with
agreements, you have to honor past agreements. And so that's why the Quartet
principles are there.

QUESTION: Now you are going to convene this meeting. What's going to be on
the agenda? I mean, behind the niceties and tying to restart the peace
process, what the actual agenda is going to look like?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I'm going to start by asking the parties what they
think is on the agenda. It's been a long time since they've talked about broad
issues. We have a roadmap and everyone needs to fulfill the conditions of the
roadmap. But at the end of the roadmap, there is a destination called the
Palestinian state, and I think it makes sense to begin to talk about how you
get to that destination, what the Palestinian state will look like, what has to
be achieved in order to get to a Palestinian state. And I hope that the agenda
will include some of that discussion, but we're going to take it one step at a

It's important for me to recognize that Prime Minister Olmert and President
Abbas have also established a bilateral channel in which they have made
progress, and I hope that I can bring some energy, perhaps some ideas to get
the parties talking about these issues. But the one thing that I don't want to
do is to make this an American initiative, and so I hope that eventually the
conversation will be joined by particularly the regional states because the
Arab states have an important role to play in bringing about a Palestinian

QUESTION: Are we expecting that the final status issues -- Jerusalem, the
refugees, the border, the settlements -- are we likely to put them on the table
at least to get the parties talking about it?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, all these issues, of course, are contained in the
roadmap and at some point in time they're all issues that have to be addressed
if there's going to be a Palestinian state. We also have to be able to address
capacity of the Palestinian state to govern. We have to be able to address
what the international community can do to support the development of a
Palestinian state. We have to talk about what kind of security arrangements
can assure both Israelis and Palestinians that they can indeed live together in

QUESTION: What do you expect? I mean when you say, we have to wait for this
formation of this government? Do you want them to spell out what the Quartet
wants, or are you willing to accept that if they say we recognize, we respect
all the previous agreement, that would be good enough to start the process?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, one of the elements is to adhere to the existing
agreements. That's an important element. But it is also important to
recognize that you have to renounce violence. You can't have it both ways.
You can't say that you're going to be part of a democracy and be part of a
peace process but keep an option on violence.

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