Tags: Powell: | Mideast | Conference | Summer

Powell: Mideast Conference in Summer

Friday, 03 May 2002 12:00 AM

Powell made the announcement after a meeting of the so-called Quartet, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the foreign minister of Russia Igor Ivanov, and the European Union's External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten.

"When we talk about a conference, it's got to be a conference that deals with all elements that I've described -- security, the economic reform, humanitarian issues and the political way forward. They all have to be integrated," Powell said.

The conference was first mooted last month in Madrid where Powell -- en route to the Middle East -- met Ivanov, Annan and Patten. But after that the Bush administration played down the proposal.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave his reluctant support for such a conference last month after meeting with Powell and even agreed to attend with Arafat. At the time Arafat was confined by Israeli tanks to his compound in Ramallah.

On Wednesday the Israeli siege was lifted and Sharon allowed Arafat to move about the Palestinian territories freely and even to travel internationally.

Meeting with President Bush earlier Thursday Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Maria Aznar and President of the European Commission Romano Prodi pressed the international conference as a way of reviving the peace process between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Briefing correspondents on the Bush meeting, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the international conference was still at the "idea stage."

Powell said the end of the Ramallah standoff presented an opportunity for Arafat to condemn and take actions against terror. "He knows what is expected of him. I have had the most direct conversations [it is] possible to have with another person with Mr. Arafat with respect to what we will expect from him now that he is free. And he will either live or not live up to those expectations," Powell said.

"And Mr. Arafat, I hope, will understand that he doesn't have any more chances to seize this kind of an opportunity."

At the same time Powell and the other top diplomats stressed that the international community was willing to repair the damage to the Palestinian Authority wrought by the Israeli military in what they said was a response to a series of Palestinian suicide bomb attacks last month.

"The Palestinian people need access to jobs, need access to markets, need food, need medical supplies, need all kinds of things to relieve their suffering. And we are united in our determination to bring that about," Powell said.

To that effect, the United States and other western nations pledged over $1 billion in humanitarian assistance last month in Oslo -- the city that hosted the 1993 peace talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that eventually envisioned a two state solution to the conflict.

On the question of whether the United States will rebuild the Palestinian Authority's security services -- which under the Oslo Agreement are required to arrest terrorists -- Powell said the assembled group would make a maximum effort to do so. But there has been no decision to send CIA Director George Tenet to the region to perform an assessment, which Powell said the President was ready to do last month in a press conference in Jerusalem.

"We'll be encouraging Chairman Arafat to rebuild his security apparatus," Powell said. "We'll ask for maximum efforts from the Palestinian Authority to restore calm. To assist in this, the Quartet agrees on the need for making an assessment of Palestinian capabilities, setting clear security performance standards and working to establish effective and responsible Palestinian security institutions and to find ways for those institutions to work closely with Israeli institutions, as we move forward to restore confidence between the two sides."

Powell added that he expected Tenet would play an important role in this effort in the future.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Powell made the announcement after a meeting of the so-called Quartet, including U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the foreign minister of Russia Igor Ivanov, and the European Union's External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten. When we talk about a conference, it's...
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Friday, 03 May 2002 12:00 AM
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