On-the-Record Briefing En Route Tel Aviv, Israel
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
SECRETARY RICE: I will have an opportunity to meet with all my usual interlocutors. This time Iíll meet Abu Mazen in Jordan because thatís where he is going to be, so Iíll see the King of Jordan and Abu Mazen in Jordan.
I am looking forward to the opportunity to see President Olmert tonight. The purpose of this trip really is to continue to work on the three major tracks of Annapolis, as well as on the Arab track to get the King of Jordanís advice and counsel on how we continue to move the Arab support for the Annapolis process forward.
This time, I will spend a good deal of time on the issues concerning the West Bank and issues concerning the ability to provide a better life for the people of the West Bank, including ways to improve movement and access in pursuance of some of the economic projects that I know Tony Blair and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad would like to get going. You may know that Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad met last week to talk about some of the things that might be done to make some really concrete progress on the ground, because Iíve become convinced that itís harder to talk about movement and access just in general than to have rather specific ways to get certain economic projects going and knowing what movement and access obstacles there are and then working on those obstacles. So thatís the approach that General Jones took when he was out here that heís now briefed to me and that Iím now going to follow up. Iíll do that in a trilateral format with Barak and Fayyad together with me, I think, tomorrow, is that trilateral.
The other element is to talk about how the negotiations are going. As I said to you before, they are doing those quietly, below the radar screen. I think thatís absolutely appropriate. And Iím not coming to insert American ideas into this process. I think theyíre doing a lot of work on their own, but I do want to talk to them, get some sense of how itís going, see where I can be helpful. But most importantly, this is an informal conversation with the two chief negotiators, and Iíll do that also in a trilateral format on Monday, in addition to my normal bilateral meetings with all the parties. Obviously, weíre continuing to try to find an answer for Gaza, where there needs to be an end to the rocket attacks on Israel and where we need to find solutions, sustainable solutions, for the humanitarian situation for the people of Gaza. So those are target questions and the way that weíll carry it out.
QUESTION: The second trilat is going to be with Foreign Minister Livni and Abu Ala; is that right? And do you have Ė you know, you only have about a month and a half now before the President plans to come. What do you think it is possible to achieve in that time? Weíre four months into this since Annapolis. There is not a lot that is tangible that has Ė you know, that demonstrates progress either on the political side or on the, you know, Roadmap issue side. What, if anything, do you need to get done in the next month and a half before he comes? Or is that not even a marker for you?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, certainly, we look forward to the Presidentís trip. I want to underscore that the President is also coming to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israelís founding and I donít want that to get lost, and clearly heís conversations and discussions about the Annapolis issues and clearly, I think his being in the region will be an opportunity. I think there has been a lot of work that has gone up to this point. You have progress when you have progress. One of the problems is that I donít think you can try and keep a scorecard every day of what is happening. One of the places that I think we really do need to see, something of a step-wise functional improvement is on the West Bank movement and access issues, the ability to start to get some of these economic projects from Tony Blair, not in place, because some of them are quite large, but to really clear away the obstacles to them and to get agreement between the parties on how that piece of Annapolis is going to go forward. So the improvement of life on the ground is the piece that has to be pushed forward pretty hard.
QUESTION: What specifically do you hope, do you think that you may get moving in terms of that, in terms of making it easier?
SECRETARY RICE: — a better answer for you tomorrow on that, but General Jones came out and spent a lot of time with all the parties. And I Ė weíve known and thought for some time that part of the problem is to be pretty concrete and specific about what youíre trying to do in a specific area, what economic projects youíre trying to put there, what Palestinian security forces are available in that area to take the transfer of Palestinian authority, of Palestinian security forces, in the way that was done in Nablus, forward. Because if you think about it, that gets at one element of the Roadmap, which is increasing Palestinian security, competence, and authority, and it begins to get at the questions of improvement of movement and access and economic life for people.
And so to start to move forward concretely in some areas on those, and so to be able to be more specific about what movement and access obstacles there are and to work on those. Think of them as ways to move forward, areas that might be able to move on both security and on economic development.
QUESTION: What about actual removal of checkpoints? Is that something that you think is possible? Are the Israelis getting ready to do that despite the risks?
SECRETARY RICE: I certainly want to take a look at that. Obviously, there are security issues, but we do have to find ways to improve movement. There are obstacles that are not checkpoints and then there are checkpoints that are obstacles and I think you have to look at both.
QUESTION: Youíve said that you are not asking to insert American ideas, but you are doing a back and forth between Abbas and Olmert, which is rather unusual, so I wanted to know if you have a special documents, or something special you want their approval on?
SECRETARY RICE: Iím not bringing the ďAmerican paper.Ē Because I donít think that is useful. What is useful right now is for the parties to continue what I think is a pretty fruitful discussions and the only reason we are going back and forth is that it gives you an opportunity to go back and forth and to hear ideas and to hear ideas and to hear ideas and to hear ideas, and to the degree that I can help them to see where the shape of this might be going, then Iím happy to do that.
QUESTION: You said earlier that, obviously, part of youíre doing this weekend is continuing to try to find an answer to the situation in Gaza. What sort of things are you exploring? Are you getting more involved in the whole idea of a ceasefire or what?
SECRETARY RICE: No. I think, though, that there are questions about how humanitarian access could be more sustainable, how the Palestinian Authority might have more of a role in providing for the people of Gaza. You know that we supported, for instance, Salam Fayyadís ideas sometime ago, the Quartet did, on, I think, what could be done about getting back to Ė not the full November 2005 agreement, but something that might take elements of the 2005 agreement help in the management of crossings, that kind of thing.
SECRETARY RICE: Yeah, I just said that I thought it was important to keep in contact with our key Arab allies who are the supporters of the Annapolis process, because we donít want to lose that thread, which is why Iím spending this time with the King of Jordan. If you remember the last time I was here, I spent some time with Mubarak, and so I just think thatís very important as well.
SECRETARY RICE: But remember that one of the important precepts of the Annapolis process is the Arabs have got to be involved in this, partners in this, and so I think itís just really important that on any occasion that we have, we have a chance to do this.