|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Palestinian Chairman Yasser Arafat
Press remarks following their meeting
Ramallah, West Bank, September 11, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, Jerusalem
U.S. Department of State
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: (in Arabic) Madam Secretary, it is an honor to meet with you once again. I would like to welcome you on behalf of the Palestinian people in Ramallah. I would like to thank you for all your efforts to save the peace process and to return it to its natural path by eliminating the reasons that led to the deviation of this process. Specifically, non-compliance by the Israeli government to the agreements that were signed at the White House, and recently, non-compliance by the Israeli government to the process of further redeployment from the West Bank, the continuation of settlement activities, the confiscation of land and the imposing of new demographic and geographical facts in Jerusalem and issues of the permanent status. Also, the Israeli government [should] halt its policies of collective punishment, the withholding of Palestinian money and especially the release of Palestinian prisoners.
At the same time, and as part of the responsibility of partnership in making peace, the Palestinian Authority will continue to confront the enemies of peace from both sides. I have expressed my condolences to the Israeli people and to the Israeli government for the innocent civilian victims who died as a result of the recent terrorist operations in West Jerusalem. I say enough violence and enough bloodshed. It is time for peace, a comprehensive and just peace. This [peace] is not done by the Palestinians for the sake of Israelis, nor by the Israelis for the sake of Palestinians, but for the mutual interest of both sides. Preventing those who try to kill the peace process is not only a Palestinian interest but also an Israeli interest. The enemies of peace from both sides (inaudible) and they are the enemies of our hopes, ambitions and dreams. They believe in violence and terrorism, and we reject it. The Palestinians and the Israelis are partners in the peace process, and we should shoulder our responsibilities in accordance to the signed agreements. I reemphasize that the Palestinian Authority will shoulder all of its responsibilities, and I hope that the Israeli government will do the same thing.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. This is my first visit to Ramallah and I am pleased to be here. Chairman Arafat and I had good discussions today and we will follow-up tomorrow.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that security has been in the forefront of our discussions today. The truth is clear: terror threatens the pursuit of peace, terror threatens the Palestinian Authority, and terror threatens the hopes of the Palestinian people. Pursuing peace as partners also means fighting the enemies of peace as partners. And it means spreading the message that peace is the only option.
This morning, I spoke with Chairman Arafat about the imperative of effective Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation. I also stressed the importance of unilateral Palestinian action. The chairman reiterated the commitment he made to President Clinton to fight terror. He also outlined the steps the Palestinian Authority has taken to deal with this threat -- steps which we welcome. But to be effective, the Palestinian Authority's fight must be comprehensive, relentless, and sustained. It cannot be pursued only when it is convenient to do so. As Chairman Arafat knows, fighting terror is a twenty-four-hour-a-day job. If we are to sustain a political process and if Palestinians are to realize their political aspirations, they must deal with this terrible challenge. There simply is no other way.
This is a unique and challenging time for Palestinians. For the first time in your history, you are governing yourselves under your own institutions in an effort to create the society you deserve -- a society based on respect for democratic norms, human rights, and the rule of law. And for the first time, Palestinians are embarked on a path that offers a real prospect for achieving long-cherished political goals. These have not been easy years. Palestinians have suffered a great deal, including the human costs of closures, of restrictions on movement, and of housing demolitions and land confiscations. I have discussed these issues and Israeli responsibilities in creating the proper environment for negotiating peace. I know these issues are important to you and they are important to the United States. Your frustrations are understandable. This is not what peace was supposed to bring. At the same time, you have not given up on peace. You have persevered and you have been right to do so.
Despite the current crisis, you have much to gain from the process begun at Oslo, much to gain from reconciliation with Israel. I urge Palestinians not to lose hope, not to give up on the logic of Oslo and not to abandon the promise of peace. The United States is committed to this process and will be there to help. We stand by the Oslo process and implementation of its agreements on the basis of reciprocity. We believe in the importance of permanent status negotiations and want to accelerate them. And we believe that those negotiations should be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, including the principle of land for peace.
As recent days have tragically reminded us, there remain in this region determined and desperate enemies of peace. Their goal is to consign Israeli and Palestinians alike to a future of more violence, more victims and more hate. There have already been too many Israelis and Palestinians who have died. It will take determined and brave champions of peace to create instead the future of security, dignity, prosperity, and peace that the people of this region deserve but have long been denied. That process requires that Israelis and Palestinians fulfill their responsibilities and renew their partnership in that process. And towards that end, the United States will do all that it can to help.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, yesterday you repeated that President Arafat has to destroy the infrastructure of Hamas and terror. Can you tell me the meaning of this infrastructure? Is the meaning Muslim school nursing school or is the meaning training camps and weapon factories? I mean, it is something that honestly I do not understand. I would like clarification of this. And for President Arafat, I just want to ask you: it's almost -- the peace process is dead, nobody is willing to issue the death certificate or to bury it. Do you sometimes lose hope and think given [the] serious job Mr. Netanyahu [is doing] in destroying the infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank, as [he is] doing a great job in South Lebanon and leaving this place -- you know -- what will happen in the future? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In answer to my part of the question, let me say that the Chairman and I had long discussions about the importance of dealing with the issue of terrorism, and both of us had the same understanding about the fact that terrorism is the enemy of peace and that it is the Palestinian people, as much as anyone, who suffer from terrorist activities. I do not believe that it is so difficult to define what the infrastructure of terrorist organizations is. It is basically the structure that plans and carries out and works to undermine the peace process -- that in every way works to try to stop the work of people that are trying to develop a new climate, and it is as widespread as the people that try to undermine it. And it is not a criticism of those who are there to help the Palestinian people, but it is definitely against those who are doing everything they can to dismantle and destroy the peace process. Frankly, as awful as they are, they will not succeed. Because in taking a little bit from the question that you asked the Chairman, the peace process is something that is so important to the people that they will struggle on through, despite the horrors that are visited by the terrorists.
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: Be sure that we will continue to be committed to the peace process, the peace of the brave. We cannot forget that our partner Rabin paid his life for this peace, and we will continue with all peace lovers. We will continue with those who have voted in the Knesset -- 87 votes against 17 -- for the protocol that was signed in the presence of Mr. Dennis Ross here in Erez. We cannot forget that. For this we will continue to be committed to the peace process.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, now that you have talked to both sides -- at least had your first meeting with both sides -- is the situation, the outlook, as bleak as it you seemed to think it was when you set out?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have a long way to go. I think that so far we have managed to get agreement on the fact that terrorists are terrible. But we have not, I think, yet been able to see what the best methods are to get the peace process back on track. I have spent a great deal of time with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat discussing what next steps have to be taken and how we can manage to get the train moving again and I think I still have a great deal more work to do.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, leaving the issues of the bombings aside, do you think that Netanyahu should freeze, whether temporarily or permanently, settlements built on Palestinian land occupied in 1967?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I didn't catch the last part of the question.
QUESTION: Do you think that Netanyahu should freeze settlements on Palestinian land occupied in '67?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, it is a little hard to say 'leaving terrorism aside' because I think that is the basic problem here and it is, as we have discussed, the importance of dealing with the terrorist issue is prime and we will continue to press on that. I believe that it is, as I have stated previously, very important for both sides to live up to their obligations and for mutual responsibilities to be carried out. As I have stated a number of times, there should not be unilateral acts that are taken that need to be dealt with in the Final Status discussions.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, you made it very clear that you didn't feel that Mr. Arafat was doing enough. From your conversations today, do you feel that he is prepared, is willing, is capable of doing what you require and what Israel requires without terrorism? And President Arafat, do you feel, as many Palestinians have expressed to us in the past twenty-four hours, that the United States is being too one-sided in not requiring that Israel take some concrete steps simultaneously with your efforts against terrorism?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say again that obviously a large part of the discussion that I had with Chairman Arafat this morning had to do with the issue of terrorism. And it was very clear to me that he understood how damaging to the whole peace process the terrorists are and that he believes that, as he has stated a number of times, that it is the Palestinian people who suffer as much from the fact that terrorism has not been expunged and that the peace process is not going forward. I think that he has understood the importance of a commitment to do what he can, as he said to the President, and that he would exert 100% effort to deal with the problem of terrorists. For us, I think we will have to see how this is carried out over a sustained period.
At the same time, I think that it is very important that it is understood that political discussions need to go forward in order to create an environment in which the peace process can blossom so that, for instance, we talked about the issue of the money that has been withheld. I think that it is important that there be a distinction in terms of the actions that are taken by the Israeli government where security is affected. And it is hard to second-guess them, but it is beyond my understanding where withholding money is a security issue and on the contrary, I think, makes it more difficult to have the kind of political environment that is necessary for this partnership to go forward.
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: Her presence is a big proof that His Excellency President Clinton, is intending and will continue, his very important responsibility, rare responsibility and political responsibility to protect the peace process.
QUESTION: (In Arabic) Madam Albright, you have stated in the past that there can't be any equivalence between the bombing in Jerusalem and demolishing of homes and confiscation of land. My specific question is: does Madam Albright consider these Israeli practices as terrorist acts or what?
INTERPRETER: What practices?
QUESTION: (In Arabic) Israeli practices, such as house demolitions, settlement building, and land confiscation. Is this terrorism or what?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I did state that there is no equivalence between bulldozers and bombers and I do not think there is equivalence in the demolishing of homes and bombers. I think there is sacred life involved in what the bombers are doing. And while one may disagree with the demolishing of homes and whether that is something that is the best way to move the peace process forward, I stand by my statement that there is nothing that is morally equivalent to the dastardly acts of suicide bombers.
QUESTION: When we arrived here today the Palestinian Authority presented us with a detailed list of alleged Israeli violations of the Oslo Agreements -- they are along the lines of those stated by the Chairman here this afternoon. Are you familiar with this list and do you agree with any of it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The list was just handed over to me and I have not had a chance to look through it and will do so, but I am not prepared to comment now. But let me say that I do consider, as I have said over and over again, that there are mutual responsibilities here. The Oslo agreement is based on it, as was the whole Madrid process, and I think that there is a lot of discussion about reciprocity and reciprocity also includes mutual responsibilities carrying out obligations.
QUESTION: (In Arabic) A question for President Yasser Arafat. Can it be said that Secretary Albright has not brought any promises regarding freezing settlements, as we understand it? And what will happen regarding the redeployment in the first and second stages? And in general, is Mr. Arafat satisfied with the results of the American efforts carried out by Secretary Albright?
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: (In Arabic) Yes, I am satisfied by the efforts exerted by the American administration and Secretary Madeleine Albright. We have discussed in detail all these issues that you have pointed out, and we will follow up with each other, pushing forward the peace process, and at the same time protecting it.
[End of Document]
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