Photo Op with Secretary of State Colin Powell
The Oval Office
The White House
April 18, 2002
10:54 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: I'm pleased to welcome the Secretary of State back to the Oval
Office. Presidents and Secretaries of State have sat here for a long time, trying
to figure out how to reduce violence and bring peace to the Middle East. The
Secretary went over with a vision on how to do that.
We talked about the two states living at peace with each other. He carried that
message of hope and peace, that our nation is -- will work hard to achieve a
peace. He also carried the message that people must -- must be focused and must
work hard to achieve a peace. People in the region have got certain responsibilities.
The short-term responsibilities are these: The Palestinian Authority must act
on its condemnation of terror. The Israelis are withdrawing from Jenin and Nabulus,
and they must continue their withdrawals. And neighbors in the region must condemn
terror, cut off funding for terror, must make it clear that people who suicide
bomb are not martyrs, that they kill or are murderers of innocent people.
As well, the Secretary's trip made it clear that our nation thinks beyond the
short-term, that we're serious when we talk about two states living side by
side, and that we're laying the foundations for peace, the structures necessary
to get to peace. Progress is being made toward our vision. In order for that
vision to be achieved, leaders must take responsibility, leaders in the region
must be responsible citizens for a peaceful world.
The Secretary delivered that message loud and clear, and I want to thank him
for his work.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Mr. President. I did try to deliver that message
loud and clear that the United States does have a vision, a vision that leads
to two states living in peace, side by side; the only solution to this conflict.
And I talked about what the sides have to do with respect to restoring a sense
of security so the two peoples and have confidence in one another, and begin
negotiations once again, essentially put down security element to our strategy.
We made clear to the leaders in the region that we want to move forward with
negotiations as early as possible, and we're looking at different ways to do
that once security has been established -- link the negotiations closely to
And the third part of our framework was the humanitarian part. There would be
a great need for humanitarian relief, for reconstruction efforts, and all that
has to be part of an integrated strategy.
And we can begin working quickly on that integrated strategy if the Palestinian
Authority, if Chairman Arafat and those Palestinian leaders not only denounce
violence, but take action to act against those who continue to encourage violence
and perform acts of terrorism and violence. The terrorism, violence has to stop.
I made that message very clear.
I'm pleased that the Israeli government is now continuing withdrawal. I hope
it will be accelerated and we will bring that to an end as quickly as possible,
because that is one of the difficulties that we have now in moving forward in
the integrated strategy.
And, Mr. President, we will be staying in close touch with the situation, by
phone and with various members of the administration who are already in the
region, such as Ambassador Bill Burns and with the assets of the Department
of State and other departments of government to make sure that the strategy
is understood and shared with our friends around the world who are ready to
THE PRESIDENT: Terry.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said progress has been made toward our vision. Where? And
secondly, do you believe that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace, and are you satisfied
with his and his government's assurances that there was no massacre in Jenin?
THE PRESIDENT: I do believe Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. I think he wants
-- I'm confident he wants Israel to be able to exist at peace with its neighbor
-- with its neighbors. I mean, he's told that us here in the Oval Office. He
has embraced the notion of two states living side by side.
And a progress is made, Terry, as a result of the United States and the Secretary
of State going to the region and convincing the parties that we'll never get
to peace if there's violence. And the situation prior to the Secretary's arrival
was at a boiling point, and thanks to his hard work, he has laid out not only
a vision of hope, which is important, but has convinced others that these terrorist
acts will forever and constantly undermine the capacity for peace.
As he mentioned, and I mentioned, there have been withdrawals from the West
Bank. Mr. Arafat did condemn terror, and we will hold him to account.
This is a part of the world where killing had been going on for a long, long
time. And one trip by the Secretary of State is not going to prevent that from
happening, but one trip by the Secretary of State laid out the framework and
the path to achieve peace. The United States has an obligation to do just that,
and he did. And I have done that. And we will continue to do that.
QUESTION: And Jenin?
THE PRESIDENT: I was told by the Prime Minister last -- a couple of days ago
that they were withdrawing from Jenin, and I believe they will -- oh, the --
we'll see what the evidence says.
QUESTION: Mr. President, you said yesterday that you plan to stay engaged in the Middle
East. What is the next step? Do you send Mr. Tenet to the region? And specifically,
do you support an international peace conference?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let's make sure everybody understands that we have been
engaged from the beginning of this administration. It's a -- the Mitchell Plan
came into being as a result of the mission that President Clinton called together.
But as a -- the Secretary of State and myself and the administration embraced
the Mitchell Plan. It is a way to achieve peace. All parties signed on to it.
We worked to get them to sign on to it.
The Tenet Plan, as a result of this administration sending George Tenet to the
region to lay out a security cooperation agreement. And so when you -- not reading
into your question, I just want to make it clear that the history of this administration
shows that the Middle East is an incredibly important part of our foreign policy.
I went to the United Nations, spoke clearly about two nations living side by
side. And so not only have we been, as they say, engaged -- of course, we will
be engaged. It is essential that we continue to work to fight terror. There
will never be peace in parts of the world unless we're willing to rout out terror.
And as I said in my speech yesterday, that this war against terror is a part
of making sure the world is not only safer, but eventually, and as importantly,
better. And as the Secretary said, that there must be a humanitarian aspect
to peace in the Middle East, that people must have hope; that the hope doesn't
come from killing, the hope comes from an ability to realize what all of us
want, which is to raise our children in a peaceful and secure environment, hope
they get educated, and people can realize their entrepreneurial dreams.
And that is exactly where our vision is. And that's why we will be engaged not
only there, but around the world where we fight terror. This is the calling
of our time, to fight terror. And this government will be strong in our battle
QUESTION: Mr. President, does it trouble you that Israel hasn't withdrawn without delay,
as you requested? And does the demand still stand for a full and immediate withdrawal?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Israel started withdrawing quickly after our call from
smaller cities on the West Bank. History will show that they responded. And
as the Prime Minister said, told me, he gave me a timetable and he's met the
In Ramallah, there is an issue with the Zeevi five killers. They're housed in
the basement where Colin visited with Mr. Arafat. And we will work with the
Israelis to figure out a solution to the Zeevi five. These people are accused
of killing a Cabinet official of the Israeli government. And I can understand
why the Prime Minister wants them brought to justice. They should be brought
to justice if they killed this man in cold blood.
And so I can -- the situation in Ramallah is based upon that particular part
of the problem. In terms of the Church of the Nativity, hopefully progress is
being made. Once the people are out of the Church of the Nativity, Israel will
leave -- pull back out of Bethlehem. This is good progress. I'm convinced that
the Secretary of State's trip helped achieve this progress.
Listen, thank you all.
QUESTION: Mr. President, can I ask one question on the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT: You had your shot --
QUESTION: Are there going to be any consequences for all parties not responding to you
QUESTION: Are you tired, Mr. Secretary?
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm great. Fine. I'm not tired. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You're amazing.
QUESTION: Mr. President, do we back up our threats with consequences ever? Do we ever
tell them what will happen if they don't --