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Diplomacy in Action

Remarks With Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas


Remarks
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ramallah, West Bank
March 4, 2009


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PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, President Abbas. It is a pleasure and an honor to be back here and to have the opportunity to meet with you, a leader of courage and dedication to the Palestinian people. I am very proud to stand beside President Abbas to deliver a message from my country and our President.

The United States supports the Palestinian Authority as the only legitimate government of the Palestinian people. As a partner on the road to a comprehensive peace, which includes a two-state solution, our support comes with more than words. As I pledged in Sharm el-Sheikh, we will work with President Abbas, Prime Minister Fayyad, and the government of the Palestinian Authority to address critical humanitarian, budgetary, security, and infrastructure needs, both in Gaza and in the West Bank.

As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, a child growing up in Gaza without shelter, healthcare or an education, has the same right to go to school, see a doctor, and live with a roof over her head as a child growing up in any country. That a mother and a father here in the West Bank, struggling to fulfill their dreams for their children, have the same right as parents anywhere else to have a good job, a decent home, and the tools to achieve greater prosperity.

The United States aims to foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized, a state that can provide these opportunities, a state that is a responsible partner, is at peace with Israel and its Arab neighbors, and is accountable to its people. That is the state that this government is attempting to build.

I met with Prime Minister Fayyad this morning and I expressed to him the appreciation we had for his presentation at Sharm el-Sheikh, which outlined the specific needs of the people in Gaza.
I also believe that it is imperative we continue to do the reform work that the president is leading in order to bolster the credibility of the government and to serve the needs of the people.

I’m very grateful that President Abbas has remained firm in his commitment to move forward on a comprehensive peace and a two-state solution. President Abbas is offering the Palestinian people the chance, finally, to fulfill the aspirations to be free, independent, prosperous, and peaceful, flourishing in a state of your own. And the only way to achieve that goal is through negotiations. All who believe in this comprehensive peace, we urge you to work with the Palestinian Authority and with us, because we are determined to move forward.

Time is of the essence. We cannot afford more delays or regrets about what might have been had different decisions been made in the past. The Obama Administration will be vigorously engaged in efforts to forge a lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians, and all of the Arab neighbors. I will remain personally engaged. As I said in Sharm el-Sheikh, this is a commitment that I carry in my heart, not just in my portfolio as Secretary of State.

Senator George Mitchell is the President’s and my Special Envoy. As you know, he has been here already. He is here today. And he will return soon. We all know and respect that in the end, it is up to the parties themselves to make peace. We offer you our support, not just today, but for all the tomorrows to come until the goal is realized. We believe that you have begun to establish the base on which the comprehensive peace can be built. And we will encourage and support you as you continue to advance the cause of the Palestinian people.

Earlier today, I met with some young Palestinians, young men and women who are furthering their education, and I was very impressed. We talked about women, because it’s Women’s History Month, and then I answered questions. And they asked about what I admired when I was growing up and what their dreams were, and then I was interviewed by two young Palestinian broadcasters. They asked me what I would say to a young woman living in a village outside of Ramallah who might be losing hope, who might believe that there is no future.

What I would say to her is what I have said and will say to young people everywhere. There is never reason to give up hope. There are many obstacles and challenges that lie in the way of realizing dreams, whether it’s individual dreams or the dreams of a people. But persevering, rethinking, regrouping, being committed will eventually result in the goal that we are seeking together.

Perhaps even more than the wonderful meeting that I had with President Abbas and the prior meeting with Prime Minister Fayyad, my meeting with those young Palestinians, Mr. President, made it very clear what is at stake and how important it is that we complete the journey we have begun. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: The president is right. The United States, through President Obama, is committed to a comprehensive peace, including a two-state solution. I have said that publicly. I have said that privately. There is no difference in any message that I am delivering in public or in private.

As the president also said, the Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu is forming his government. As soon as that government is formed, Senator Mitchell will return to begin meeting with that government. We are not waiting. We are moving forward. We believe that there will be very constructive talks with the new Netanyahu government.

MR. WOOD: The next question is Glenn Kessler from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Yes. Madame Secretary, Israel last week approved the demolition of 88 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and, as you arrived, another 55 homes were slated for demolition, the largest number in one area since 1967. Will you, as James Baker did in 1991, urge a halt to such unilateral actions?

And President Abbas, what do you think of these demolitions, and has the U.S. been too silent on this issue?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Glenn, clearly, this kind of activity is unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the roadmap. It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the Government at the municipal level in Jerusalem, because it is clearly a matter of deep concern to those who are directly affected.

But the ramifications go far beyond the individuals and the families that have received the notices you referenced. Yes, this will be taken up with the Israeli government.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: We will certainly be raising that issue. We will be looking for a way to put it on the table, along with all the other issues that need to be discussed and resolved.

At this time, I think we should wait until we have a new Israeli government. That will be soon, and then we will look at whether tools are available.

MR. WOOD: The last question (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, the newspaper Al Haaretz reported today that you told Defense Minister Barak that Israel needed to do more to open border crossings, and that you told Prime Minister-designate Netanyahu that his plan to offer economic peace to the Palestinians would not work without a political track. Can you confirm now that you – now that your meetings are over, that you made those points to the Israelis?

And for President Abbas, do you have concerns with the U.S. sending envoys to Syria and also, focused on Iran, that the Palestinian track will not receive the attention it deserves going forward? Thank you.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Let me say that I have not said anything differently in private that I’ve said in public. We have obviously expressed concerns about the border crossings. We want humanitarian aid to get into Gaza in sufficient amounts to be able to alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza. That’s been a public and a private message that I have carried with me in numerous different settings.

On each of these matters, we are expressing the view of the United States Government in a way that we hope proves helpful. Obviously we are trying to express constructive ideas that we think will, on the one hand, alleviate the immediate crisis in Gaza, and on the other, give us an opportunity to set the table for a constructive and eventually successful resolution of the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians and reach the goal of two states living in peace and security side by side.

PRESIDENT ABBAS: (In Arabic.)
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PRN: 2009/T2-10



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