“Stop settlement expansion”

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Text of statements made by US President George W. Bush and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after their White House summit here Thursday:
President George W. Bush

Thank you. Mr President, it is my honour to welcome the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people to the White House.

We meet at a time when a great achievement of history is within reach, the creation of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state. President Abbas is seeking that goal by rejecting violence and working for democratic reform. I believe the Palestinian people are fully capable of justly governing themselves, in peace with their neighbours. I believe the interests of the Israeli people would be served by a peaceful Palestinian state. And I believe that now is the time for all parties of this conflict to move beyond old grievances and act forcefully in the cause of peace.

President Abbas’ election four months ago was a tribute to the power and appeal of democracy, and an inspiration to the people across the region. Palestinians voted against violence, and for sovereignty, because only the defeat of violence will lead to sovereignty. Mr President, the United States and the international community applaud your rejection of terrorism. All who engage in terror are the enemies of a Palestinian state, and must be held to account. We will stand with you, Mr President, as you combat corruption, reform the Palestinian security services and your justice system, and revive your economy. Mr President, you have made a new start on a difficult journey, requiring courage and leadership each day — and we will take that journey together.

As we work for peace, other countries must step up to their responsibilities. Arab states must take concrete measures to create a regional environment conducive to peace. They must offer financial assistance to all — to support the peaceful efforts of President Abbas, his government and the Palestinian people. And they must refuse to assist or harbour terrorists. Israel must continue to take steps toward a peaceful future, and work with the Palestinian leadership to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, especially their humanitarian situation. Israel should not undertake any activity that contravenes roadmap obligations or prejudice final status negotiations with regard to Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Therefore, Israel must remove unauthorised outposts and stop settlement expansion. The barrier being erected by Israel as a part of its security effort must be a security, rather than political, barrier. And its route should take into account, consistent with security needs, its impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities. As we make progress towards security, and in accordance with the roadmap, Israeli forces should withdraw to their positions on September the 28th, 2000.

Any final status agreement must be reached between the two parties, and changes to the 1949 Armistice lines must be mutually agreed to. A viable two-state solution must ensure contiguity of the West Bank, and a state of scattered territories will not work.

There must also be meaningful linkages between the West Bank and Gaza. This is the position of the United States today, it will be the position of the United States at the time of final status negotiations.

The imminent Israeli disengagement from Gaza, parts of the West Bank, presents an opportunity to lay the groundwork for a return to the roadmap. All parties have a responsibility to make this hopeful moment in the region a new and peaceful beginning. That is why I assigned General Kip Ward, who is with us today, to support your efforts, Mr. President, to reform the Palestinian security services and to coordinate the efforts of the international community to make that crucial task a success. The United States also strongly supports the mission of the Quartet’s special envoy, Jim Wolfensohn, to make sure that the Gaza disengagement brings Palestinians a better life.

To help ensure that the Gaza disengagement is a success, the United States will provide to the Palestinian Authority $50 million to be used for new housing and infrastructure projects in the Gaza. These funds will be used to improve the quality of life of the Palestinians living in Gaza, where poverty and unemployment are very high. I’ve also asked Secretary Rice to travel to Jerusalem and Ramallah before the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal. Rice will consult with Israelis and Palestinians on the disengagement, their shared commitments and the way back on the roadmap.

As we work to make the disengagement succeed, we must not lose sight of the path ahead. The United States remains committed to the roadmap as the only way to realise the vision of two democratic states living side-by-side in peace and security. It is through the roadmap that the parties can achieve a final permanent status agreement through direct negotiations.

The people of the Middle East have endured a long period of challenge, and now, we have reached a moment of hope. Leaders from around the world have made a moral commitment: We will not stand by as another generation in the Holy Land grows up in an atmosphere of violence and hopelessness. With concrete actions by the United States, the Palestinians, Israel, and other nations, we can transform this opportunity into real momentum.

Mr President, we will work with you to help realise the dream of a free and democratic Palestine, to bring greater freedom, security and prosperity to all peoples in the region, and to achieve the lasting peace we all seek.

Welcome back to the White House.

President Mahmoud Abbas

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I’d like to thank you for this warm welcome and express my hope that we continue to consolidate the relations between Palestine and the United States. The Palestinian people share with the American people the same values of peace, freedom and democracy. We are confident that the two peoples will benefit from continuing and developing this relationship.

Today, we conducted very intensive and constructive discussions with you, Mr President, and with your senior administration officials. We discussed ways to support the revival and resumption of the Middle East peace process. These discussions afford us with the chance to emphasise the central and essential role played by you, Mr. President, and by your administration, in supporting and advancing the peace process towards the realisation of your vision of ending the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 and the establishment of a democratic, free and independent Palestine to live side-by-side with the state of Israel. This will create a better future for the peoples of the region. We reiterated again to you, Mr President, our strong commitment to a negotiated peace and through negotiations, we can achieve, the two sides can achieve their objectives.

We also discussed efforts that have been undertaken by the Palestinian Authority in recent month to bring about calm. These efforts have brought about a reduction of violence to its lowest level in four years, and have reopened the window of hope for progress towards peace.

We emphasised to the president our determination to maintain and preserve this calm. The Palestinian Authority is also making great efforts to reforming our security organisations, and the truth is, our efforts are fully supported by our own people. This has reaffirmed Palestinian commitment to a negotiated peace.

In our talks we also discussed the ongoing democratic process in Palestine. This process has successfully been manifested in a series of presidential and municipal elections. This success in conducting transparent and fair elections under very difficult circumstances is another example of the capability of our people to build an independent democratic state once we achieve our freedom and our independence.

We expect that our people’s efforts in this democratic undertaking will be supported through the allowing of freedom of movement, removing Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints, concluding the Israeli withdrawal to positions prior to September 28, 2000, and as well as implementing the understandings we reached with the Israeli government in Sharm El Sheikh. We stressed that democracy cannot flourish under occupation and in the absence of freedom.

In this regard, we expressed our deep concern over the continuation of Israeli settlement activities and the construction of the wall on our land, particularly in the area of Jerusalem. These settlement activities — in addition to undermining President Bush’s vision of the establishment of a contiguous and viable state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel, have contributed to the feelings of frustration, despair and loss of hope. Stopping Israeli activities in this regard is a an obligation under the roadmap.

Time is becoming our greatest enemy. We must end this conflict before it is too late.

We are extending our hands in peace to the Israeli people in good faith. We are saying that peace and dialogue and mutual recognition of each other’s rights are what will create a good neighbourhood and achieve security and prosperity for our people and the peoples of the region. We assured the President of the Palestinian Authority’s readiness to coordinate with Israel to ensure the success of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and areas of the West Bank as well as its ability to assume its responsibilities upon the Israeli evacuation.

We see this evacuation as a part of ending the occupation, and it should not be at the expense of the West Bank. We must then immediately move to permanent status negotiations to deal with the issues at the core of the conflict: Namely East Jerusalem as a capital of the future state of Palestine, refugees, settlements, borders, security, and water, on the basis of President Bush’s vision, United Nations resolutions and the basis of the Arab peace initiative.

It is time for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to end and it is time — after long decades of suffering and dispossession — for our people to enjoy freedom and independence on its own land and for our prisoners to be released from Israeli jails to be a part of peace-making.

Mr President, we end our discussions in Washington more determined to move forward on the path of peace, democracy and reform. We are leaving Washington with increased confidence in your active role — and that of your administration — in moving forward towards creating a just and permanent peace.

Mr. President, let me conclude by thanking you for your hospitality and gratitude for American support to the Palestinian administration and the Palestinian people. We look forward to working with you to achieve our common objective of peace, security, democracy and freedom.

Thank you very much, Mr President.

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