21 April 2003
U.S. Urges Confirmation of New Palestinian Government, April 21, 2003
(Says cabinet proposed by Abu Mazen "can achieve Palestinian state")
The United States is confident that the Palestinian cabinet proposed by Prime Minister Abu Mazen reflects the desires of the Palestinian people and should be confirmed, said State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.
"I think we're confident in the idea that this cabinet would be confirmed by the Palestinian Legislative Council, it would be ... the cabinet that the Palestinian legislature wants, and that the opportunity should not be missed at this moment," said Boucher, speaking at the April 21 State Department briefing.
The spokesman said it was "urgent" that the Palestinians complete the process of establishing a government.
A "strong and empowered Palestinian cabinet, headed by Abu Mazen, committed to serious efforts on reform and security, is deeply in the interest of the Palestinian people," Boucher said.
"The Palestinian people deserve serious leaders ready to work toward the vision of two independent states, an independent Palestine living side by side with Israel. That's the opportunity now. We would hope they would not miss it," he said.
Boucher said the views of other foreign leaders and representatives "coincides with ours," in the desire to see a new Palestinian leadership in place "that can achieve a Palestinian state."
Following is an excerpt from the April 21 State Department briefing containing Spokesman Boucher's comments on the formation of the new Palestinian government:
QUESTION: Slight change of subject, but it's also the Middle East. Abu Mazen appears to be frustrated because I believe this Wednesday there's a deadline for the PA to install a cabinet and he is wanting to perhaps crack down more security-wise and eliminate some of the terrorist groups, and yet Chairman Arafat seems to have his choices and there's, I guess it's coming to brinkmanship in the PA themselves.
MR. BOUCHER: Correct. I think the deadline for formation of the cabinet is the 23rd, which is Wednesday. Our view is that formation of a strong and empowered Palestinian cabinet, headed by Abu Mazen and committed to serious efforts on reform and security, is deeply in the interests of the Palestinian people. It is essential that the Palestinians complete this process of establishing a government urgently.
The United States is determined to do all we can to help such a government move rapidly toward the two-state vision outlined by President Bush, and the Palestinians can't afford to miss this opportunity. We are hopeful that Abu Mazen will choose and then the Palestinian Legislative Council would confirm a cabinet that is capable of taking the steps on Palestinian reform and taking clear and sustained action against violence and terrorist attacks that are necessary.
The Palestinian people deserve serious leaders ready to work toward the vision of two independent states, an independent Palestine living side by side with Israel. That's the opportunity. Now we would hope they would not miss it.
QUESTION: So does that mean you are ruling out any new prime minister? Just you want Abu Mazen?
MR. BOUCHER: We think that the process that has been undertaken so far is a good one, that but for a few final details that a prime minister and a cabinet have been chosen. As I said before, I think we're confident in the idea that this cabinet would be confirmed by the Palestinian Legislative Council. It would be the council that the Palestinian legislature wants, the cabinet that the Palestinian legislature wants, and that the opportunity should not be missed at this moment.
QUESTION: Richard, what has the United States done to try to break this deadlock over the formation of the cabinet?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, in the end, it's a matter for the Palestinians themselves and for Palestinian legislators, for Palestinian political leaders, to make the decisions necessary to take advantage of the opportunity and get on with their future. This view that I've expressed to you has been expressed directly to Palestinians in our contacts, has been made clear to a variety of people who we have talked to in terms of other foreign leaders, other foreign ministers, some of whom are traveling to the region and expressing their own view, which we are happy to say if it coincides with ours that it's time to get on with this process, it is time to confirm this government, and it's time not -- it's time to start building the new institutions, the new leadership that can achieve a Palestinian state, not miss that opportunity.
QUESTION: Can you tell us and give us details of the latest such contact, endeavor to?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Secretary has talked over the weekend with Foreign Minister Palacio of Spain. He has talked this morning with European High Representative Solana, with Greek Foreign Minister Papandreou, who is in the EU presidency; also been in touch with the Israeli Foreign Minister and the Russian Foreign Minister. And in all of these discussions, the situation with regard to Israelis and Palestinians has been a topic, and our desire to move forward on things like the roadmap, which we are waiting for the confirmation of the Palestinian government.
QUESTION: All of them but Palacio were today?
MR. BOUCHER: That's right.