» Thursday, November 4, 2004

Middle East

Asked if there was now an opportunity for the Americans to take advantage of Mr Arafat’s illness, the PMOS replied that he did not wish to comment in any way about the speculation surrounding Chairman Arafat.

Asked if President Bush was going to make the Middle East as much of a priority as the Prime Minister said he was going to in his speech last night, the PMOS answered that he thought it would be better for President Bush and his advisors to speak about this. He did say that this was a matter that was regularly discussed between President Bush and the Prime Minister. The PMOS expanded, saying that if Israel did disengage from Gaza it created a need to help the Palestinians not only in terms of the security situations there, but also in terms of building up the administration and the political aspects too. The PMOS said that the next steps were how to take things forward, and the important thing was to reiterate what the Prime Minister had said, which was to revitalise the process and create momentum in the right direction, so as full negotiations on the final status issues could take place.

Asked how the Palestinian leadership would be taken forward, given the current vacuum, the PMOS repeated that he did not want to comment on developments surrounding Chairman Arafat, as he hoped people would understand, but in terms of the leadership dialogue, there were already discussions at all sorts of levels.

Asked if this meant that the Roadmap was effectively dead, the PMOS answered that he would repeat what the Prime Minister had said in the press conference with President Bush in The Rose Garden when he emphasised that disengagement from Gaza was a useful first step. It was only a first step, and was not about the final status or a substitute for full negotiations; those had to take place. He added that just because complete progress had not been made in one step, did not mean that the process should not begin. The process should begin where and when it could.

Asked if the Prime Minister’s view was that the Gaza withdrawal was the route back into the Road Map, how could he reconcile that with the view that was put to him in the House of Commons as coming from Ariel Sharon’s adviser who said that this was it, and no further, the PMOS replied that it was not unusual in situations like this one for different people to express different opinions. What was important was that the international community expressed its view for a viable two state solution. The PMOS reminded people that it was President Bush who was the first US President to support that view.

Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news

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