Asked why the Prime Minister was ‘flouncing’ around the Middle East instead on concentrating on domestic matters, the PMOS said that nothing was more important to the UK than its security. Security is achieved by a number of methods, one of which is to achieve political progress in the Middle East. There is a fundamental issue to be resolved in terms of the future of the Middle East which will impact directly on the overall security in the world, including in Britain. The Prime Minister therefore makes no apology in talking to those in the region who can most influence what the Prime Minister believes to be the most crucial issue in the world today; which is the future of the Middle East and of Israel and Palestine in particular. People in the UK understand that and understand that as in Northern Ireland if you want to achieve peace you have to go the extra mile and you have to go at it again and again and again; even when it seems difficult.
Asked if the Prime Minister had achieved what he had set out to achieve on this visit, the PMOS said that this was not a trip to come back with concrete ticks in boxes, this was a trip to listen, to find out how practically we may move things forward. We believe that in the proposals we discussed with President Abbas and with Prime Minister Olmert and which with now will discuss with our international partners, that we have made progress in terms of an understanding of what we think needs to be done. Now we need to move it to the next stage, you heard what Prime Minister Olmert said yesterday. There are others areas where we hope to see progress in the coming days and weeks. A trip such as this is not something where you sit down and get an instant fix, it is something that you look back on and say did it get momentum going in the right direction, did it come up with ideas, did it help develop ideas, in terms of this the trip was achieved this.
Asked if the Prime Minister had, found others to be engaged on the trip, the PMOS said that the Prime Minister had found on the visit that there is a desire to engage and therefore there is a desire to try and resolve the Israel and Palestine issue. In all the recent trips there has been a recognition of the importance of the Palestine/Israeli issue but also a desire to try and get it resolved. This has been the case in Pakistan and elsewhere. President Bush stood beside the Prime Minister in the White House and wished him luck with this trip and fully endorsed it.
Asked if there had been any feedback from anyone behind the scenes or our international partners, the PMOS said he did not give a running commentary on our contact with our international partners but it can be taken that we are keeping and will keep our international partners fully informed.
Asked if the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had a view on what the Prime Minister was doing, the PMOS said that the UAE could speak for themselves, but in terms of trying to boost Palestinians to be able to show that political progress is possible and create the sort of institutions that will make this possible, then there is a desire to move forward. That is a recognition that the current stalemate suits nobody, and that is very much the view we have found on this trip.
Asked if any of the discussions had covered Al-Qaeda, as it is believed that a lot of activity came from the region, the PMOS said that he did not want to go into details of discussions but would say that counter terrorism is an important aspect of our relations with this part of the world. Asked why the PMOS would not go into details of discussions in the Middle East as he was meant to represent the Prime Minister, the PMOS said he could not talk on behalf of other governments involved in talks but there was a recognition of the issue. The issue being whether moderation perseveres or whether extremism triumphs. That is the essential issue, therefore we need to build on that and engage people here to achieve the ends they want to achieve and there is no doubt as to what it is that they want, it is a two state solution.
When asked about elections, the PMOS said that people have different roles and talk to different people in the whole scenario. What is important is that we share a common objective however we get there and that common objective is to try to get a two state solution as a reality. We are not and have not gone around with a piece of paper and said you have to agree to ever dot and comma. What we do have to agree on is what we are trying to achieve and we need to counter those who are trying to stop that objective. Asked what had changed with regard to Iraq and mobilising people, the PMOS said as they have travelled around the region, there has been a recognition that Iran is the strategic threat, there is recognition that we need to stand together against that threat and that we need to mobilise moderate countries against the threat. Asked if the moderate countries are worried that if they do mobilise the situation in Iraq would worsen, the PMOS said no, it had become increasingly clear that people want to help on Israel and Palestine but want to see mechanism that will allow them to do so. Hence the temperate institutional mechanism, hence the talks on other ways to help the Palestinians. Practical ways need to be found to engage moderate people and to do so against a backdrop where we are recognising that these moderate countries do have a role to play and have their own distinctive view, which may differ from ours, but the goal will be the same. It helps that people play different roles and it helps when different people talk to different people because that allows us to have a more effective wide-ranging approach.
Asked as the UAE was a model moderate state why the Prime Minister backed them if they passed laws which banned flights into the UAE from Israel, surely this was contradictory, the PMOS said that the UAE had made a commitment to modernisation and we are tentatively moving forward in certain areas. It was the travel of direction that mattered and the direction of the UAE was not in doubt.
Briefing took place at 15:00 | Search for related news
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