Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a tour of the Middle East aimed at defusing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, confirms he will meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. He made the remarks in Cairo where he had talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Secretary Powell said for the first time that he plans to meet with Mr. Arafat, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in his bid to secure a cease-fire and end the escalating violence.
"I assure you that what I'm doing this week is putting together a consensus of all the nations that have an interest in this, all members of the international community, so I can go to Jerusalem with a powerful message for both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat," he said.
The secretary said the potential repercussions of Israel's offensive in the Palestinian-controlled territories for the region and the world heightened the urgency of U.S. efforts to defuse the situation.
"The reason we are acting so aggressively now, with respect to ending the incursion," he said, "is that we believe the effect of the incursion throughout the Arab world, throughout the rest of the world, is very negative with respect to both Israel's long-term interest, and in terms of Israel's relations with its neighbors, and in terms of the United States' long term interest in the region, and, frankly, the world's interest in the region."
Mr. Powell praised the beginning of an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian cities, and said he will ask all Arab leaders to call a halt to suicide bombings. It was a series of deadly suicide bombings against Israelis that triggered the Israeli military offensive in the West Bank.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher, standing with the secretary at a news conference, said there must be simultaneous negotiations regarding security and political discussions.
"We believe the only way to ensure security is to put the security talks with the political talks, meaning that they should go together, because security cannot be achieved through force, through the use of force, but through the creation of an environment that is helpful to create confidence between the parties," he said.
Mr. Powell said the United States is committed to a political settlement. "We must have peace that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state called Palestine, living side by side with Israel. That must be the dream and the vision of all of us," he said. "We must all dedicate ourselves to that end, all leaders, and that means getting the violence down now, or future generations will never forgive us."
The secretary departed Egypt for Madrid. He travels to Israel Thursday.