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Seize the Opportunity for Mideast Peace, says Powell - 2003-05-12

Secretary of State Colin Powell has discussed the internationally-backed road map for Israeli-Palestinian peace with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. The secretary said both sides must "quickly" begin the process of overcoming their differences.

Secretary of State Powell said the time had come to "seize the moment" of opportunity to forge peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking in Cairo, following a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr. Powell said Israel has not used the word "accept" regarding the internationally-backed road map for peace that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. But he said what is more important is for both sides to take positive steps towards peace.

"If we do not get started now on issues related to security, on issues related to going after terrorists and terrorism, on improving the lives of the Palestinian people by granting access to territories again, making it easier for Palestinian people to get back and forth to the workplace, making it easier for them to start to restore their basic lives again, if we do not get started on these issues, we will never reach the point where we can deal with these more important issues that are on the path ahead," Mr. Powell said.

Those issues, according to Mr. Powell, concern the right of return for Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

He said while the road map for peace is not a complicated outline, he said it will be complicated to achieve. He said there are "challenging" times ahead.

Mr. Powell said the United States is prepared to send monitors to the region to gauge the progress of performance on both sides, but he did not say whether that offer has been accepted. He also said the U.S. will give the Palestinians a $15 million grant to help build a security infrastructure.

He said it is important to get the peace process "started quickly," saying the first goal must be to find how the differences between both sides can be bridged.