Secretary of State Colin Powell is welcoming Israel's first steps to remove unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts in the West Bank, as promised by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at last week's Aqaba summit. He commented on the issue while attending a meeting of the Organization of American States, the OAS in Santiago, Chile.
Mr. Powell says he is pleased that Israel has begun to remove the outposts, and believes that both parties to the Middle East conflict realize there is no alternative now but to move along the international "road map" toward peace.
At a news conference on the sidelines of the OAS General Assembly, Mr. Powell noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took the step in the face of threatened demonstrations by settlers, and despite Sunday's lethal attack on Israeli soldiers at a Gaza checkpoint.
"We have to keep moving forward, even in the presence of violence of the terrible kind we saw over the weekend on the part of Palestinian terrorists and even in the presence of demonstrations," he said. "Will it be difficult for Prime Minister Sharon? Yes. But I think he realized that when he made this commitment to remove these unauthorized outposts."
Mr. Powell is due to resume personal diplomacy on the Middle East late next week when he goes to Jordan for an economic conference.