Powell urges Israel to open Palestinian trade
KUWAIT CITY (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell pressed both Palestinians and Israelis on Sunday to end five months of clashes between them so trade and peace talks can resume.
Powell traveled later Sunday to Jordan and then Kuwait, where he was to participate in ceremonies marking the emirate's liberation from Iraqi occupation in 1991.
He met with Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Sunday. He backed Arafat's call for an end to Israeli trade restrictions but urged an end to the violence "from both sides."
"We discussed how it was necessary for all sides to move away from violence and incitement and to lift the siege as soon as possible to get economic activity restarted," Powell said.
Fighting between Palestinians and Israeli security forces has led to hundreds of deaths, mostly Palestinians, and an Israeli clampdown on the economy of the Palestinian-controlled West Bank and Gaza. Powell said everyday Palestinians are suffering as a result.
"It is my view that economic pressure contributes to an overall deterioration in the situation here in the territories, places great hardship on Palestinian families, undermines relations between Israel and Palestine -- and the Palestinians -- and does nothing to quiet the security situation," he said.
Earlier, Powell said new U.S. President George W. Bush would play a "strong role" in the Middle East peace process, but he has told Sharon that the United States would not be as involved in negotiations as it had been under the Clinton administration.
"In the end, we cannot want peace more than the parties themselves," Powell said after meeting with Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah. "But we will be there to help."
Arafat said Sunday he hoped negotiations could resume where they left off with the government of outgoing Israeli leader Ehud Barak .
"We look forward to be able to push forward the understandings that have been reached between us and the Israeli side and that have not remained Palestinian but also international understandings," he said.
It's an unlikely prospect: Sharon has said he would stand by signed agreements but not by peace proposals raised at inconclusive negotiations. Earlier, Sharon reiterated his stand that he would not resume peace talks with the Palestinians until all violence ends.
"I have outlined to Gen. Powell the steps I will take if calm is restored in order to ease the economic conditions of the Palestinian population in the Palestinian Authority territories," Sharon said. But he added: "One thing will be clear. Israel will not be negotiating under the pressure of terror and violence."
But the fighting was still going on outside the meeting hall. Israel Army Radio reported an Israeli motorist was shot and wounded outside a Jewish settlement on the West Bank. The shooting was the only one in which someone was wounded out of more than a dozen incidents reported overnight, Israeli military officials said.
Powell's visit is part of a four-day Middle East tour that will take him to Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait. Sunday's meetings came a day after the retired general met with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Barak, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Although Powell wanted to convey the continued American interest in peacemaking between the Israelis and Palestinians, the real thrust of his mission is to convince Arab allies and other powers, such as Russia, not to abandon United Nations sanctions against Iraq.
It comes just more than a week after U.S. and British planes conducted airstrikes on Iraqi radar sites near Baghdad. Powell acknowledged that the raids attracted "quite a bit of criticism" in the Arab world, but he said Iraqi weapons "are being aimed at Arabs, not at the United States or at others" and said it was necessary to prevent Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from developing nuclear weapons.
"We have to make sure he is denied the opportunity to continue moving in this direction," Powell said. "We have to make sure that we do everything we can to contain him, to constrain him, to get inspectors back in under the terms of the U.N. resolutions."
CNN Correspondents Jerrold Kessel and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.
Powell meets Israeli PM-elect Sharon
US State Department
Turkey quake death toll rises
Arrests over missing reporter
Arafat calls for peace talks
Cambodia votes despite threats
Karzai targets Pashtun rivalries
Nigeria blasts toll over 1,000
It's Super Bowl time! Let the game begin
Enron 'Powers Report' released
Turkey quake kills at least 42
Arafat condemns attacks, calls Israel partner in peace
|Back to the top|