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Remarks Prior to Discussions With King Abdullah II of Jordan and an Exchange With Reporters

May 08, 2002

President Bush. It's an honor for me to welcome back His Majesty the King of Jordan. I always enjoy a visit with His Majesty. He's a man who cares deeply about the people of the region, a person who always emphasizes the humanitarian aspects of the people of his country. And he cares deeply about peace.

It's a series of ongoing discussions I'm having with leaders from the Middle East as to how we can seize the moment, to bring peace to the region. Your Majesty, welcome back to the Oval Office. I'm thrilled to have you here.

King Abdullah. Thank you, Mr. President. Always a delight to see you again and to be here at this difficult time. And I hope that with our discussions today, we can somehow try and articulate a way to bring Palestinians and Israelis to peace and security. And I look forward to fruitful discussions with you this evening.

President Bush. Thank you. We—the Majesty has agreed to take a couple of questions, as have I. We'll start with Terry [Terry Moran, ABC News].

Situation in the Middle East

Q. Mr. President, you said, "Seize the moment." In many ways, this is a difficult moment. At this juncture, as you're trying to put in place a structure for progress towards peace, do you believe that Prime Minister Sharon should act with restraint in responding to yesterday's suicide bombing?

President Bush. Well, first I want to remind everybody, it seems like every week is a difficult week in the Middle East. And it's been difficult months in the Middle East, and it's been difficult years in the Middle East. There's been a lot of—there's been a lot of hard feelings and hatreds. And our jobs are to convince people, first and foremost, that they've got to believe in peace.

And Israel is a nation that—it's a sovereign nation. But whatever response Israel decides to take, my hope, of course, is that the Prime Minister keeps his vision of peace in mind. We've got to want peace in order to achieve peace, and that's what the United States is working toward.

Q. Your Majesty, what is the Jordanian vision that you're going to present to the U.S. administration regarding the U.S. proposed peace conference?

King Abdullah. Well, we're actually here at the moment to see if we can identify some logical steps over the next few weeks to articulate a vision that brings the Israelis and the Palestinians out of the impasse that we're facing at the moment. And we'll discuss the views this evening and maybe see if we can find a roadmap to have America's support to bring Israelis and Palestinians the peace that they deserve.

President Bush. Jim [Jim Gerstenzang, Los Angeles Times].

Reform of the Palestinian Authority

Q. Mr. President, do you see any role at all for Arafat in any kind of peace conference at this point, or does that have to wait until there's been a reform in the Palestinian Authority?

President Bush. Well, first of all, I was pleased to read the transcripts of his call against terror in Arabic. I didn't read the transcripts in Arabic; I read the English translation. But I was most pleased that he did that. I thought that was a incredibly positive sign.

As you know, I've been one who—he has disappointed in the past, and therefore, I hope that his actions now match his words. It's very important for us, and I'm going to explain this to His Majesty why I think us—all of us involved must work hard to put a—the infrastructure in place or the structures in place for a Palestinian Authority that respects rule of law, that has its own constitution, that is able to fight corruption, that is able to spend money properly when it gets it from foreign sources, so that there is hope, there is hope for the Palestinian people.

One of the things I'm deeply concerned about, and I know His Majesty is as well, is that there is a lot of people—Palestinians who don't believe there is any hope; there's no future. And we've got to make sure they have a better future by putting an economic plan in place. But that can't happen unless there is a Palestinian Authority that's backed by a true government; I mean a true sense of the ability to run itself. And that, in turn, will help Israel be more comfortable with her neighbor.

And so we're going to talk about the way forward. And the way forward is to— and step one is to make sure there's a unified Palestinian security force, a force that is responsible, a force that reports to a certain authority figure, a force that we can hold accountable, a force that's not fractured and fights each other. And to that end, as you know, the other day I announced that George Tenet is going to go to the region to help this reform.

Upcoming Arab Summit

Q. Your Majesty, you are the fourth leader now that's met with President Bush in the last 2 or 3 weeks. Where do you see the Arab nations right now? One of the things that the President called for was that the Arab nations need to take responsibility, need to take a leadership role. What do you see the Arab nations as doing, and what is the message that you're bringing now from the Arab leaders that you have met before coming here?

King Abdullah. Well, one of the things that we will discuss with the President this evening is that after this meeting our Foreign Minister goes to Cairo, to be there at a summit that is going to be convened by President Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdullah with a group of Arab countries, that will articulate the vision of Beirut— in other words, the olive branch towards Israel in practical terms—and at the same time, having to deal with the issues of security and terrorism.

And I hope that there is a lot of success in that meeting, that it allows the Arab countries to really step up to the plate and move forward with the responsibility that we need from them.

NOTE: The President spoke at 6 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel; and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. King Abdullah referred to Minister of Foreign Affairs Marwan Muasher of Jordan; President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

George W. Bush, Remarks Prior to Discussions With King Abdullah II of Jordan and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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