George W. Bush photo

The President's News Conference With King Abdullah II of Jordan at Camp David, Maryland

September 18, 2003

President Bush. Thanks for coming. His Majesty and I will answer some questions after a couple of statements.

First, I'm so pleased to welcome my friend King Abdullah and Queen Rania to Camp David. I want to thank them so very much for rearranging their schedules to get up here ahead of Hurricane Isabel. Laura and I look forward to spending some quality time with two really fine people.

We're going to have some serious discussions today. Then we'll have a nice lunch, and then we'll batten down the hatches and spend a good evening with our friend. The King is a good friend, and I say with certainty he is a fine man. He's a reformer who's working to build a country that is tolerant and modern and prosperous. He cares deeply for the people of Jordan. I know firsthand. I have seen his passion for the people in that important country. He suffers when people suffer. He exults when people succeed. He's a leader who takes risk for peace. He's a peaceful man.

King Abdullah and I last met more than 3 months ago in Aqaba, Jordan. He hosted a very important meeting. It was a moment of great hope for the people of the Middle East. At that meeting, Prime Minister Abbas—former Prime Minister Abbas strongly condemned terror. Prime Minister Sharon committed Israel to supporting the emergence of a viable Palestinian state. The King affirmed the commitment of his country to help forge a lasting peace.

In the weeks that followed, there was good progress. Israel withdrew from Gaza City and Bethlehem and turned responsibility for security in—there over to the Palestinian Authority. Hundreds of prisoners were released. Checkpoints were removed. Some unauthorized outposts were taken down.

And on the Palestinian side, Prime Minister Abbas made a good-faith effort to meet the commitments made at Aqaba. Yet, at every turn, he was undercut by the old order. I remain committed, solidly committed, to the vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. Yet, that would only happen with new Palestinian leadership committed to fighting terror, not compromised by terror.

I look forward to discussing with His Majesty how we can encourage Palestinian reform, how we can work together to fight off the terrorists who want to destroy the hopes of many, and how we can move forward to peace, peace in a region that needs peace.

I appreciate the King's cooperation in the critical efforts to build a stable Iraq. The hearts of the American people go out to the people of Jordan for the ruthless attack on the Embassy in Baghdad. That attack just once again shows the nature of terror, indiscriminate killing of innocent people, all trying to intimidate and create fear.

I look forward to hearing His Majesty discuss his efforts to continue to work for long-lasting jobs for the Jordanian people, how we can work together to expand trade, what we can do together to enhance our friendship that has endured across the generations. Today, as the United States works to bring—helps to work to bring peace and hope to the Middle East, we can rely on Jordan as a vital partner. And that's why Laura and I are so honored to welcome you, sir, to Camp David, and thank you for coming.

King Abdullah. Thank you very much, Mr. President, for those very kind words of welcome. And I'm particularly delighted, myself and my wife, Rania, and our delegation, to really be able to visit with you again and discuss many of the issues that are facing both our countries.

I'm also particularly honored by the strong, genuine dedication that you have shown in trying to make our part of the world a better place. It took a lot of courage to come to the Middle East, to meet in Sharm el-Sheikh with Arab leaders, and then again to come to Aqaba and give hopes to the Israelis and Palestinians to move forward. And as you rightly said, we did see progress.

Unfortunately, there is a lull at the moment. But again, your dedication to really reach out to the overwhelming majority of Israelis and Palestinians that have been suffering for so many years and put your heart behind making their future far more hopeful. And this is what I believe this weekend is all about. The President has always been committed to solving the problems of the Middle East. And I've seen, from personal experience, his outward dedication to make a hope for Israelis and Palestinians—equally so, your dedication and your desire for Iraqis to have a new dawn. And we're extremely appreciative of the time that you are spending with us over the weekend to see what we can do together to face the challenges ahead of us.

So a warm thanks from myself and my delegation for your dedication, your continued friendship, and really, your genuine desire to make life for all of us in the Middle East a much better place. Thank you very much.

President Bush. Thank you, sir. Thanks. Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press].

Reform of the Palestinian Authority

Q. Mr. President, you have refused to talk with Yasser Arafat. And Israel says that it's going to remove him. Yet, he is picking ministers for the new Prime Minister and is in virtual control of the Government. How are you going to deal with the Arafat situation in terms of Middle East peace? And is it possible to continue to go around him?

President Bush. Mr. Arafat has failed as a leader. And as I mentioned, Prime Minister Abbas was undermined at all turns by the old order—that meant Mr. Arafat. And the people of the Palestinian territory must understand if they want peace, they must have leadership who is absolutely 100 percent committed to fighting off terror. I believed Prime Minister Abbas when he told me at Sharm el-Sheikh, then at Aqaba, then in the Oval Office, he would do everything in his power to fight terror, that he would work to consolidate the security forces so that he could fight terror. And his efforts were undermined, and that's why we're now stalled. I'm still committed to peace, because I believe the vast majority of people want peace. I'm committed to the roadmap.

But I'll remind those who focus on the roadmap that the first thing the roadmap said was that there must be security in order for peace to advance, that there must be a collective effort to fight off terror. Mr. Arafat has failed in that efforts. And hopefully, at some point in time, a leadership of the Palestinian Authority will emerge which will then commit itself 100 percent to fighting off terror. And then we'll be able to consolidate the power necessary to fight off terror.

And when that happens, the world will come together to provide the conditions for hope. The world will come together to help an economy grow so that the Palestinian people can have a hopeful future. The first thing that must happen is an absolute condemnation and defeat of those forces who will kill innocent people in order to stop a peace process from going forward.

Your Majesty, do you want to call on somebody?

Terrorism and the Roadmap for Peace

Q. Your Majesty, the roadmap provides a monitoring system to ensure that Israelis and Palestinians are fulfilling their obligations, and the U.S. has its own envoy in the region to monitor the process. What about enforcing stricter monitoring mechanism involving the Quartet and the international community?

King Abdullah. Well, I think these are some of the issues that we can discuss. I think it's more important now to see how we can move the process back on track. I'm sure monitoring and other issues out there can be discussed at a later date. We're talking now about the principle of getting the movement forward again and Israelis and Palestinians engaging positively in the right direction.

President Bush. Let me remind—I gave a speech on June 24, 2002, which laid out a vision for how to achieve peace. And I said, "Everybody has got responsibilities." His Majesty has assumed his responsibility. He's a leader. He has stood up and said, "Look, we will work for a peaceful solution." Other leaders in the region must do the same. We must cut off money to terrorist organizations. We must work together. Israel has got responsibilities.

But let me remind you that it is very difficult to stay on a road to peace when there are terrorists bombing and killing people. And that's what must be stopped. In order for there to be a peace, we must stop terror, and it requires a collective effort. All people are responsible.

And the speech I gave on June 24th still stands as—at least the U.S. view—of how to achieve what we want, which is peace and a Palestinian state. I think a Palestinian state is one of the most hopeful things for a—for the Palestinian people and for the Israelis, for that matter.

But first things first, defeat those who want to stop this from happening. And make no mistake about it, the terrorists who are bombing and killing aren't interested in a peaceful Palestinian state. They don't share our mutual vision, a peaceful vision and a hopeful vision.

Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters].

European Support in Iraq

Q. Thank you. Do you think you can count on Europeans to provide financial contributions for Iraq? And what happens if they don't?

President Bush. Do I think that we can count on the Europeans to provide? Yes, I think we're getting help, and I would remind you that there is a—two multinational divisions led by—one led by Britain, one led by Poland—full of other European countries. And I—that's help. In terms of reconstruction, A, we're getting help, and—because Colin Powell will continue to ask for help.

One of the things I must do and will continue to do is make the case that a peaceful and secure Iraq is not only in the interests of the neighborhood—certainly in Jordan's interest that there be a nation that is peaceful and prosperous—but it's in Europe's interest as well, and the Americans' interest. You see, freedom in Iraq will change the nature of the neighborhood in a positive way. A free Iraq will mean this good man will have a partner in peace, somebody with whom he can work—to not only establish good trade but to work for additional peace. And it's in Europe's interest that that happen.

And so we will continue to make the case that reconstruction aid is necessary. And we'll also remind our European friends that we're making good progress there, that businesses are beginning to flourish; hospitals are open; pregnant women are receiving medicines; young children are getting vaccinated. I mean, there's case after case after case where life is improving for the average Iraqi citizen. And we would hope that they would participate in this momentum that is taking place on a daily basis.

It is—and I can't—we'll see. I will have a much better feel for attitude after next week. As you know, I'll be at the United Nations General Assembly. We'll be giving an address there Tuesday morning, and then we'll be meeting with a variety of world leaders. His Majesty and I, he will be giving me a report on what he knows. He's got pretty good antennae. He's well plugged-in, and he knows what's going on in the world, and he also is—he has got good friends in Europe and he will—part of our discussions will center on how best to broaden the coalition of participants.


U.N. Resolution on Iraq/Hurricane Isabel

Q. Do you expect you'll have a U.N. resolution by the time you get to New York?

President Bush. Probably not. We're still working it. The question was, will we have a U.N. resolution by the time I get to New York? No, I don't think so, but it could be. We'll continue to work it, though. And the whole purpose, of course, is to make sure that the nations feel—if they need a U.N. resolution, they'll have one, in order to justify participation.

And the other thing, of course, is that the U.N. resolution must promote an orderly transfer of sovereignty to what will be a freely elected government based upon a constitution. So in other words, we must have—the constitution must be written, and there will be free elections, and then sovereignty will occur once the Iraqi people are able to express their opinions. And so we'll be working on that as well.

Listen, thank you all for coming. We appreciate you all as well adjusting your schedules. I know this was supposed to take place at a different time, but we wanted to get this over with, so that you didn't have to float down the hill, if you know what I mean.

And by the way, we're very well prepared for Hurricane Isabel. I met this morning by SVTS—that's video conferencing—with Tom Ridge and John Gordon of the NSC staff, fully briefed on the path of the storm. I'm assured that the Homeland Security Department is in close contact with the States' emergency preparedness offices. We've got prepositioned equipment in place. Proper warnings have gone out, and the communications systems are up and running, so that when the storm hits, the response for the citizens will be an effective response. And we'll—of course, I'll be monitoring the situation. I'll be in close contact with the emergency management people.

All right, get going before it starts raining. Thank you all very much.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 10 a.m. In his remarks, he referred to former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. A reporter referred to Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Korei of the Palestinian Authority.

George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With King Abdullah II of Jordan at Camp David, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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