Analysis: Powell's fruitless mission

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 19 Apr 2002 12:44:47 +0100

US Secretary of State Colin Powell did not get what he wanted from
either the Israelis or the Palestinians. 

President Bush had called for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops
from Palestinian towns. 

Mr Powell acknowledged at his final news conference in Jerusalem that
that did not happen. 

 Colin Powell
Colin Powell says Mr Arafat should use his 'powerful voice'

Instead, he is taking Ariel Sharon at his word that the Israeli
operation will be concluded within the next week or so. 

Even then, Mr Powell seemed to exempt the Israeli sieges of the Church
of the Nativity in Bethlehem and of Yasser Arafat's headquarters in
Ramallah - there were special circumstances in those cases, he said. 

The Israelis are determined to get their hands on particular Palestinian
suspects they say are hiding out in the two places. 

After meeting Mr Powell for the second time, Mr Arafat expressed rage at
his personal confinement, at his inability to go outside the door. He
evidently refused to give the American secretary of state the commitment
he required to halt all Palestinian violence. 

So Mr Powell was left repeating the demand that Mr Arafat stop
equivocating, tell his people that terrorism must end and take action to
arrest and prosecute terrorists. 

Little to offer 

Given the desperate straits to which the Palestinian Authority has been
reduced by Israeli action, the Arabs are likely to greet this call with
a hollow laugh. But Mr Powell said Mr Arafat still had a powerful voice
and he should use it. 

Mr Powell had little to offer on the positive side. He said the United
States was increasing its aid to the Palestinians, and he directed at
Israel a statement that international agencies must have access to
Palestinian areas to do their job. 

He said nothing specific about the destruction wrought in Jenin refugee
camp by the Israeli army. 

Perhaps more significantly, Mr Powell said the US would resume security
talks with the Palestinians and draw up ways of measuring their

 Jenin medics
Bodies are still being brought out of the ruins of Jenin

He said various American officials would be continuing the efforts,
pending his own return at some unspecified time. 

William Burns would stay in the region; another envoy, Anthony Zinni,
would be going back there; and President Bush was prepared to send the
Director of the CIA, George Tenet, as well. 

Up to now these officials have been unsuccessful, and there is no
indication of a significant change in Washington's approach. 

The most one can say is that Mr Powell is signalling an American
commitment to go on trying. 


The secretary of state stressed that the strategy must include serious
and accelerated political negotiations. 

There is one new idea for getting them started. 

Mr Powell has cautiously adopted the proposal for a regional Middle East
peace conference put forward by Ariel Sharon, to involve several Arab
countries as well as Israel. He said he would be discussing the idea
with President Bush when he got home. 


The Arabs have greeted Mr Sharon's suggestion with derision 

The Arabs generally have greeted Mr Sharon's suggestion with derision.
The Secretary-General of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, told the BBC it
was not a serious offer and he did not think anybody would agree to it. 

The Palestinians interpreted the move as a diversion, an attempt to
sideline them and Yasser Arafat. 

But in a marginal gain for the Americans, Mr Sharon apparently dropped
his insistence that Mr Arafat could not take part in the conference. 

One telling point - Mr Powell ended his closing public statement in
Jerusalem by posing a series of questions for the various parties to

*       Whether the Israeli people and their leaders should look beyond
settlement and occupation 


*       Whether the Palestinians could renounce violence and terrorism
for ever and set their sights squarely on peace through negotiation 


*       Whether Arab leaders could translate the recent initiative of
Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia into reality.

As for Mr Powell's Middle East mission itself, it did not answer any
questions at all.

Source: BBC online


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