Powell: U.S. opposes one state solution
By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and News Agencies
United States Secretary of States Colin Powell said Thursday that he opposes a one state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that the United States remains committed to the two state solution, in which an independent Palestinian state will border Israel.
Powell, speaking at a State Department press conference, expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said earlier on Thursday that Palestinians would pursue a bi-national state and demand the same rights as Israelis if Israel carried out its threat to absorb chunks of the West Bank.
Asked if Qureia's one-state idea was viable, Powell said: "No. We're committed to a two-state solution. I believe that's the only solution that will work: a state for the Palestinian people called Palestine and a Jewish state, state of Israel."
"I don't believe that we can accept a situation that results in anything that one might characterize as apartheid or Bantuism," he added.
"Mr. Sharon ... is looking for reliable partners he can work with and his plans that he has spent some time presenting recently suggest what he feels he might have to do if he doesn't have a reliable partner," Powell said. "What we are trying to do is to get that reliable partner to stand up and start acting."
Powell said he hoped Assistant Secretary of State William Burns, "can build a little momentum to get a little more pressure from Egyptians and others to place on the Palestinian Authority."
"They've got to get going and they have got to wrest authority away from (Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser) Arafat that will allow (Qureia) to start taking action with respect to terror and violence," he added.
Qureia's comments, in an interview with Reuters, underscored the Palestinians' sense of desperation in the face of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unilateral plan to impose a boundary stripping them of some land they want for a state if peacemaking stays frozen.
But the bi-national scenario also underlies growing Israeli concern that unless they separate from the Palestinians, Israel could end up ruling an area from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean in which Jews would soon be a minority.
Qureia said Sharon's unilateralism, including a vast barrier Israel is building in the West Bank, could prompt Palestinians to abandon efforts for a two-state solution to the conflict.
"This is an apartheid solution to put the Palestinians in cantons. Who can accept this?" he said in an interview in his office in the West Bank town of Abu Dis near Jerusalem.
"We will go for a one-state solution...There's no other solution. We will not hesitate to defend the rights of our people when we feel the very serious intention (of Israel) to destroy these rights."
But Palestinian officials say that calling for a bi-national state would be used only as a last resort since it would mean dropping longstanding aspirations for a state of their own.
Showing maps of the barrier, Qureia said it was an attempt to "put Palestinians like chickens in cages."
"The wall is to unilaterally mark the borders, this is the intention behind the wall ... It will kill the road map and kill the two-state vision," he said.
Israel says the barrier is a security line, not a political border, and that it has already foiled many suicide bombings.
Qureia, a moderate and former peace negotiator who took power in November, has faced heavy pressure from the United States and Israel to crack down on militants as required by the road map, which has stalled amid violence.
He has failed so far to coax militant groups into resuming a cease-fire that collapsed in August and has blamed Israel for provoking more violence with army raids and missile strikes.
Qureia said he would not meet Sharon until he was assured it would yield progress toward restarting the road map. "If we go out from the meeting without results, the frustration will prevail more and more and it will be a catastrophe."
EU, Palestinians to debate 'failing' peace process
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana is to meet with Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath at the EU head office Friday to discuss the "failing" Mideast peace process.
Solana said in Dublin on Thursday the international community's peace efforts were fading fast. "We have to recognize that we are failing at the moment," Solana told Ireland's National Forum on Europe, an all-party forum that aims to stimulate a debate about European integration issues. "I don't see any motion," he told reporters later.
On a trip through Europe this week, Sha'ath is urging the EU to assume a
greater role in the peace process fearful of a void in international diplomacy as U.S. President George W. Bush prepares to seek a second term in office in 2004.
EU officials said Solana will have dinner with Sha'ath at the EU head office Friday night.
Sha'ath wants the EU to help enforce a cease-fire between Palestinians and Israelis, block Israel's building of a security fence and deploy international observers on the ground.
The EU, the United States, Russia and the United Nations are pushing the phased "road map" peace plan without much success.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has been trying unsuccessfully to get Palestinian militants to agree to end attacks against Israel, hoping to leverage that accord into a cease-fire deal with Israel that could lead to new peace moves.