FOREIGN SECRETARY: In the second session of the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting it has been our very great pleasure to hear from Jim Wolfensohn, former President of the World Bank, and now the Quartet's Special Envoy on the Middle East, and also from General Ward who has been appointed by the United States' President Bush to lead on Security and works with Jim.
I have now been Foreign Secretary for the United Kingdom for more than 4
years. For much of that period the issue of the Middle East, I am sad
to say, has been dealt with at the level of rhetoric. We have moved on
a big step in recent months because we are now focussing on some
practical realities - great opportunities but also potential
difficulties as well - and the focus is on the Gaza withdrawal following
the courageous decision by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli
Government to withdraw from Gaza to ensure that that withdrawal is the
first stage in the building of a viable and separate State of Palestine
living alongside a secure State of Israel. General Ward and Jim are in
the front line of that. We endorsed all their work, we have welcomed
the Quartet's statements which they issued earlier today. Over to you
Thank you very much. I can add simply that the Israelis and the
Palestinians are now very much engaged on very practical aspects of the
withdrawal, dealing with the crossing points to Gaza and the West Bank,
the linkage between the Palestinian territories, the outside world,
Israel and the linkage between Gaza and the West Bank. They are also
looking to improve mobility within the areas and I am very happy to say
that joint activities between the Israelis and the Palestinians are now
Of course there are no final decisions yet but movement is very clear.
We have moved from trying to set an agenda to trying to deal with the
real issues and while there are bumps in the road I have to say that I
am infinitely more optimistic today than I was two weeks ago. We know
that it is a difficult period ahead. I was grateful today to get the
full endorsement of the G8 for the forward plans that we have to try and
balance what is essential, the hope and the economic and social
viability for the Palestinians, a chance for them to look forward
finally with a sense of optimism, with the other balance that is needed,
which is security for Israel. Everything we are doing is trying to
balance the security and the optimism and aspect, and I think we are
making real progress.
Mr Straw, what do you think of Israel's decision to resume its policy of
targeted killing against Palestinian militants? And does Britain plan
to hold any more meetings with Hamas?
FOREIGN SECRETARY: Our position on targeted killings is that any action by any government has to take place within international as well as national legal obligations. What however we want to see is a decision by all the rejectionist terrorist groups not to take part in any more violence because let us be clear and this is the view of the Palestinian Authority let us be clear that it is a continuation of violent terror by groups operating from within the Occupied Territories from within Israel and from within the wider region that has the greatest potential to disrupt and undermine and abort this very important chance to create the beginnings of a separate and viable State of Palestine.
Mr Wolfensohn how worried are you that the withdrawal from Gaza will be
beset by violence and specifically what ideas did you bring to the table
today. What were you asking the G8 to do?
Well I unfortunately cannot control the events that will happen during
the withdrawal and I suppose there is always the possibility of
violence. But my impression is that both sides would like to see a
peaceful withdrawal. There is no percentage for either side in having a
disrupted withdrawal. What I think is in the interests of the
Palestinians is to see the withdrawal take place, and what is in the
interests of the Israelis is to see it take place peacefully. It
already has internal difficulties within Israel, so the logic would
suggest that it should be a peaceful withdrawal. But this is not a very
logical part of the world, so I cannot really promise you what is going
Mr Straw I would like comments from you regarding the latest development
in the Lebanon and the assassination of George Hawi and on
Iran, is it true that the Foreign Office has changed its policy towards
FOREIGN SECRETARY: On the late assassination I completely condemn that and those behind this series of assassinations and since we know that Syria continues to exercise a great deal of influence within Lebanon we look to the Syrian Government to do all that it can to ensure that those who are committing these outrageous assassinations stop and finish.
On Iran, no there has been no change in our approach to the Government
of Iran nor to the nuclear dossier.
Mr Straw, at the same time when Israel is disengaging from Gaza, there
are plans to demolish up to 100 Palestinian homes to build a national
park. What is your official position on that? And a question for Mr
Wolfensohn, is there a specific economic package that you are proposing
in terms of numbers, actual cash to help the Gazans?
On the proposals...I think you are talking about Jerusalem...to demolish
88 Palestinian homes, we are opposed to that. We do not regard it as
remotely justifiable. We have made protests about it. My understanding
as of Tuesday of this week is that the Government of Israel and the
Municipality of Jerusalem have decided not to proceed with those plans.
I hope that that is the case.
And on the financial issues, I am working with the G8 currently to
assess two particular phases. One is the phase during and immediately
after the disengagement, what one can do immediately to deal with the
needs of the Palestinian people involving infrastructure, housing, jobs,
and give some hope immediately and the other is for a three-year
programme that can allow for a longer term creation of the institutions
of the state and the three-year outlook. We do not yet have numbers,
but I did get evidence of support today that my approach was correct and
I hope in the next few weeks to come up with numbers.
Foreign Secretary, are you engaged currently in any contacts with
Hamas? And secondly there is much talk of the Israeli disengagement
plan. Can we assume that the roadmap has been abandoned?
The answer to your first question is no we are not. The answer to your
second question is also no, that far from assuming that the roadmap has
been abandoned, the roadmap is alive, it is there and so is the Quartet
which was the parent of the roadmap, and what we are all seeking to do
is to ensure that the withdrawal from Gaza and from those four
settlements in the North and West Bank is a first step on the way back
to the roadmap which is there for one purpose only to make a reality
out of the policy of the whole of the international community that there
should be these two states, a secure State of Israel living alongside a
separate and viable and secure State of Palestine.