WASHINGTON – The full text of President Bush's statement on Israel and the Palestinians approving a U.S. plan to free Yasser Arafat from his West Bank headquarters:
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. I am pleased by today's developments in the Middle East and believe they'll prove to be important steps along the path to peace in the Middle East.
I commend the Israeli Cabinet for its decision this morning to allow Chairman Arafat to move freely, to accept international monitoring of six prisoners who are at Chairman Arafat's compound, and to withdraw its forces from Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority has agreed to accept this approach.
Many parties contributed to today's positive development. The United Kingdom played an especially important role in creating a framework for international monitoring of the six prisoners.
I've called on all parties to step up their responsibilities, and today's developments are a positive sign that they are doing so.
Much hard work remains, and this is a time for all of us to commit to fight terror and to promote peace in the Middle East. Chairman Arafat should now seize this opportunity to act decisively in word and in deed against terror directed at Israeli citizens. As we work to improve the security situation in the region, all of us must step up our efforts to bring humanitarian relief and economic assistance to the Palestinian people.
This morning I called Crown Prince Abdallah to thank him for his visit to the United States. Our discussions forged a personal bond of friendship and strengthened the 60-year relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince has offered a number of constructive ideas for making political progress between Israel and the Palestinians. We will continue to build on these ideas, as we move forward to fight terror and to promote peace in the Middle East.
I'll answer a couple of questions.
Q: Mr. President, on the Saudi peace plan, where are the points of objection that you've not been able to agree to?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they came with some constructive ideas and we listened very carefully to their ideas, and we will continue to work with them and others in the region to promote them. I believe that there is a lot of common ground, starting with all parties assuming responsibility, their responsibilities.
The Crown Prince clearly understood there is a responsibility for the Arab world. He also believes strongly that Chairman Arafat must step up, and believes that Israel should withdraw from the territories. And that is taking place now.
Q: Mr. President, is today's proposal that was accepted by Mr. Sharon and Mr. Arafat a model for lifting the siege in Bethlehem? And are you concerned that the Israelis have not allowed the U.N. monitors into Jenin yet?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on the Jenin issue, that's being worked out now at the U.N. And secondly, in terms of Bethlehem, I believe we're making good progress toward ending that part of the Israeli incursion, and hopefully it will get done soon.
But the big news, of course, is Ramallah. And Chairman Arafat is now free to move around and free to lead. And we expect him to do so.
Q: Mr. President, on that point, what would you expect to see from Chairman Arafat in the next 24, 48, 72 hours in terms of explicit demonstrations of his leadership?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, of course, one of the things that Chairman Arafat must do is condemn and thwart terrorist activities. It's important he do so.
Again, I keep saying this and it's so important for all of us involved in this process to recognize there are clear responsibilities. And his responsibility is just what I said — to renounce, to help detect and stop terrorist killings. Israelis have got responsibilities.
The key responsibility for the world at large is to help end the suffering of the Palestinian people through humanitarian and economic assistance. I am very serious about our government's involvement in a — in humanitarian relief.
I — my heart grieves for a people who have no hope, and there are a lot of people who have no hope in the Middle East. There are some Palestinians — a lot of Palestinians who wonder whether or not life is worth living. And we've got, as a world, have got to help them understand there is a positive life ahead for they and their children.
There is — people in Israel, of course, are deeply concerned about their security. And I can completely understand that. And therefore, all of us — Arab nation, Palestinians, United States, the EU must all continue our collective effort to fight terror.
There are clearly people in the Middle East who would use terror as a weapon to derail any peace process. And for there to be peace — something I long for, and something I know that Israel and the Palestinian people long for — in order for there to be peace, we must continue to rout out terror. And the message can't be more clear, and we're going to continue to hold people accountable for results.
Q: Did you invite Mr. Sharon to visit?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we did. Listen, I'm pleased anytime people want to come and visit. We've had the King of Morocco; we've had Crown Prince Abdallah, obviously. And when I talked to him on the phone this weekend, the subject didn't come up, but as I understand, that there is — discussions going on about a potential trip. I welcome a trip here to the United States. I welcome people from that part of the world to come and bear their soul and discuss their plans for peace.
The thing I always look for when I talk to the leaders is a vision for peace. It's impossible to achieve a peace unless there's a vision. And one of the things I appreciate about the Saudi initiative a while ago was it laid out a potential peace process, a plan for peace, a way to get to peace in the region, something we all long for.
Q: Are you ready to include Arafat in that open invitation? Are you ready now to include Arafat in that open invitation?
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Arafat must perform. Mr. Arafat must do his job. I've called upon Mr. Arafat in the past, I'll continue to call upon Mr. Arafat to lead. The other day — somebody asked me one time, a while ago, they said, has he disappointed you, has he lost your respect. I said, well, he hasn't earned my respect yet. He must earn my respect by leading. And there are a lot of people, a lot of Palestinians who are suffering, and now is the time for him to step up.
This has been a hopeful day for the region, and we must continue to press forward to peace. I want to thank you all.