FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Palestinians Invite the U.S. to Facilitate Democratic Elections in Palestinian Territories
Washington, D.C. 24 June 2004 The Palestinian Authority has called on the United States to work with them to prepare for elections at all levels, including presidential elections, Palestinian Minister of Negotiations Saeb Erekat said on Thursday, adding that the Palestinians would be ready to cast their votes within six months.
Erekat told reporters during a press briefing at the DC-based Palestine Center that during a 23 June 2004 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell he invited the U.S. to “begin with the Palestinians the process of democratization, human rights, accountability, and the rule of law.” He informed Powell that the Palestinians were ready to be part of the Greater Middle East Initiative proposed by the Bush Administration.
The Bush Administration has constantly called on Palestinians to elect new leaders. Powell made no commitments to Erekat. He did however stress that the U.S. wants the Palestinians to carry out their security obligations.
Erekat said the elections would be “open, free and fair” and that true democracy does not disqualify people. “We hope that no one will start tutoring us in the democracy of exclusion,” Erekat said. He stressed that Palestinians want to hold elections to satisfy themselves and not to impress others and asked the international community to respect whatever choice the Palestinian people make.
Erekat said the Palestinians want presidential, legislative, and municipal elections to be held as soon as possible. Some Palestinian officials have suggested that municipal elections could be held by September 23. Plans are to have the first election in the small desert town of Jericho where the Palestinian security apparatus has not been damaged by Israeli incursions. The Palestinians want international observers to take part in the election to ensure fairness.
However, conditions conducive to holding elections must be created. Erekat said he has proposed to Israel that the two sides create a joint committee to lay down election ground rules for both sides.
According to Erekat this is essential for the success of the elections. He explained that if Israel-under the pretext of security-arrests a candidate on election day or during a campaign, the entire process will come to a halt.
Erekat also urged the U.S. to help Egypt in its efforts on the Gaza disengagement plan. He noted that Egypt was responding to a request by the Palestinian Authority for assistance, as was Jordan. He asked Powell for U.S involvement to “stop Israel from creating facts on the ground” through settlements and the construction of the Wall.
Egypt will help re-train and re-equip Palestinian security forces. Erekat said Jordan will also assist in training and infrastructure. No Jordanian or Egyptian troops will patrol Palestinian territory.
For more information contact: Samar Assad 202.338.1290