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Third Party Peacekeeping Force Considered in Middle East

Aired June 16, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: First, the top story, the struggle for peace in the Middle East continued over the weekend and into today, despite last week's surge of deadly violence.
CNN's Wolf Blitzer is in Jerusalem to wrap up today's events.

Good evening, Wolf.


It rarely pays to be upbeat about the prospects for peace in this part of the world. But tonight there is a chance, just a chance, that the Israelis and Palestinians may be on the verge of a cease-fire.


BLITZER (voice-over): These are critical hours in the war between Israel and Hamas. At stake, more of this, mainly Palestinian suicide attacks, and Israeli air strikes, or this, a cease-fire and the start of peace negotiations.

Privately, Palestinian authority and Israeli government sources insist a cease-fire is doable. Publicly, neither side is budging, at least not yet.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Israel wants peace. The people of Israel live here peacefully. The people of Israel deserve quiet.

MAHMOUD ZAHAR, HAMAS SPOKESMAN: Up to this moment, we give no answer. We are going to discuss the study and to give our answer at the proper time.

BLITZER: The Israelis want an end to Palestinian terror attacks and the Palestinians want an end to Israel's targeted killings of Hamas leaders.

Israeli sources say they won't abandon assassinations if they get word of what they call a ticking bomb. Namely, intelligence indicating a terror attack is in the works.

In the middle, Egyptian mediators, trying to broker a deal that will set the stage for an end to these assassinations and an initial Israeli withdrawal from northern Gaza, with Palestinian authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' security services taking over responsibility. Also, in the middle, special U.S. Envoy John Wolf, who met with Israeli officials Monday and will do the same with the Palestinians Tuesday.

JOHN WOLF, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY: Our task is to work with -- work with the parties to try to realize the vision that President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas discussed and on which they committed at Aqaba.


BLITZER: And tonight both sides are speaking out about the possibility of introducing third party troops as possible peacekeepers between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The Palestinians say bring them in, whether NATO troops, U.N. troops, even U.S. troops. The Israelis say no way. They say they don't trust anyone but themselves to deal with the thorny issue, the deadly issue of terrorism -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wolf, Bush administration has been talking about helping Mahmoud Abbas rebuild Palestinian security forces. Is there any development on that front?

BLITZER: The U.S. is not only John Wolf, the special envoy, the assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation. Not only is he meeting -- he met with the Israelis today; tomorrow, he'll meet with the Palestinians -- but he brought with him about a dozen or so top CIA officials who have been deeply involved in trying to bridge some of the gaps between the Israelis and the Palestinian authority security services. In the past, they've served as monitors, as liaisons and the U.S. is ready to help the Palestinian authority bolster their security. They just have to get to the cease-fire before any of that can even get off the ground.

COOPER: All right, Wolf Blitzer, difficult thing to do. Thanks very much, Wolf.

There has been talk, as Wolf mentioned, that an outside force may be the answer for the Middle East, perhaps in the form of some type of international force which could include U.S. troops.

That could mean NATO, which Senator John Warner believes could bring some order to a disordered situation. Take a look at what he said.


SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: The presence of NATO, I think, at the invitation of both governments, would bring about some measure of greater stability so that the process is can go forward.


COOPER: Well, is this suggestion of NATO or another military force moving into the Middle East any kind of answer? Retired general George Joulwan, former supreme allied commander in Europe and former commander-in-chief of the U.S. European command, joins us now from Washington.

General, thanks for being with us. You believe an outside force is perhaps a possible solution to what is going on in the Middle East. Why?

GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET)., U.S. ARMY: Well, currently the best option is for both sides to agree to a cease-fire despite their differences and stop the violence.

However, if that doesn't work, I believe that some sort of international force should be planned for. We should start talking about it now.

COOPER: What would it look like, in your mind? I guess you're talking about not just American forces.

JOULWAN: Absolutely not just American forces. It should be a multinational force, an international force, NATO is a good example. Thirty-six nations, for example, made up the peace enforcement force that that went into Bosnia. And I think we need to look at that sort of force but with the clear command and control of NATO. It should not be the U.N., in my view. And we shouldn't call it right now a peacekeeping force, because they may need rules of engagement that are much different than that. So the planning needs to go on now. All the options need to be looked at.

COOPER: As you know, this is a minefield, both literally and in terms of politically. How would such a force avoid getting sucked into choosing sides in this conflict?

JOULWAN: Well, that's the clarity of mission that needs to be done here. What is it you want them to do. I think they have to be even-handed here.

Clearly, Israel has a right to exist as a nation. That should be up-front in what we're trying to do. But the force, if it goes in there, needs to have the rules of engagement to prevent the sort of suicide bombings that have been going on or the incursions into another territory.

In other words, the best option, in my opinion, would be in carrying out some peace agreement or some agreement that is made between the parties at the end of this road map. There has to be, I think, some force be able to make that a reality.

COOPER: How does that force stop -- prevent themselves from becoming targets of terrorism?

JOULWAN: Well, that's a very good question and very difficult. But if this engagement in what we're engaged in the Middle East is important to overall strategy for bringing peace and stability to not just the Israelis and the Palestinians but to that region as a whole, we're now committed tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of troops, then I think that has to happen here, that has to be included in a much more comprehensive settlement within the region itself.

And they need to have, Anderson, rules of engagement that allow them to take action to defend themselves and to carry out the mission that they're given.

COOPER: Well, at this point, as we both know, this is just hypothetical, really. As Wolf Blitzer was talking about, Palestinians seem to support this. Israeli government at this point says no way, not going happen. So we're just going to have to watch that.

General George Joulwan, thank you for joining us.

JOULWAN: Thank you.


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