Condoleezza Rice in a briefing yesterday en route to Egypt:
QUESTION: . . . When we get to the Palestinian stage of things and you're talking about the conference or meeting that you want to hold later this year, how can you, at this point, discuss a two-state solution when one of those proposed two states is in two pieces?. . . .
SECRETARY RICE: . . . [Y]ou can imagine a negotiation for a two-state solution despite what happened in Gaza because you have legitimate Palestinian representation in President Abbas, who is president of all the Palestinians, who is the Chairman of the PLO which is the negotiating authority for the Palestinians, and so he can represent all Palestinians.
We would hope that at some point in time when there is a two-state solution that it would be a unifying force for all Palestinians who want statehood, and that's the time at which people will have to make a choice if they're outside of that consensus.
. . . I suspect that this is going to be the first of several trips to make sure that we implement the President's July 16th speech, which means both intensification of the bilateral dialogue between Abu Mazen and Prime Minister Olmert, and the convening of an international meeting later in the year.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Does that mean that you're saying a two-state solution could come before reunification of the two sides of the Palestinians?
SECRETARY RICE: A two-state solution can come whenever the conditions are ripe for it, whenever the groundwork has been laid for it, and when Palestinians and Israelis can come to agreement on what that state will look like.
I think you have in President Abbas and in the current leadership of the Palestinians people who are dedicated to that. Now, there is a lot of groundwork to be laid. Obviously, the work that Tony Blair is doing in helping to create the Palestinian partner by solidifying or helping to create strong Palestinian institutions is also a very important part of that. A security concept that would work is a very important part of that.
But as to the ability to get to a two-state solution, Abu Mazen has that mandate.
QUESTION: . . . [D]o you intend to invite or urge the Saudis to send a representative to your international meeting at which an Israeli will also be present?
SECRETARY RICE: Robin, I'm not here to issue invitations during this trip. No, seriously, seriously, this is - as I said, this is going to be the first of several opportunities to lay the groundwork for that international meeting. I, frankly, think we need to make - or the Palestinians and Israelis need to really intensify their bilateral track as we move toward an international meeting.