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U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


Office of the Spokesman

(Washington, DC)

For Immediate Release October 1, 1996







MR. BURNS: Let me just tell you what is happening in these talks from our perspective.

First, as you know, the Secretary, after the conclusion of the White House meetings this morning in which the President participated, had a lunch at Blair House for Prime Minister Kabariti and Foreign Minister David Levy, and the Palestinian representative in Washington, Mr. Hassan Abdel Rahman. That lunch lasted for about an hour and a half. They had a good, long discussion about the concerns that each of these delegations bring to the table here in Washington.

Following that, there was also some discussion of some ideas put on the table by the United States -- ways that some of these differences could be bridged.

The Secretary then returned to the Department. During that time, as you know, as Mike McCurry has told you, the two leaders were meeting one-on-one -- Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. That meeting has ended.

Secretary Christopher has now returned to Blair House, where I'm going immediately, and he'll be conferring with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. I don't know if it will be separately or together. We'll just have to find out when we get over there. That would be to follow up on their meeting and, I think, to establish a series of contacts this evening.

Ambassador Dennis Ross has been conferring with the Israeli and Palestinian and Jordanian delegations on some of the specific issues in play here to see if the differences can be bridged.

So it is a very fluid summit, as you can see. We're taking it one step at a time. I think the action, at least right now, is going to shift a little bit to Blair House. I'll be going over there. When I have something to say on behalf of Secretary Christopher, in the next hour or two or three, or four, I will do so.

I understand that many of you are on deadline, and I'm very sympathetic to that. You had a very good briefing by Mike McCurry. I'd rely heavily on that briefing which characterized the meetings this morning.

Obviously, we're not in a position to comment on the meeting that's just taken place between the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat because they were the only ones in the room with the addition of an interpreter. We'll obviously get an idea in the Secretary's conversations with them as to what happened in those meetings. I'll be available to talk to you at some point after that, probably out on the sidewalk in front of Blair House.

QUESTION: Nick, there's word from other quarters that, in fact, there were two people in the room. I don't know if the second persons were acting as interpreters or not, but a senior aide to Prime Minister Netanyahu and a senior aide to Yasser Arafat.

MR. BURNS: My understanding was, it was a one-on-one for the most part. That's a question you might direct back to the White House because, obviously, they would be in a position to know that.

QUESTION: How long did they meet one-on-one?

MR. BURNS: Again, I think it was several hours. Again, I'll have to ask the White House people. I was at Blair House and here, so I'm just not in a position to know.

QUESTION: Were the American ideas in the form of -- I'm sorry, George, go ahead.

QUESTION: Could you elaborate on the new ideas that you cited?

MR. BURNS: These are just ideas that the United States, of course, is putting forward in order to try to be helpful, to bridge differences. I wouldn't accentuate the new. They're ideas that we hope can be helpful.

QUESTION: Are they in the form of a statement?

MR. BURNS: Are they in the form of a statement? I think the President said this morning that by mid-day or early afternoon tomorrow we hope to something to say. I can't anticipate the form of that yet.

Obviously, we'd like to have something to say by the end of this summit.

QUESTION: You're talking about a declaration of some kind?

MR. BURNS: We'll see. We'll just have to see what happens. Obviously not knowing what took place in the key meeting of today, which was the one-on-one meeting between the Prime Minister and Chairman Arafat, not knowing what happened in that meeting, what they discussed, what their plans are, we don't want to create conditions for them that they have to meet.

There's something very important about a one-on-one meeting. It means that they are in control of this summit, and they should be in control of this summit. They're the principals here. They're the ones who have to make the decisions to bring Israel and the Palestinians back onto a track where they're negotiating together.

At this point, I'm just not in a position to tell you where we're going specifically and what kind of results we'll have tomorrow because the Secretary of State doesn't have a readout yet, or is just now beginning to get a readout from the two participants on what happened.

QUESTION: One more. Was the discussion on the Foreign Ministers today a comprehensive one, touching all the known and --

MR. BURNS: It's a fairly comprehensive discussion. The pattern was this: Secretary Christopher asked each of the delegation heads to, in effect, speak in specific terms about the concerns they were bringing to this summit -- on the major issues that are separating Israel and the Palestinians.

As I said, the Secretary gave the U.S. perspective and discussed some options that are available to all of them as ways to bridge some of these differences. So that's what happened at the lunch. There was a very long, detailed discussion about this, about how to get the peace process started again; how to jump start it; how to get the situation turned from the street back to the negotiating table.

As you know, our objectives coming in here were fairly simple and fairly plain. They were to convince the Israelis and Palestinians -- at least, provide them a venue -- to start talking, to discuss substantively their differences and the way forward and to try to put an end to the violence.

We'll have to see tomorrow if they've been successful in accomplishing those objectives. But Secretary Christopher believes, based on his initial meetings today, that the tone is cooperative, that they're off to a good start, but he doesn't minimize the challenges ahead of us tonight or tomorrow morning or into the afternoon.

QUESTION: Nick, without blaming the substance, which I know you won't do, would you say that the two sides have shown some flexibility, some willingness to compromise?

MR. BURNS: It's hard to give a snapshot of these negotiations because there are three people in Washington who are familiar with the most important meeting that took place today -- Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Arafat, and an interpreter. Until we get a better sense of what transpired in that meeting, I'd rather not try to characterize where we are at nearly 5:45 p.m.

QUESTION: Using that bicycle metaphor that the Secretary used yesterday, is it still on two wheels? Is it moving forward? What's happening to that old "peace process bike"?

MR. BURNS: Not to mix metaphors -- I won't. The Secretary said that the peace process was at a critical stage yesterday. That is our view. Until something positive and something specific and something solid can happen, that has to be our view. That has motivated us to call this summit here. So we'll just have to be a little bit patient and see where the situation leads us this evening.

Again, I think I need to head over to Blair House. I will be available over there to talk to you this evening, as soon as I've got something to say.

Yes, Bob.

QUESTION: To close it up, without getting into the substance, were there any assurances given before the meeting? Anything that had to happen before these two would sit down in the room together?

MR. BURNS: No. There were no preconditions, no agreements, no pre-ordained results that were agreed upon before this meeting. They both came understanding that they had to create a dynamic to make progress here in Washington.

QUESTION: Nick, do you know if the Secretary has plans to meet with Arafat?

MR. BURNS: I think the Secretary intends to talk to both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu, if he can do that. I want to get over to Blair House to see for myself and then to report to you directly.

QUESTION: Netanyahu, we're told, is at Blair House now. Is that correct?

MR. BURNS: Yes, that's right.

QUESTION: Is Arafat?

MR. BURNS: I don't know. So, we'll just have to see what happens.


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