Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Department of State
96/01/09 Remarks: Middle East Peace process
Office of the Spokesman


                             U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
                              Office of the Spokesman

                           (En Route to Shannon, Ireland)
_____________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release                                 January 9, 1996



                             ON THE RECORD BRIEFING
                                      BY
                      SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
                         ON THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS



SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, this is my sixteenth trip to the Middle 
East and I always try to make each one a little different.  I thought 
the take-off was a little different today.  I hope that was enough 
excitement for the entire trip.

I thought I might just say a few words and take a few questions.  When 
we were here before, I guess it was the 17th of December that we came 
out, Prime Minister Peres said it would be a new beginning and indeed, I 
think it was a new beginning.  The talks at the Wye Plantation had a 
number of new and positive elements.

First, all the issues were on the table which was very significant.  In 
the past, we had been dealing with the issues sequentially.  Itís much 
more satisfactory to do it this way because it is possible for the 
parties to see the trade-offs and see the possible interaction of one 
aspect against another aspect.

Second, the atmosphere was much better than in the prior meetings 
between the parties - much less stiff, much less formal, much more 
congenial.  In the prior meetings in Washington, the generals were so 
formal.  They did not take meals together.  They simply had quite stiff 
sessions with each other, whereas, the atmosphere at the Wye Plantation 
was very conducive to friendly exchanges and when I went out there, I 
spent about four hours on Thursday night, I could see the relationships 
had warmed up and greatly improved and the parties had really begun to 
know each other and deal on a human basis which is always vital and 
helpful.  That led to what I might call another important factor and 
that was a problem solving approach to issues.  This time when a 
sticking point would arise, the parties - you could almost feel them try 
to resolve it together - whereas in the past, problems would arise and 
they would paralyze the parties and we would sometimes take weeks or 
months to work our way through problems that were not all that 
difficult.  This common sense of problem solving, I think, was highly 
desirable.

Finally, there was a highly pervasive feeling on how essential the 
United States is and will be.  Both the parties think that United States 
involvement is critical on many different aspects of the negotiations.  
They are very anxious to be reassured that President Clinton is 
committed to this track and I was able to give them the strongest 
assurance of that.  When asked whether I was prepared to devote the 
necessary time, I assured them that I was.  That was a major, major 
factor in it.

So I will be going back to meet with Peres and Asad, discussing with 
them the reports on the Wye Plantation they have received from Uri Savir 
and Walid Mualem prior to my meeting with them.  Iím sure they will want 
to hear our impressions and weíll discuss together the next steps.  When 
I left the region in December, I told them we would try to assess how 
these meetings had gone and they could assess them too, and then, we 
would consider what might be the next steps, always having in mind that 
we need to accelerate the pace.  Weíve come to a critical point in the 
negotiations where we need to coalesce on some on the main issues.  We 
need to bring them together and move forward at an intensified pace.  
One of the things that came out of the Wye Plantation was the desire on 
the part of both the parties to intensify their involvement and they 
want the United States to intensify its involvement in the endeavor.

I canít tell you very much until I have had the meetings in Jerusalem, 
Tel Aviv and Damascus which we are proceeding to very rapidly.  Nick can 
give you more of the details, but I expect to be meeting with Prime 
Minister Peres shortly after our arrival tomorrow morning, or is it this 
morning, Wednesday morning.  Iíll be glad to take some of your 
questions.  Yes, Barry.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, undoubtedly you will be meeting with Mr. 
Arafat.  Iím interested, please, in your analysis of Arafatís reaction 
to the assassination of the engineer - the terrorist - his public 
statements on the subject, his paying the condolence call on the family 
of the terrorist.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, from what Iíve seen - Chairman Arafat has 
a desire to go forward with the elections on schedule.  I tend to talk 
with him about the elections.  I called him in Paris, I believe it was 
yesterday, to tell him that I regretted that the snow conditions made it 
impossible for me to come out to Paris.  He said he had already seen on 
the television that we were snowed in.  He understood that.  He assured 
me that he would do everything he could to ensure that the elections 
were full and fair and that he expected a very strong turnout.  I think 
thatís the reaction that I regard as being the most important one.

QUESTION:  Yes, but Iím asking about something else.  Iím asking about 
his attack on Peres, his public statements.  His calling for jihad has 
been explained away in the past as the language of the street - the 
rhetoric that really doesnít exemplify his attitude.  I understand that 
you are pleased heís having elections.  Iím asking what his attack on 
Peres, his conciliatory attitude to an assassinated terrorist leader 
says to you about his commitment to peace.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Iím going to be reminding him, as every time 
Iíve been with him, about his commitment to bring an end to terrorism, 
not only in Gaza and Jericho, but the entire West Bank.  We believe he 
is making a strong effort to do so.  I donít know enough of the facts 
about that particular case.  We have nothing to comment on because I 
donít know enough of the facts.

QUESTION:  What would you like to see come out of this episode.  At what 
level would you like to see the negotiations continue?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I would just like to see an acceleration and 
intensification of the negotiations.  With respect to level, the key 
points there are whether or not the negotiators have the confidence of 
their leaders and whether they are operating effectively with the 
mandate of their leaders.  What I saw at the Wye Plantation and what I 
observed in watching both Peres and Uri Savir and Asad and Walid Mualem 
convinces me that on those tests we have very good negotiating partners.  
Now both of them have that, both Uri Savir and Mualem have the 
confidence of their leaders and they have a mandate.  So I would like to 
see come out of this a renewal, a strong mandate, an intensification and 
acceleration of the discussions.

QUESTION:  Would you like to see it bumped up to foreign ministers?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I donít have any reason to think thatís an 
indispensable next step.  I think these parties are negotiating very 
effectively and they meet the test for effective negotiators.  At some 
point of course, we hope to see the negotiations at a higher, and indeed 
the highest levels, but there is nothing new about that.

QUESTION:  Yes, could I ask a question about Mr. Primakov who has been 
appointed the new foreign minister of Russia.  Given Mr. Primakovís 
background would you expect from him the same level of cooperation that 
you got from Mr. Kozyrev in the past.

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, I did have a good, constructive 
relationship with Kozyrev.  I met with him many, many times and I think 
he represented his country very effectively.  Working together we were 
able to make progress on a number of areas - denuclearization, 
particularly with respect to Ukraine; the Middle East peace process; 
Bosnia - a whole raft of issues so I think he represented his country 
very well.  It was a pleasure to work with him.  Iíve never worked with 
Mr. Primakov.  I have met him a couple of times.  I would look forward 
to an early opportunity to meet with him.  Some people in our government 
know him better than I do.  Our job would be to carry out the foreign 
policy of President Clinton and President Yeltsin who have worked 
together well and who have sought reform in both economic and democratic 
terms.  I donít want to prejudge the situation.  Heís been chosen by 
President Yeltsin and I look forward to an early meeting with him and I 
look forward to working with him.

QUESTION:  Back to the Mid-East peace process - the Israelis have made 
it clear that at Wye they had hoped in the second round to get some 
answers from the Syrians.  They were a little disappointed that they 
didnít get anything and they are expecting some at this juncture.  Can 
you elaborate a little bit on it, what level, what kind of discussions, 
what kind of answers do you expect?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Robin, I think that takes me into the substance 
of the matter.  I donít think in the overall sense the Israelis were 
disappointed at the Wye Plantation.  On the contrary, I think that Uri 
Savir left there feeling they had had very positive and constructive 
meetings and he went back with a very favorable and positive report.  I 
believe he felt he had a very able and constructive negotiating partner.  
In the course of this trip, I hope to be able to carry back and forth 
some reactions from the two leaders in the form of answers.  But the Wye 
Plantation meetings accomplished what we hoped they would accomplish.  
Now the question is what are the next steps, where do we go from here.

QUESTION:  Can we expect anything more from this trip than an 
announcement that there will be resumed talks in Washington at the end 
of the month?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  I donít want to accept the premise of your 
question, Robin.  I donít go here with any preconception of what will 
come out of this trip.  What I do have is the strong hope that we can 
make rapid progress.  But at the same time, there are many difficult 
issues ahead.  There remain big gaps.  We need to have very substantive 
exchanges, but, my own judgement is that the parties are ready for that.  
Thanks very much and Iíll see you - yes, Steve.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, I just wanted to ask, if the negotiators are 
doing so well, and if they have such a strong mandate from their 
leaders, why does the United States have to go back and forth between 
these two leaders carrying messages?

SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Steve, in the history of these Middle East 
negotiations, the United States has been essential.  Where we are 
involved, thereís the possibility of progress, not always the assurance 
of progress.  If we cease our involvement the parties for some reason, 
for one reason or another, do not carry forward in the same way.  I 
state that, not only on my own authority, but on the .authority of the 
parties who very much want us to continue to be involved.  Their good 
relationship with each other does not take the place of the United 
States involvement.  I believe, and they assert, that our involvement is 
indispensable to the making of good progress.

Thanks.

To the top of this page