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U.S. Department of State
96/01/10 Press Conference (with Israeli Prime Minister Peres)
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release January 10, 1996
PRESS CONFERENCE WITH
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER SHIMON PERES
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AFTER THEIR MEETING AT THE PRIME MINISTRY
January 10, 1995
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Ladies and gentlemen: To start with, I would
like to thank very much the Secretary of State for what appeared as
being a highly successful encounter between the Syrian delegation and
the Israeli delegation, with the participation of the peace team of
the United States at the Wye Plantation. Our feelings are very
positive about this meeting. We think it was an important start
between Syria and ourselves on a road that may lead to a
comprehensive peace in the Middle East -- to the end of all the wars
We didn't solve all of the problems, but we have initiated, all of
us, a new spirit where the two delegations did not exchange
conditions, but exchanged views, and where a serious attempt was done
by the three delegations, the one of the United States, and the Syrian
and the Israeli one, to look for a common ground upon which we can
conduct our negotiations. So with this start, but not with all
solutions in our hands, the Secretary intends to go on to Syria just
to have a consultation which I believe will also be a constructive
nature done in an exceedingly friendly and open way. And I want to
thank the Secretary for what took place and wish him a "bon voyage" to
the next destiny.
I would also like to extend the thanks of the Government of Israel to
President Clinton for following so closely and so intimately and so
positively the process of peace which may encrown(sic) already a long
way to change the conditions and the natures and the outlooks of the
Middle East. Mr. Secretary, I thank you very much.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you. It's always a
pleasure to return to Israel, even more so today when Washington is
buried under several feet of ice and snow. This is a very important
day here in Israel with the visit of King Hussein to Tel Aviv to
dedicate a hospital wing in honor of Itzhak Rabin which is a
reflection of the fact that peace between Israel and Jordan is not an
abstraction but a living reality. I really can't think of any better
tribute by King Hussein to his friend Itzhak Rabin than to travel here
to Israel and to honor him at a place, a hospital, whose sole purpose
is the saving of human life.
The Prime Minister and I have had an important, initial set of
discussions here in the early afternoon, the first of a series of
discussions that I will have over the next several days here and in
Damascus. While we touched on all aspects of the peace process,
including Palestinian aspects, certainly the focus of our discussion
was on the Syrian track. As the Prime Minister said, when I was here
in December, we have a new beginning and certainly the conference at
the Wye Center was a reflection of the fact that we have entered a new
stage in the negotiations, and as the Prime Minister has said, a
successful effort in that regard. There is now a much more meaningful
dialogue between the parties than there has been in the past with an
unmistakable effort on the part of the parties to find pragmatic
solutions to the many difficult problems that remain. Although there
are very serious gaps. I arrived here in a hopeful frame of mind. In
my meetings here and in Damascus we will be talking about the next
steps. But I want to emphasize that the overriding purpose of the
United States is to assist the parties and assist Israel in obtaining
a lasting and secure peace. Our objective is nothing less than to end
Israel's conflict, not just with Syria, but with all of her Arab
neighbors -- to develop a new framework of cooperation that extends to
this entire region.
The parties are counting on the United States to help achieve this goal
of a comprehensive peace, and I can assure you, Mr. Prime Minister,
that the United States is ready for that responsibility. President
Clinton and I are determined to do our part to carry out that
responsibility. We are going to intensify our efforts to do
everything we can to insure that Israel achieves peace with security.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Mr. Peres, with your permission a question in
Hebrew: The political establishment in Israel is awaiting results of
the shuttle trip of Secretary Christopher, to find out whether peace
is quite near and whether election will be held earlier. The question
is what is your impression of the visit, of this shuttle trip? And in
addition, do you believe that now, on the second stage of talks at the
Wye Plantation, they will discuss more substance, and not as we have
heard, of good atmosphere and exchange of ideas?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): First of all, a good atmosphere is a
part of the negotiation, because part of the situation in the Middle
East is also based on psychological feelings. Changing the mood is
also part of a changing situation. I think that the journey has taken
off at the Wye Plantation. I think that the Secretary's trip to
Damascus this time is a promising trip. I cannot tell you yet the
length of the road, and probably there will be obstacles on the road.
However, our impression is that President Asad, like us, the
government of Israel, together with our American friends, have decided
to do the utmost, not only to promote the negotiations, but also to
accelerate them. There are not too many months available. Elections
in Israel are due in October, when our mandate expires. Therefore,
without a very intensive effort, I doubt if we could succeed. We are
interested in a serious effort.
QUESTION: I have a question for both gentlemen: Mr. Christopher, are
you able to bring anything to Damascus that the Syrians have not
already heard in the discussions at the Wye Plantation; and secondly
for the Prime Minister, how many more rounds of negotiations do you
think you will need before you can keep your promise to the Israeli
people and go before the Knesset and explain the price Israel is
prepared to pay for peace?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Steve, on the question to me, I am going to have
to disappoint you by saying that it would disserve the function I try
to play here if I described what I might be able to bring to Damascus.
It is not that I am bringing nothing; it is simply, I am not able to
describe what I am going to bring because it would take me into the
substantative character of the negotiations. We are at a critical
moment in the negotiations and I think that my conversations in
Damascus will be important ones because of the progress that was made
and the opportunities that are presented because of the good sessions
at the Wye Plantation.
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Well, I said it already that peace is not an
instant coffee -- that you can't have it in one round. We have to
negotiate, and we shall negotiate, and when the time will come to make
such an announcement, I shall do it. (cross-talk)... I see you have
your doubts, maybe it's not so good for the news, but may I tell you
that we have had many rounds before we reached an Oslo Agreement, and
we have had many rounds before we had the Jordanian agreement, and
even more so before we have had an Egyptian agreement.
QUESTION: No, I mean, I obviously wasn't challenging your right to
decide the timing, I was just asking you to give us a better idea of
what it might be.
PRIME MINISTER PERES: It might be quiet an achievement.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you think that Israel and Syria have to get
now, decided now, a critical decision about Israel, about the deep
withdrawal from the high Golan and Syria about the ......since peace
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Certainly those are two important elements of
the negotiation. As we've said many times, there are four legs to
this, and they are quiet broad in their compass. The nature and scope
of the withdrawal is a very important aspect of it. And the nature
and scope of peace is also a vital aspect of the negotiations. So
both of those play -- will play -- decisive roles, and that's exactly
what the negotiation is all about.
QUESTION: Mr. Christopher, I was -- I understand that the Syrians come
to the negotiations was encouraging to the Israelis and the Americans.
Since then, has Syria made any moves that perhaps you could share with
us that have indicated Syria is, as some Israelis call it, "a real
partner in peace?"
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The attitude of the Syrian negotiators at the
Wye Plantation gave me a very strong confidence in their seriousness.
First, everything was on the table in the Wye Plantation for the first
time. The Syrian negotiator is one in whom I feel that President Asad
has full confidence, and he was given a broad mandate, so that was a
very positive factor. With everything on the table it was possible for
the parties to begin to explore trade-offs between various issues.
There was also, I think, a positive factor that there is a greater
realization than ever before that the parties will have to intensify
the dialogue. They'll have to accelerate the process if they are to
succeed given the time-table that we all face. So those are the more
positive things that I found. It is, I think, fair to say that those
are in response to Prime Minister Peres's statements here in Israel
and the attitude that he has taken toward the negotiations. President
Asad seems to have responded to the statements that Prime Minister
Peres has made giving us a new atmosphere and a new beginning.
QUESTION: You mentioned a time-table -- just as a follow-up -- and also
trade-offs. I know that Israel has already said it would withdraw at
least from most of the Golan Heights. As a trade-off for (has) Syria,
perhaps, given an indication what it would give in return. And also,
what kind of time-table were you referring to?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: With respect to the trade-offs, of course they
involve all of the aspects of the four legs in the negotiation: the
nature of peace; the process toward peace; the comprehensiveness of
the endeavor; what will naturally flow from it. It has an economic
dimension as well. So it's a very complex process in which there are
many interactive elements. The time-table I was referring to is
simply that 1996 has its electoral time-table that inevitably affects
the negotiations here, and anyone can simply see by looking at the
calendar that there will be a required intensification of the process
and acceleration of the process if it's to be completed in light of
the electoral calendar.
QUESTION: I would like to ask the Secretary if you are ready to submit
your own proposals in order to bridge the gaps between Israel and Syria.
And I would like to ask the Prime Minister one question in Hebrew (in
Hebrew*): Sir, you have indicated the month of October is the election
date. Is this the final date?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): Legally, elections should be held on
October 29. This is normal in the country.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): I am trying to figure out whether election will
not be held earlier, in light of all we are hearing?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): I have already expressed my opinion,
that I would rather keep the date according to the law, and unless
unexpected events take place, I hope that's what is going to happen.
May I say also in English, if it is possible from our point of view, to
have a complete and full agreement, before our mandate will expire as a
government, which will be by law on the 29th of October, 1996, we shall
welcome it. That is our desire.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: With respect to the question that you asked me,
let me emphasize that it really is for the parties to reach agreement.
We want to facilitate the efforts of the parties. As we move down
this process, the United States asks questions, sometimes presents
alternatives, but I would say certainly the time has not yet arrived
where the United States puts forward a proposal of its own. And I
think that the healthier way will be for the parties to move forward
in this process with our facilitating it in the way that is most
helpful to the parties. We don't intend to try to arrogate to
ourselves any decision making in this. We want to be helpful to the
parties -- assist them. They have indicated that the United States
plays an important role here and will continue to try to play that
role, but in the way that's most helpful to them, and at their
suggestion, and at their indications.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, do you hope at the end of Secretary
Christopher's shuttle from Damascus that he will come back with an
agreement for talks to move to the Foreign Minister level between
Foreign Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Shar'a, particularly since
Foreign Minister Barak is going to be in Washington the week of the
21st. And I have a related follow-up.
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Well, I don't think that we can schedule all the
shuttling in between our two countries because it depends very much upon
the nature of the replies or the nature of the problems that may be
arised (sic) in those meetings. I believe that the right way to do it
is to keep it open-ended from one meeting to another, and after each
meeting to summarize and see where are we, what is the balance, and
what should the next step.
QUESTION: The follow-up -- there's a lot of publicity recently over
King Hussein's visit today in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Tiberias as
we'll see later on. Does this show the warmth of King Hussein's
visit. Does this show President Asad perhaps what he is missing out
on in not having peace with Israel?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: We never make comparisons between kings and
presidents (laughter), so, we shall keep due respect for each other.
Thank you very much.
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