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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

                              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 
with   Israel.

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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