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U.S. Department of State
96/02/05 Remarks with Prime Minister Peres following meeting
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release February 5, 1996
REMARKS BY PRIME MINISTER SHIMON PERES
AND SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
FOLLOWING THEIR MEETING
February 5, 1996
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome the
Secretary of State and his team, Mr. Warren Christopher, upon his visit
right now to Israel, and I understand he will continue his way to
Damascus. May I remind you that the Secretary has been here in the
middle of December, on the 15th of December. As a result of his visit
here the first meeting in the Wye Plantation started on the 26th, that
was eleven days after this visit. Then he paid another visit on the
11th of January, and again the second meeting in the Wye Plantation
started on the 21st of January. So it means on the two occasions he
really has opened the road for the Wye Plantation meetings. On the
Israeli part, may I say that we are very much satisfied with the
meetings at the Wye Plantation. Not that we have agreed on all the
points, but we have agreed on how to start the negotiations, in a right
air, in a climate that permits both sides to throw in ideas, check them,
try to look for new ways, for new answers.
We know that we are handling a very difficult dispute, a conflict. But
there are some understandings that have created a common denominator for
the continuation of the negotiations. To the otherwise agenda that was
known before the Wye Plantation meetings, the following points were
added: agreement to use the negotiations with Syria and Lebanon to bring
an end to the wars in the Middle East, to make it comprehensive,
something I believe is important to all the parties. Secondly, we went
much deeper into the economic foundations which are necessary for the
support of peace and for making peace durable and meaningful to all the
people. We started a very serious discussion on normalization and a
beginning on the security arrangements. It's quite a wide scope. And
may I say that as one who has a little bit of experience in
negotiations, I remember all the beginnings of all the negotiations. We
never arrived at the full agreement at the first stage. It was always a
chain of overcoming hurdles and difficulties. But this time, I think,
we started at least in an agreeable manner to negotiate, and I feel that
today the situation is no longer the one that used to be before the
We know that the Secretary is taking all the troubles in the world to
continue his road to Damascus. From our standpoint, his coming now,
and being here and in Damascus is really to prepare and look for the
continuation of the negotiations -- whether it will be in a sort of a
Wye Plantation, or somewhere else, or somewhere different. But it's
like cutting one mountain, then another mountain, then another mountain,
to make the road open for the continuation of the negotiations. We on
our side, are still very much interested to see if we can make peace
with Syria and Lebanon even in this year. And no matter what will
happen in the country, we intend to continue the negotiations without
I personally feel obliged to the great work that the Secretary was doing
together with the support and guidance of the President and with that
team that goes with him. We think it's a highly responsible, so
difficult, undertaking. And it's being done with great dignity and
devotion. I am very grateful for it, and thank you very much.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much. I'm
always glad to return to Israel, particularly on a beautiful day like
this. I've just come, as you know, from the Balkans. In Sarajevo I
witnessed the devastation and human suffering that can be caused by war.
Here, I see the tremendous promise and the tremendous step forward that
can be done in the context of peace. As the Prime Minister has said, I
have been traveling regularly to this region. But just in the few weeks
that have transpired since I have been here, there have been a number of
important steps taken. There have been the first steps in normalization
between Tunisia and Israel with the agreement to open interest sections.
There have been steps toward normalization between Oman and Israel.
There's been the elections of the Palestinians in the West Bank and
Gaza, laying the foundations for their own functioning efforts there.
And, as the Prime Minister has said, there's been another round of talks
at the Wye Plantation. I went there twice, and in the last round of
talks I spent two interesting evenings there, and I can say that from my
standpoint, the negotiations are qualitatively different than they were
in the past. A meaningful dialogue has now been established between the
parties, and they are now discussing a whole range of issues openly and
candidly with the ability to exchange ideas with an openness and candor
that has not been present before. Neither side of course, is prepared
to compromise anything that it regards as essential, but they are
building bridges to overcome their differences. They are exploring ways
to reconcile their needs.
I am convinced that Israel and Syria are now laying the foundation,
laying the groundwork, for the peace treaty which we all hope will come.
They have deepened their understanding in this very last round of each
other's security needs. They have deepened their understanding as to
what is necessary for normalization. They began addressing ways to meet
each other's security needs which, of course, lie at the foundation of
these discussions. Clearly much work remains to be done, but I would
say there is no doubt that in these negotiations, and especially with
the acceleration of the Wye Plantation, we have come a long way; come a
long way toward the historic peace between Israel and Syria -- a peace
with dignity and with security. That's what President Clinton has
directed me to try to help achieve, and that certainly is what the
people of Israel deserve.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, if indeed elections are going to be
advanced, would it be proper or right to give the Israeli people before
they vote a solid idea of the territorial compromises your government
evidently is ready to make in exchange for recognition, instead of
waiting till after the election, when of course, there has been an
election already and they can't quote on it?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: In my judgment, they gave it before the previous
elections. They said that we are ready to make a territorial
compromise. We think that's a wide enough definition. I don't think
that we have to start to negotiate it ourselves. We may succeed in it.
What we need is an intermission, or a mandate to negotiate with the
Syrians, in order really to bring an end to the war. In a very wide
definition, we shall ask for a mandate to continue our negotiations.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Mr. Prime Minister, there are some people in
Israel, among them for instance Minister Yossi Beilin, who think that
advancing the elections will stop the negotiations with Syria for an
entire year. Are you worried about this?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): I haven't heard that opinion, and I
don't know about such an opinion. I didn't hear any such opinion from
among the Cabinet members. I don't accept it. I think we have to
conduct the negotiations without any connection to the elections; and if
we have to advance the elections, we'll do so with no connection to the
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Have you already told Secretary Christopher that
you have decided to advance the elections?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): No, I will first tell the Israeli
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Does the announcement of the joint list of the
Likud and Tzomet pressure you?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): They're proceeding jointly; they
just don't know where to.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): To defeat you in the elections.
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): That's not a genuine political move.
It's a political ploy. In my opinion we need to proceed to bring peace
to the people and growth in the Israeli economy, and that's what we are
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): And does that strengthen your decision to
advance the election, their joint list?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): When I decide whether to advance the
elections I'll answer that question -- when I announce that decision. I
have said that I will announce it in the middle of this month, and
that's what I'll do.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): In other words, next week.
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): In other words, next week.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have any idea about the possibility
that the elections will be advanced?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That is a decision that will have to be taken by
this government -- by the Israeli government. I think it is much more
appropriate for the Prime Minister to comment on that as he has just
been extensively doing, but what I can say is that I believe that we can
continue the peace negotiations under any scenario here, and that is
what is our determination to do. Our role is to try to facilitate the
negotiations and to press forward, and we shall do so under whatever
scenario, whatever decision is made by the Israeli government, shall I
say is completely their decision to make.
QUESTION: But according to your assessment, will it cause any
difficulties to the peace efforts?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As I said, I believe we can go forward under any
scenario, and that's our job to do.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): (inaudible question about the effect of the
elections on the negotiations)
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): Why do I have to make such a
promise? I don't think there's any danger. And in general I don't have
to answer all the criticism. I have said that I will make an
announcement by the middle of the month and I will stand by that. I
have said that a few minutes ago, and I have no intention of making a
connection between our decision and the negotiating process.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the next step in the negotiations?
Are you going to start a full negotiation about the issue that are dealt
in the Wye Plantation? Or are you going to maybe move the talks to
another location, maybe to Europe?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I am really here to talk to both of the
parties about the next steps in the negotiation. That's the customary
reason for my trip. I've had a good meeting with the Prime Minister and
his top colleagues today. I am going to Damascus tomorrow and I will be
talking with President Assad. I'll be back here on Wednesday, and at
the end of this trip I hope we will know the focus and format of the
continuation of the negotiations. As I say, I believe that under any
set of circumstances, under any scenario, we will find the right
procedure to continue, and I would not like to try to predict or
forecast it now.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Mr. Peres, do you think the time has come to
begin negotiating in teams, specific negotiations, or do we still need
to continue with preliminary discussions at the Wye Plantation?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): I am very satisfied with the way
things went at Wye Plantation. At a certain point there were also the
military experts, the two generals. There were also economic issues.
And I think the structure is good. That's the way the negotiations were
conducted with the Palestinians. From time to time things can be
widened or broadened according to need. But certainly an informal
atmosphere has been created that allows for negotiations. We need to
conduct the negotiations, the two sides, with great caution. These are
critical issues for all of us. And I think this is the right way.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you see any hope for a summit between Mr.
Peres and Mr. Assad in the coming months if we have yet to reach an
agreement on all existing issues at Wye. And b) your Ambassador here
spoke publicly that before his death -- Mr. Rabin, a week before he was
killed, he agreed to the U.S. putting forward -- he called it a non-
paper, some might call it a bridging proposal on security arrangements.
Do you see at what that would be appropriate for the U.S. to put forward
its ideas on security arrangements on the Golan?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: David, on the first point, I can only reiterate
what I have said many times in the past. At an appropriate time in the
negotiation it will certainly be desirable for the Prime Minister and
the President of Syria to meet together. I think at the right time that
can facilitate the negotiations. That time will be reached in the
fullness of time, and we will have to pursue the negotiations to see
when that takes place. With respect to the comments that were made
before Prime Minister Rabin's death, let my say that there has been a
qualitative change in the character of the negotiations. Since then, we
have had twelve days at the Wye Plantation. I think the progress in
those twelve days was quite remarkable. On some aspects of the
negotiation, for reasons that I mentioned earlier, I would say that the
United States is going to be helpful to the parties in making
suggestions, in making -- perhaps suggesting bridging proposals. But I
don't want to, at this point, forecast exactly the pattern of the
negotiations. I think we've got a good format at Wye Plantation
Conference Center in which there are intensive negotiations between the
two chief negotiators, and I come here periodically to talk with the two
leaders about what has been discussed at the Wye Plantation, and that is
a basis for the time being that I think we should follow.
QUESTION: Is the negotiation between Israel and Lebanon will resume
after your trip?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think that negotiations between Israel and
Lebanon should resume at some point in the future, but only after
sufficient progress has been made on the Syrian track to make those
negotiations meaningful. I do want to stress, though, that Lebanon is
not being forgotten, not being ignored in this set of negotiations.
Simply that the timing, I think, is not right at the moment to renew
those negotiations. It depends on progress being made in the other
Thank you very much.
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