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

U.S. Department of State
96/02/07 Remarks with Chairman Arafat following meeting
Office of the Spokesman

                         U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                          Office of the Spokesman 
For Immediate Release                              February 7, 1996

                                REMARKS BY
                            CHAIRMAN ARAFAT AND
                         FOLLOWING THEIR MEETING

                             February 7, 1996

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:  I have to offer to the Secretary, Mr. Christopher, our 
best wishes and regards and thanks for giving us -- although he is very 
busy on the Syrian track -- to give us a chance to discuss some very 
important issues together, especially after the election, which had been 
done here, which was very successful election, and give the proof that 
our people had voted, not only for the presidential election or the 
legislative council, but the vote was the peace process, the mandate for 
the peace process, which is a very important signal and especially this 
big number and big issue of the voters who are participating in the 
voting, especially the number of the women were more than the number of 
the men, which, for us, we are proud of it, we are very proud of it.  
And again, I have to thank your excellency for this very fruitful 
discussion which we have done just now, and I promise you that we will 
follow up with this peace process with all our ability.  And we are sure 
we will do with your support this peace process in the accurate way and 
to its main target.  Thank you very much. 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.  It is a great 
pleasure to be here at the entrance to Gaza.  I have a chance to 
congratulate the Chairman in person on the elections.  I also want to 
congratulate the Palestinian people.  Their turnout in very large 
numbers is a very strong reflection of their commitment to democracy.  
Of course, these elections are only one step toward the organization of 
an entity here.  Now the other institutions of local government need to 
be put in place.  The Palestinian Council needs to be convened.  There 
needs to be established an independent judiciary so as to ensure respect 
for law and human rights.   
The Chairman and I discussed it is also essential for the members of the 
Council to fulfil their commitment to amend the covenant and also to 
take all possible steps to prevent terror.  As the Palestinians go about 
these crucial tasks of organization, they will certainly have the strong 
backing of the United States.  We will make every effort to mobilize 
international support for economic development and democratization, 
including our own bilateral assistance programs.  I am pleased to 
announce that the United States will be allocating $2.7 million to help 
with the democratization process in Gaza and on the West Bank.   
Mr. Chairman, in just two and a half years the peace has begun to bring 
great benefits to the Palestinian people as can be seen here in Gaza and 
elsewhere.  You have gained control of your lives, you  have conducted 
democratic elections.  Now I hope you will have the chance to build a 
society based upon principles of political and economic freedom, and I 
want to ensure you that we will stand by you and the Palestinian people 
as we have in the past as you go about this task.  Thank you very much. 
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:  Please convey to his excellency, the President, my 
best wishes and regards and thanks. 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Thank you very much. 
QUESTION:  My question to Mr. Prime Minister will have two parts.  
First, regarding Palestinian ladies and prisoners.  What should the 
government doing to Jews to help Palestinians in this issue.  The second 
part, regarding his supporters, how do you see his supporters will be 
affected by the results of Israeli elections if the Likud on the right 
wing party's success in this election.  Thank you.  
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Could you repeat the first question?  I did not 
quite understand it. 
QUESTION: Yes, regarding Palestinian lady prisoners in the Israeli 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Let me answer the second question first.  I have 
just come from Damascus, as you know, and I was able to announce there 
last night that the Israelis and the Syrians plan to continue in the 
peace process without regard to the early elections in Israel.  So we 
have the continuity of the peace process.  I think that is highly 
desirable.  I do not want to make any comment on the outcome of the 
Israeli elections.  That is for the Israeli people to decide.  What was 
important from my standpoint at the present time -- the United States's 
standpoint -- is that the parties are prepared to pursue the peace 
process as Israel goes through its election season. 
With respect to the Palestinian prisoners, the Chairman has asked me to 
raise certain questions with the Israelis when I meet with them, and I 
will do so.  I do not believe I want to make any other comment on that 
subject except to say that we want to assist the parties. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Chairman, first of all, can you tell us what specific 
steps, and when, you will act on the issue of the Covenant?  And Mr. 
Secretary, have you come away from your talks truly confident that the 
Palestinians will act on this issue? 
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:  This has been discussed, as you know, during the 
meeting of our executive committee that took place in Arish.  We hope 
that after the meeting of our legislative council, which has been 
elected recently, we will have the opportunity directly to call upon for 
the meeting of our PNC. 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Robin, we discussed the commitment of the 
Chairman and the Palestinians to amend the Covenant, and the Chairman 
confirmed that commitment and said that they would carry it out in a 
timely fashion. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, will your schedule permit you to participate 
in the next round of talks at the Wye Plantation?  They begin February 
26 and I think you are do to go Latin America on February 25. 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Well, I certainly hope that I can participate.  
I have not looked at my schedule with that precision, Barry, but I would 
not have any reason not to participate, and I hope I will be back from 
Latin America before those talks recess so I can participate, at least, 
in some of the latter sessions. 
QUESTION (in Arabic*):  Mr. President, what are the most important 
issues that you have discussed with Mr. Christopher? 
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT (in Arabic*):  Many issues, foremost of which was the 
American effort to assist us in the final status negotiations phase, and 
likewise their assistance in industrial zones.  We have also asked them 
to assist us, along with the Israelis, in the compliance with what was 
agreed upon, particularly in regard to the men and women prisoners and 
halting the confiscation of lands, as well as other issues which were 
agreed upon in Taba.  At the same time, we congratulated Mr. Christopher 
for his efforts which he has exerted and continues to exert, with the 
Syrian side and the Lebanese side, until there is a comprehensive and 
just peace in the Middle East, God willing. 
QUESTION:  Mr. Christopher, this is the first time you have the American 
flag next to the Palestinian flag.  Is this a new indication within the 
American policy to put our flag there? 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  It is nothing that is new from my standpoint.  I 
did not realize that the flags were there in that juxtaposition, but 
frequently when we have been together both Palestinian and American 
flags have been across the table from us at lunches. 
QUESTION (in Arabic*):  Mr. President, have you discussed with Mr. 
Christopher the issue of amending the Palestinian national covenant? 
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT (in Arabic*):  Yes, this is not the first time we 
discuss this issue, the American delegation raised this issue with us a 
number of times, and we have said that we are committed to this issue as 
stipulated in what we agreed upon.  However in the final analysis, this 
is the responsibility and under the jurisdiction of the [Palestinian] 
National Council, and it is not in our individual jurisdiction, in all 
due respect to democracy. 
*Translated by U.S.I.S. staff   

To the top of this page