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U.S. Department of State
96/02/07 Remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Peres
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release February 7, 1996
ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER SHIMON PERES
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
AFTER THEIR MEETING
Tel Aviv February 7, 1996
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Ladies and gentlemen: I am very glad to welcome
the Secretary of State upon his return from Damascus. I do believe that
he has had before him one of the most delicate missions in modern
diplomacy, and his return with what I would consider a real success.
Because clearly, in addition to the official channels between the
different parties, there is a flow of information, and it was quite easy
for the Syrian side to misread what is happening here, and the
misreading that could have caused the interruption of the negotiation.
Instead, I believe that the Secretary has carried a balanced and
objective picture in a very convincing way. He reassured that the peace
negotiations would be continued. Time will not be wasted no matter what
will take place in our country or elsewhere concerning the internal
situation. I must say that I personally am much relieved because I
speak for a government which is sincerely and seriously interested in
the peace negotiations -- in its overall concept and its particular
effort to bring an end to the war, to bring an end to the conflict, to
create a new relationship with Syria and Lebanon.
I want to repeat again that our own experience shows that whenever you
negotiate with ups and downs and interruptions and suspicions, it is not
a honeymoon. And the heart of the negotiation is to be very careful not
to cut them unintentionally or without care. And I think that the
Secretary was able to bridge over one of those important crises. And I
feel very much encouraged that we can continue the negotiation with full
respect to the other side and with a serious mind toward the results of
it. We shall continue, I hope, to negotiate on all domains: security,
economy, improved relations, comprehensive negotiation. And no time
will be wasted. There is still a great deal of work before us. But I
think that the greatest hope, both for Syria and Israel, is to go over
from a strategic confrontation to economic competition or economic
operations, whatever the Syrians may like.
We would like both to thank the Secretary and to welcome him back to
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much. We had
an opportunity to have a good discussion of my visit to Damascus and my
meeting with President Assad. We also discussed my meeting this morning
in Gaza with Chairman Arafat. With respect to my meeting yesterday in
Syria and the Syrian-Israeli track, let me make three brief points.
First, the announcement that I made that the meetings would go forward
in the Wye Plantation at the end of this month and the customary
framework was, I believe, a commitment on behalf of both of the parties
to the continuity of the process. The parties put considerable weight
and faith in the process and they want to continue the process. Second,
the decision taken by the two parties reflects a commitment on behalf of
both of them to the goal of reaching an agreement in 1996. And third, I
want to stress that the United States will continue to do everything
that it can to assist the parties to achieve that goal. Under our
auspices the negotiations will go forward and we are determined to be as
helpful as we possibly can be to the parties. That is what President
Clinton intends, and, certainly, that is what the people of Israel and
the people of Syria deserve.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: What do you consider the significance of the Americans
leaving behind the Deputy Secretary of State to discuss economics with
the Syrians today?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: I attach to it a great importance, because, I
believe, political agreement may be the end of the war but an economic
understanding may be the beginning of peace. It is one thing to put an
end to a conflict. It is another thing to create a different
opportunity for the people and the peoples of the region. I think
nowadays whoever looks straight in the eyes of history must admit that
economy and strategy are inseparable and we have to work on both
challenges to go over from the old days of simple power plays to the new
days of creating a different economy.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what is the mission of Deputy Secretary
Verstanding as she stays behind in Damascus?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think, probably all of you know, it is clear
that there is an economic dimension to the peace process. There is an
economic dimension to the concept of comprehensiveness which we have
been discussing extensively. That means that for us to play our role we
need to assist the parties in developing an economic relationship as
well as a strategic and political relationship. Her role there is --
and the role of her team is -- to find out from the Syrians what their
priorities are, what kind of hopes and aspirations they have, and also
to try to improve our information base about the priorities of the
Syrians and about their economic situation and needs.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Prime Minister, you said that you are relieved
now following the return of the Secretary of State from Damascus. What
is the relief all about? Did you think that the entire negotiation
would be interrupted? And a second question if I may is: following the
information you have received from Warren Christopher and the fact that
the talks continue, can you announce the date of elections?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): Regarding the first thing, certainly
there was a danger that the talks would break down. I would like to
remind you that there have already been two interruptions. I know that
it is easy to stop and difficult to resume. Therefore, I was glad that
there is no need to interrupt, and that we can continue. Regarding the
date of elections, I said that I will announce it next week, and I will
keep to my announcement.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Prime Minister, you have announced that in the
previous round of talks a substantive discussion began, and here, the
next round of talks in Maryland is again a round of feeling each other
out. Don't you think that the time has arrived to open a real
negotiation and that this is a delay in the progress of the process?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): I must tell you that my romantic
perception is so limited in distinguishing between feeling out and
negotiations. What is the deference? All the time you plant new ideas
and you examine them. I don't think this is feeling out. I believe
this is a negotiation. I believe that the art of negotiation is a
constant introduction of new ideas, and later to see which will work
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, every country, even every group like the PLO
that comes to some sort of an agreement with Israel is richly rewarded
with American assistance. Would you wish that there were no legal
barriers so that the U.S. could get into this economic dimension and
treat the Syrians with the same aid and support in getting international
loans, maybe even a donors' conference, draw them to the West, make them
part of the U.S. Foreign Aid Program? You have a legal problem now, is
it something that you wish you could simply -- you know -- uproot?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well Barry, first, as these negotiations
proceed, and if they are successful, that will be the basis for the
improvement on a step-by-step basis of our relationship with Syria. But
that will depend upon the conduct of Syria. The legal barriers exist
because of the perceived conduct of Syria, and naturally we hope that
the circumstances will change in a way that will enable us no longer to
have those barriers. So, first as I say, work and involvement in the
peace process could provide the basis for growing a closeness of
relationship, but that will depend second on the conduct of Syria on
which the barriers are based. And I hope that circumstances will enable
us to make judgements that make those barriers no longer effective.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Prime Minister, not long ago you told us that
after receiving clarifications from Syria regarding the substance of
peace, you will announce in the Knesset what is the Israeli position
regarding the withdrawal. It seems that you have already received this
clarifications, however, you still delay your announcement. Do you
intend to announce it soon? Is there any chance that this announcement
will be heard before the elections take place?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (In Hebrew*): The impression is wrong. We
continue the clarifications and I will keep to my words as I said.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Even before the elections?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: (In Hebrew*): It does not depend on me. It
depends on the pace of the negotiations. I would like to say here, that
in addition to the issues previously under dispute, along with the
negotiations were unveiled very heavy issues. And perhaps, the heaviest
is the water issue. I think that it will take time, in the most
objective way, until a solution accepted by both Syria and Israel will
be found that will respond to the needs of these countries. We need
here very many advanced techniques to solve the problems. It is natural
that Syria would not be willing to leave its country dry, and that we
would not want to leave our country dry. This is a very serious
matter. Water to a country is like weapons to an army. It determines
the economic strength of a country.
QUESTION (In Hebrew*): Prime Minister, one more question. It is clear
that it will be very difficult to discuss problematic issues, such as
borders -- withdrawal. Did you promise Assad, through Christopher, that
these issues will be discussed also in the negotiations taking place
before the elections?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: (In Hebrew*) I did not promise, and I did not give
any commitments, and I was not asked to give any commitments. We did
what we wanted to do. That is to say, to conduct a negotiation with no
prior conditions and without limitations of any kind.
Thank you very much.
* Translated by U.S.I.S. Staff
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