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U.S. Department of State
96/04/21 Middle East Peace Process Update: Interview from Jerusalem
Secretary of State Christopher on ABC-TV's This Week With David Brinkley, April 21, 1996
Released by the Office of the Spokesman
MR. DAVID BRINKLEY: Our Secretary of State Warren
Christopher is standing by and in communication
with us from Jerusalem. Thank you very much for
coming in, Mr. Secretary. We're pleased to have
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, David.
MR. BRINKLEY: Here in the studio in Washington are
George Will and Cokie Roberts.
Now, tell us, you were saying yesterday that both
parties in the Middle East dispute seemed ready
for some kind of cease-fire. What's the story
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's what they tell me,
David. Last night I met until late in the evening
with President Assad in Syria. I came early this
morning to Israel, and I've met twice today with
Prime Minister Peres. Tonight I'll go back to
Syria for meetings with Assad. That's to give you
some idea of the intensity that I'm trying to
bring to this.
I came here at the direction of President Clinton
because we place such a high premium on getting a
cease-fire and an enduring set of understandings
that will make the civilians on both sides of the
border once again safe.
MR. BRINKLEY: Does it still seem to you that both
sides are ready to do business, to agree to some
kind of settlement -- cease-fire?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Both sides indicate they
want a cease-fire. I think we've reached the
point in this
particular episode where that's a real possibility.
But I have to be candid and say that there are
difficulties remaining. I hope we can work
through them. We're certainly being aggressive
and relentless about it.
MR. GEORGE WILL: Mr. Secretary, can you confirm or
deny that since this fighting began 400 Katyusha
rockets have been transshipped through the
Damascus airport from Iran to Lebanon?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: George, I'm not going to
get into intelligence information. But one thing
I can say is that the aim is to get an enduring
set of arrangements that will prevent that kind of
thing from happening, prevent Katyushas from being
fired into northern Israel and, indeed, make
civilians on both sides of the border safe.
That's the whole purpose of this endeavor.
MR. WILL: Your trip to Damascus this evening will
be your 18th, perhaps 19th -- it's hard to keep
count -- trip you've made to Syria. Yet, Syria,
which could stop this, will not. Do you accept
the premise that Syria -- which considers and
lists on some of its maps Lebanon as part of
"Greater Syria" -- could stop this carnage if it
wanted, could control Hizbollah?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There's no doubt in my mind
that Syria has great influence over Hizbollah.
That's why I'm talking to them. There's some
influence also in Lebanon. But I think the
combination of those two can bring this fighting
to an end.
I made a number of trips out to this region, but I
think they've been overall very worthwhile. When
I look back to where we were three years ago,
George, and where we are now, I think it was a
very good investment. United States leadership is
absolutely essential here, and I'm determined to
MR. WILL: With reference to the civilian
casualties that have occurred, one of your
spokesmen said that clearly Hizbollah is using
civilians as cover, and it is despicable. Will
you use that kind of language to Mr. Assad, and
would it do any good if you did?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We've had some very candid
and frank discussions over the three years I've
been talking with him, including last night, and
we'll continue to have them. There are lots of
grievances on both sides, George. My job as a
negotiator is to try to get a cease-fire put into
effect, an enduring arrangement that will keep
this from happening again, certainly not in the
Sometimes invective is useful. More often I find
being reasonable and being prospective rather than
dealing in the retrospective is more effective.
MS. COKIE ROBERTS: Mr. Secretary, some of your
critics, however, say you've been a little too
reasonable with Syria, and that Syria does not
respond to carrots but only to sticks; that Assad
has done nothing that he hasn't wanted to do as a
result of U.S. pressure.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We've hardly been too
reasonable with Syria. They're on our drug list.
They're on our terrorism list. They understand
the dissatisfaction we have with them; but, as
Prime Minister Rabin said not long ago, not long
before his death, you usually don't have to make
peace between friends. We clearly have to deal
with President Assad if we're going to help the
Israelis achieve peace in this region.
They are the key to completing the circle of peace.
What I am doing here is with the strong
encouragement of the Israelis, the latest, of
course, this morning when Prime Minister Peres
indicated he wanted to use the United States as
the sole channel for negotiations.
MS. ROBERTS: I'm glad you brought that up. The
Lebanese Foreign Minister is saying that all
European efforts at a cease-fire are being thrown
out by the Israelis. Is that the case?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've been talking with my
European colleagues, and Prime Minister Peres is
going to meet with the French Foreign Minister
tonight, so they're certainly being included in
these discussions in an overall sense.
One thing that's very important, Cokie, is that all
of us, I think, are in full agreement that it is
time for a cease-fire. I'm exchanging views with
them, consulting with them. We're trying to bring
the full force of the international community to
bear. But, as Prime Minister Peres said today,
it's difficult to have multiple channels, it's
difficult to have multiple drafts; and he prefers,
because of the long experience the United States
has had, to work through the United States.
MS. ROBERTS: You keep saying --
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I would say --
MS. ROBERTS: You keep saying that everybody wants
a cease-fire, but can you give us some sense of
the evidence that Syria wants a cease-fire? Have
they done anything to stop arming the Hizbollah?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think they want a
cease-fire, Cokie, because they would like to get
back to the bargaining table. They would like to
get back to the peace process. After all, Israel
is occupying the Golan Heights, which Syria
regards as part of its territory. So they've got
a very important goal in the long run, and I do
think that they would like to bring this fighting
to an end so they can get back to the peace
But their negotiations are going to be very
difficult. There are some tough issues remaining.
MR. WILL: Aside from withdrawal from the Golan
Heights, does Syria also want Israel to withdraw
from the so-called "security zone" in southern
Lebanon, and is that likely?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: George, of course, that's
been the long-term aim of everyone here. Israel
doesn't have any territorial aims with respect to
Lebanon. For the moment, being in that security
zone is necessary to protect northern Israel. But
a comprehensive peace would have Israel out of
southern Lebanon, and of course that's been the
aim for a long time.
MR. WILL: As you discuss the Golan Heights, are
you discussing the possibility of U.S. troops on
the Golan Heights?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's a long time ahead,
George. Unfortunately, those negotiations are now
off track because of the tragic things that are
going on here. We haven't gotten to the point of
discussing U.S. troops on the Golan. We really
haven't gone that far in the security discussions
MR. BRINKLEY: Mr. Secretary, there is a
participant in the violence who sort of remains
off stage, and that's Iran which is arming,
feeding, clothing, housing and paying the
Hizbollah. What can we do about that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: David, we've taken the
strongest stand of any nation in the world against
Iran. Iran is the enemy of the peace process.
They're a terrorist country. We have basically
embargoed Iran. We're encouraging all of our
allies around the world to treat them in a similar
I think we've had to show leadership with Iran even
though it has involved sacrifice for Americans and
American companies. We're going to continue on
that course because we are fully convinced that
Iran is trying to undermine the peace process, and
they're doing that in many different
ways. Information keeps coming to us that confirms
us in those views, and we only wish we could
persuade our allies to take as strong a stand
against Iran as we have.
MR. BRINKLEY: Mr. Secretary, thank you. Thank you
very much for coming in and talking with us today.
It's pleasure to have you, and good luck.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, David. (###)
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