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U.S. Department of State
96/04/21 JOINT PRESS AVAILABILITY SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER & PRIME MINISTER SHIMON PERES
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release April 21, 1996
JOINT PRESS AVAILABILITY
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
PRIME MINISTER SHIMON PERES
April 21, 1996
PRIME MINISTER PERES: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome
fullheartedly the Secretary of State of the United States, who came over
here at the very crucial moment, and is again trying to bring things
together, so we shall be able to proceed with the peace process and
avoid dangerous exchanges of fire.
May I say on the Israeli part, just one or two remarks. People are
asking what is the purpose of the Israeli operation? We didn't go to
any operation because we had a purpose, but because we didn't have a
choice but to do it. We were forced in it, in our eyes. It is an act
of self-defence. The Hizbullah has opened fire without any provocation
at our forces and our civilian life. And I believe that their purpose
was to break the peace process and to prevent the continuation of the
peace negotiations. For that reason, what we are trying to make real is
that a: the peace process will be continued on all fronts in order to
reach a comprehensive peace. And then again, we would like until we
should reach a peace agreement, to bring tranquility to civilian life on
both sides of the frontier and avoid the exchange of fire on the front
or the security zone.
May I also say that all the agreements that were reached until now
beginning with Camp David, going through Oslo, bridging the agreement
with Jordan, continuing with the negotiations with Syria and Lebanon
were done through the good offices of the United States of America. We
have full trust in the nature and capacity of the United States
diplomacy to bring a real peace to all parties in the Middle East. And
we think that the attempt to negotiate must be organized: it cannot be
chaotic; it cannot be done through many channels. And I am noticing,
with satisfaction, that both the other sides, Syria, the Lebanese, and
ourselves are having full trust and confidence in the American attempt
to bring tranquility for the time being and peace in the future to the
We have heard from the Secretary a report about his meeting yesterday in
Damascus. We have provided him with our position. We are trying to
reach a common ground and understanding. We are in the middle of the
doing and making of such an understanding, and I think all of us will
continue to work very hard and very seriously to prevent bloodshed and
bring peace to this region. For this reason again, Mr. Secretary, I
welcome you fullheartedly here to the region.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you Shimon. Good afternoon. President
Clinton has sent me back to the region to try to seek a cease-fire and
to achieve an enduring set of understandings that will prevent an
escalation in the fighting and, most of all, to protect and preserve the
lives of civilians on both sides of the border.
I have just had an excellent meeting with the Prime Minister. We have
some difficult questions to work through, but I feel confident that with
his help and the assistance of other people in the region we will
ultimately achieve our goals. Of course, I want to emphasize that a
resolution of the crisis must be followed by a resumption of
negotiations because these events only make it even more clear that a
comprehensive peace in the region is the only long term solution to the
I will be returning early this evening to meet with President Assad in
Syria as part of an intensive effort to achieve, as I say, a cease-fire
and an enduring set of understandings that can restore calm -- can
protect the civilians on both sides of the border.
Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister, as always it is really an
inspiration to work with you and your colleagues in addressing problems
of this difficulty and character, but we shall persist. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I would like to know if you see any chance
that the cease-fire will be including the security zone in South
Lebanon? And the other question is do you intend to have a mechanism,
an international mechanism, that will help both sides to invent, or to
prevent, other escalation in the area?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm just at my second stop in this most recent
effort. I think that it would not be useful for me to try to get into
the precise details of the negotiations that are now proceeding for a
cease-fire and for an enduring set of understandings. At the right
moment we will certainly let you know how those negotiations are going,
but I think it's too early for me to define or try to give you any
precise indication as to the nature of the understandings we're working
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Prime Minister, I would like to know whether you
have crystallized a cease-fire agreement in a certain format with the
U.S. Secretary of State. When will it be in effect? What will it
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): We are in the middle of working on
it. Once it's over we will clarify its nature.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Could you point out the time for a cease-fire
going into affect?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): No, I can't. And I believe that
pointing out the time will be a mistake. We have to handle these issues
with patience, not nervously. It will take a little more time, more
time, and in my opinion, it is more important to achieve a good
settlement than in the name of hurrying up to achieve a bad settlement.
QUESTION: (in Hebrew*): Are the criteria determined by you in the past
-- that we want a cease fire, but that the fighting in Lebanon will
continue if Katyusha shelling continues -- still valid? Does IDF
continue to operate? Is the Grapes of Wrath operation still on?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): As you can not clap hands with one
hand, you can not reach a cease-fire without two hands. The fire should
be stopped by both parties.
QUESTION: There have been confirmed reports in the past week that arms
have been shipped through Syria to the Hizbullah forces in Southern
Lebanon. As a condition for signing a cease-fire, will you demand that
Syria undertake to guarantee that future supplies of weapons will not be
sent through its territory to Hizbullah.
PRIME MINISTER PERES: I would rather not go into details about the
negotiations ahead of time. I think we have to be patient yet for
another period of time -- hopefully some days -- and then we shall make
clear what are the necessary conditions of the two parties to reach a
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): Mr. Prime Minister, within the framework of a
cease-fire, would Israel be prepared to undertake various limitations as
to its retaliatory measures against the Hizbullah?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): Israel will defend its security and
its right to self-defense is unquestionable.
QUESTION (in Hebrew*): It means that the security zone is not part of a
comprehensive cease fire?
PRIME MINISTER PERES (in Hebrew*): I don't see any reason to add more
to what I've said already. It's quite clear.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and Mr. Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister of
Russia, Mr. Primakov, is apparently in Beirut and is then coming here.
Do you think it is a good idea to have diplomacy working on at least two
fronts this way -- three if you include the French; or is this getting
in the way, is it giving too many parties the options to make too many
arrangements to get a cease-fire and a following of understanding?
PRIME MINISTER PERES: I make it clear we can have many fronts but one
channel. If there will be more than one channel there will be total
confusion. And the responsible channel that has both the experience and
the mechanism to do so is the United States of America and we think all
parties will continue to work through this channel. We shall not reject
to see anybody, whoever wants to come in is welcome. But we cannot have
three agreements on the same issue, because this will mean no agreement
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: One comment I'd make is that I've either met
with or talked with the other foreign ministers who are in the region,
that is the French, Italian and Russian foreign ministers. It is common
ground between us that we believe that there should be an early cease-
fire and an enduring set of understandings. We're all urging the
parties to move in that direction. But I also would add that the United
States feels a special responsibility in view of our history and in view
of our responsibilities to lead in this situation and we shall continue
to do so, and I very much appreciate the confidence expressed in the
United States by the Prime Minister.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as we saw in this crisis, President Assad
supports the Hizbullah terror organization. Don't you think that
Israel, maybe the United States, should draw the conclusion that Assad
plays a double meaning, plays in double grounds?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think we should try to not only get a cease-
fire but an enduring set of understandings which permits the parties in
the region to prevent the recurrence of this kind of event, that's what
we're working for -- not just for a cease-fire but an enduring set of
understandings that prevents a recurrence of this. In doing so we have
to work with the parties in the region and we'll continue to do so.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a two-part question: one, could you possibly
define what are the biggest gaps between the Israelis' position and the
Syrian position on reaching some kind of agreement; and two, were you
impressed that Assad's position that he has some form of responsibility
in all of this?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm sorry but I don't believe I should try to
define the gaps. I'm just launching this process. I've said that there
are some difficult problems and difficult terrain to go over. But, as I
work through it, I hope the gaps will diminish and then disappear. I do
think that all the parties that need to be involved in this situation do
accept responsibility and I hope that they will do so. My meeting with
President Assad last night is a reflection of the fact that Syria is a
very important, vital, crucial player in this particular dialogue and I
wouldn't be focussing my attention there, and I'm sure he wouldn't be
taking the time, if he didn't agree with that. Thank you very much.
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