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U.S. Department of State
96/10/03 Secretary Remarks with Tunisian FM Yahia Prior to Meeting
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release October 3, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
TUNISIAN FOREIGN MINISTER HABIB BEN YAHIA
PRIOR TO THEIR MEETING
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good morning. It's always a special pleasure to
welcome my friend, Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia, back to Washington
D.C., You know, it's really striking when I think of it: we're almost
on the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Tunisian relationships. I guess you
could say it has stood the test of time, hasn't it? We've been close
partners, and I particularly want to acknowledge the strong support that
Tunisia has given over the years to the peace process.
Naturally, today we'll be discussing the state of the peace process, the
concern that we all have for it. I'll be having an opportunity to brief
the Foreign Minister on some of the elements of yesterday's discussion.
I know we share the view that the parties must do everything they can to
find areas of agreement; the only alternative, a return to violence, is
simply not acceptable to any of us. Both sides reject such a course, as
does the international community. I believe that both sides are
committed to making the negotiations that will commence at Erez succeed,
and I hope in the very shortest time possible.
We're very grateful to the role that Tunisia has always played in the
peace process. Most recently, and I think only a couple of weeks ago,
Tunisia hosted the meeting to launch the new Middle East and
Mediterranean Travel and Tourism Association, one of the things that
came out of the Amman summit. I am confident that we'll continue to
work together on the peace process, as we have on so many other issues.
It's a very great pleasure to welcome you back, Habib, to have an
opportunity to exchange views with you once again.
FOREIGN MINISTER BEN YAHIA: Thank you, Mr. Secretary; good morning,
ladies and gentlemen. It's nice to be back to Washington as usual, to
do this pilgrimage every year back to Washington. This particular time
is of certain importance to both of us, Mr. Secretary, to give back
vigor to the peace process. That peace process we cherished, we built
piece by piece, with patience, with a lot of good work, and it's for the
last five years we have been together embarked on a very important,
risky and difficult business, of making peace in the Middle East. I
hope that with yesterday's summit, a new departure, new momentum is
being gained, and we hope that Dennis Ross going back to the region this
Sunday will help us put back the peace process on track, in order to
reach the implementation of the agreements signed in Oslo and Washington
and Cairo. Tunisia has always been committed to peace. Peace has its
own dividend for everybody, but we insist that we should see concrete
results, and the sooner the better, in order to avoid any (inaudible).
We are always committed to peace. President Ben Ali has been
instrumental in working very hard to maintain the momentum with all
parties concerned. We hope that this will be the case this time, in
order for us to face next year, the next century, with plenty of hope
for peace in the region. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you making any plans yourself to travel to
the Middle East prior to your Africa trip? Will you be in Erez on
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Let me say this about that. I've always held
myself ready to go to the region when it would be helpful in moving the
process forward. I think I feel particularly a responsibility to do
that in connection with the talks about to begin at Erez, and so when it
seems that I might be useful, when my presence there would be helpful in
moving the process forward I'll certainly be prepared to go. I don't
have any plans to do so at the present time, but I'm going to be
watching the situation closely to see if things develop in a way that
might make a trip by myself a constructive and positive step.
QUESTION: Wouldn't you be making that decision today, sir?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'm probably making it every day over the next
several weeks as we watch the situation develop. The situation is very
fresh, and really just unfolding.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Israelis and the Palestinians seem to
agree on one thing, which is that the Israelis won out at the summit
this week, and the Palestinians lost out because they didn't feel they
gained anything from the Israelis. How do you react to that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't think it ought to be evaluated in terms
of winners and losers. We have no illusions about the situation, but
there was conversation between the two leaders, which had not been
possible to have. If you think back to a week ago today, we had the
bloodiest day on the West Bank within anybody's memory. Things are
somewhat better now. I think the conversation that took place, the
recommitment to a nonviolent future, the commitment to have intensive
and indeed continuous negotiation, is a step forward. In that sense,
everyone comes out a winner. But we've got a long way to go, there are
difficult times ahead, and I think we need to see some results flowing
from those negotiations.
Thanks very much.
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