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U.S. Department of State
96/10/05 Press Briefing enroute to Jerulalem
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 5, 1996
PRESS BRIEFING BY
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
(ENROUTE TO JERUSALEM)
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Welcome to the Africa trip, with a short detour
in the beginning. Just a moment or two about our schedule, which is
been put together, more or less, at the last minute. I'll be meeting
with Prime Minister Netanyahu at three o'clock tomorrow. We will then
go down to Gaza to meet with Chairman Arafat at six o'clock. On Monday
morning I'm having breakfast with Foreign Minister Levy, and meeting
with President Weizman. We will then go to the airport for possibly a
noon departure for Bamako.
The way I see the situation is that the parties are now taking advantage
of what was achieved in the Washington meeting. The situation is
relatively quiet. The violence seems to have subsided and that, of
course, I think, was at least partly accountable, maybe more than that
to the Washington meeting.
Second, the parties are taking advantage of the improved personal
relationship, that resulted from the personal time they had together, in
the Washington meeting.
Finally, the parties will be in a position to take advantage of the
resumed negotiations, with the presence of the United States, resumed,
intensified, continuous negotiations with the United States as a
I think the time between the end of the Washington Summit meeting and
now has been valuable for the parties. I was reminding myself that the
decisions in the Washington meeting were taken at the very last moment.
As you know, until the very intensive discussions on that last morning
at the State Department and then at the White House, the basic outlines
of the agreement were not reached. So, in the time since then, the
parties have had an opportunity to reflect on what was done there and
probably more importantly to begin to prepare for these meetings, which
are going to commence tomorrow.
I have looked forward to this Africa trip -- which I very much wanted to
take and will take -- but I simply didn't feel comfortable in leaving
for Africa without coming out and having another opportunity to talk to
the two leaders and indicate the President's views and my views. It
seems to be a good opportunity to basically stress three points:
First, the need to have some significant results come from these resumed
negotiations. Second, the urgency of the matter and the shortness of
time for making this kind of progress. Third, to stress the importance
of the commitment they made in Washington to become personally involved
in the negotiations, if they are not making significant progress. Those
are three important points that I will look forward to making to both of
the leaders when I meet with them tomorrow.
I think maybe that's enough to give you the background and the reasons
for my trip.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, when you talk about urgency how much time do
you think we have, a week, two weeks, a month to show progress and can
you talk a little about the Europeans and how they see it; Chirac, in
particular, seems to want to get his hand into these negotiations?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I don't think one could make any specific time-
line. It's clear that the sooner the better is as far as progress is
concerned. I think the parties in the region will be assessing the way
the negotiations are conducted and I do think there is an element of
urgency about the that needs to be appreciated by the parties.
With respect to the Europeans, it's clear the Europeans have a very
strong, legitimate interest in these negotiations. It's, in many ways,
exactly the same interest as ours. They have been a major supporter of
the Palestinians from a financial standpoint and they've made a further
commitment along those lines. I think that their communicating with the
leaders, urging them to reach some conclusion, is positive. But we also
have to remember that these are bilateral negotiations and I think any
major change in the bilateral character of these negotiations is not
likely to take place. These are not multilateral negotiations.
The United States has a history of assisting the parties. We know the
agreements very well and we have gone back and forth between the
parties, as Chairman Arafat has shuttled by telephone as well as in
person. I think those are the plus factors with our being able to serve
as a facilitator of the negotiations without breaking their essential
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary I observed the events of this past week from a
safe distance of 2000 miles, while I was on vacation. When you're
simply not a direct participant, you're looking at this from the
outside, it does seem to me that there has been a quality of
unilateralism and pronouncement-issuing on the side of the Israelis.
That is part of the problem and not part of the solution. I wonder if
you could tell me a little bit about how you think the Israelis are
going to proceed now to break this pattern of simply making their own
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think the Israelis as well as the Palestinians
recognize that the full core and focus of these resumed negotiations is
on the implementation of the interim agreement. These are not the final
status talks. They are not talks to revise the interim agreement; they
are talks to determine how to implement it. That's a subject in which
the Israelis have a very strong interest and I think the Israelis will
approach the resumed negotiations in terms of how they can implement and
carry out the interim agreements, in light of the new circumstances in
the region. Not to change the agreement, but to reflect in security
measures and other measures the reality that there have been some
changes resulting from this serious tragic episode of violence over the
course of the week prior to the Washington meetings.
I think that they will be approached on a bilateral basis seeking a
basis for this implementation and I think that the bilateral process
will be considerably enhanced by the several hours that Prime Minister
Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat spent together in Washington.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I was a little puzzled that you decided at the
last minute to make this detour because one would think having talked to
you and the President on Wednesday, that there would be little new to
say to the two men that has changed in the last two days. So I'm
wondering why a decision was made let's say on Thursday that wasn't made
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I talked to the President about the situation.
We both felt the Washington meeting had come together, really, at the
last minute. The parties had not had time to reflect on the decisions
that were reached there or to prepare for the meetings. As I said to
you, I simply -- from a personal standpoint -- felt I did not want to
launch on the Africa trip with preoccupations of that, without another
opportunity to meet with the parties and to stress those three points.
That is the importance of significant progress, the urgency of it, and
essentially a reminder of their commitment that they would become
personally involved if the progress wasn't made.
It seemed to the President and it seemed to me that this was a useful
message to convey before or right at, contemporaneous with the
commencement of the talks.
What it reflects, among other things, is the importance of continuous
U.S. involvement. Our involvement can't just be sporadic, but we have
to be involved on a very regular basis and so I think that this is a
good time to be there and it's a different time than the moment when
they concluded in Washington. This is the beginning of a new phase, a
resumption of the negotiations.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what can you possibly say to either of the
parties on this trip that wasn't already said to them in Washington and
secondly, what do you say to cynics who say nothing is going to happen
until after the U.S. election and that this is really just a stalling
motion to prevent violence until that moment?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: As far as what we can say, it seems to me we
can, in the context of the will to calm the area, in the context of the
new personal relationship between the parties, and the resumed
negotiations, emphasize the importance of making progress, talk to them
about the issues on the agenda and try to assess with them the areas
that are the most promising. Clearly, the issue at the top of the
agenda is Hebron, but there are other issues and I think for the benefit
of some days' reflection on their part and some reflection on our part,
it is very timely and important that we have this opportunity to talk
I was very pleased by the immediate positive response from both of them
when I offered to come out to the region. I think that the U.S.
elections are not a factor in this situation. We have a situation that
is quiet on the ground, at the present time, but it remains a dangerous
situation. The United States will be working on these problems every
day before the elections and every day after the election with the same
quality of urgency and concern. There seems to be some tendency around
the world, not just on this problem, but problems in almost every region
to think that somehow things are going to change dramatically, after the
U.S. election. My own feeling is that we will have the same
responsibilities and the same problems, same opportunities after the
election as before; hoping first that President Clinton is re-elected.
Thank you very much and thank you all for coming on this trip. I think
we're going to have a very good trip to Africa. I'm looking forward to
that. I appreciate you all making the trip, thank you.
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