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U.S. Department of State
96/10/06 Interview with CNN, Jerusalem
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release October 6, 1996
U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER'S
INTERVIEW WITH CNN
Holiday Inn Hotel, Jerusalem
October 6, 1996
QUESTION*: Let me start by asking you this. You said on your way over,
on the flight over that you would stress with both Prime Minister
Netanyahu and President Arafat the importance of, in your words,
"significant progress" in these talks that are about to begin. What
will constitute in your mind "significant progress," and over what
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think some tangible efforts to implement the
agreements that have been reached, and obviously the sooner the better.
As I arrive here, it is clear that the Washington meetings broke the
cycle of violence. Things are somewhat improved here, somewhat calmer.
The closure is being eased somewhat, so I think the parties have an
opportunity and they ought to use this time that has been bought by the
Washington meetings in the most effective possible way. That is what I
will be urging on them when I meet with them today.
QUESTION*: Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, says the
discussions that are going to be taking place should be dealing with
implementing, not negotiating, the accords. And I'm quoting now. He
says, "He will not agree to reopen, modify or renegotiate the accords."
In your view, are these talks about implementation, or are they about
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think it is common ground here about
implementation. The Prime Minister has indicated that Israel will carry
out the agreements that have been reached. That is what the
Palestinians hope to achieve. Of course, there is some room for
discussion within the implementation context to take into account the
new facts that exist on the ground. But I think it is important for
both sides to understand that we go from here to implement the existing
agreements, but as I say, taking into account the security requirements
that can be envisioned within the four corners of the present
QUESTION*: But Israel is insisting on a number of security guarantees
that in the view of some, Palestinians in particular, could well be
construed as a renegotiation?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, the discussions here are just beginning.
I think the parties will work on that in good faith. They both want to
get back to the table. The Prime Minister has pledged himself to go
about it in that way. So I think a good deal is possible as they
approach it with the somewhat better atmosphere, somewhat closer
relationship than they had before the Washington meeting.
QUESTION*: Mr. Secretary, the Israelis point out that the guns held by
Palestinian police have been turned against them, and they feel that a
number of security steps must be taken to assure that that does not
happen again, one of which reportedly is the right of pursuit, where the
Israelis would be able to pursue Palestinians, if such a thing
transpires in the future, into Palestinian-controlled areas? How do you
feel about that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You know it has been my policy not to get into
the details of the negotiations. Certainly, this would be just the
wrong time to do that. The United States will play a facilitating role,
but these continue to be bilateral negotiations in which we are trying
to help the parties. That is the kind of thing that can be discussed
between the parties, now that they are back into negotiations; you know
a week ago they were so estranged they were not talking to each other.
Now they have got an opportunity to talk to each other with the somewhat
greater knowledge of each other's needs that was developed in the
QUESTION*: You say the U.S. is prepared to play a facilitating role,
but it seems that some would have the U.S. go beyond that. I was
talking to one Palestinian official this morning here who said that the
United States is the only superpower and is the only power in the region
capable of exercising pressure on both sides, should be prepared to
exercise pressure on both sides. Obviously he had the Israelis in mind
principally. But is that what the United States is going to be doing?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, that is not our business here. Our business
is to help them. I think that the past history indicates that we do
have a special relationship, in a sense, with these negotiations. We
know the agreements well; we know where the tense points are, and I
think we are in a position to help the parties, but that is in a
facilitating role. It would be very counter-productive for us to try to
bring pressure on either of the parties in this situation. After all,
they are the ones that have reached the agreements; they are the ones
that have to live with them. But we are here to do our very best to
QUESTION*: But why wouldn't the United States -- I mean the world is
watching and looking to the United States. You have hosted this summit
in Washington recently. You're there, your negotiator Dennis Ross is
there. Why would the United States not exert pressure at a key moment
to try to overcome difficulties? It's done it in the past.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think that would be counter-productive in our
relationship with the Israeli government. We have a long-standing and
enduring relationship, we have worked on a good working relationship
with the new Israeli government. I think that it would be quite self-
defeating for us, and it would not be productive in the negotiations, if
we try to act in that way. I think we can be helpful by probing,
perhaps asking some questions, serving as an intermediary between the
parties, helping them understand each other, making sure that they do
not over-react to comments or suggestions of the other. There are ways
in which we can be helpful using our status in the world and in this
region to be helpful, but pressure tactics would not work.
QUESTION*: Mr. Secretary, is it an overreaction then on the part of the
Israelis to suggest that there should be buffer zones around Israeli
settlements, even when they're in areas that are part of the Palestinian
Authority, to protect those Israelis who are there?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I am sorry to disappoint you, but that is one of
those important negotiating details, one of those important things that
will be discussed between the parties, and it certainly would not serve
our purpose -- indeed it would disserve our purpose -- if I were to
reflect a view on that at this early stage before the parties have
really sat down at the table. This is what will happen today. I will
meet with the Prime Minister in about a half an hour, then I will drive
down to Gaza to meet with Chairman Arafat and shortly after I talk with
him the negotiations will begin at 8 p.m. tonight. So, it really would
be, I think, not helpful at all to try to foreshadow particular items in
the negotiations, at least the United States should not do so.
QUESTION*: Nearby President Mubarak is not very pleased about what he's
seeing, and today he's warning that Israeli efforts to reopen the
negotiations, in his word, are dangerous. And he says of the existing
agreement, one must respect them or there will be a catastrophe -- a
catastrophe, his words. You agree with that?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it is certainly true that the parties
ought to respect the existing agreements, but of course the Prime
Minister has been clear that he intends to do that. I would say that
although the situation is somewhat better now, it is eased somewhat, it
still is a very dangerous situation. No one should underestimate the
potential for violence in this region. That is why it is so important
for the parties to make tangible progress, to do so on an urgent basis,
and one of the points that I am going to be making to the leaders is to
talk to them about the commitment they made in Washington to intervene
personally in these negotiations, if a stalemate of any kind is reached.
QUESTION*: At this moment -- at this moment right now, how tenuous is
the Middle East peace process?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think I can answer that best by saying
that I am going to be stressing the urgency of making some progress. I
cannot tell how long the cycle of violence has been broken, how long the
better circumstances will exist. I do not think anybody can answer that
question for sure. There is an improvement right now and the parties
need to use this moment, they need to take this opportunity to make
QUESTION*: And what are your expectations for this moment?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, I always try to be optimistic about this
situation. I urge the parties to take these steps. They have some time
now and I hope that they will recognize that this is a critical moment.
This is a crossroads for them.
QUESTION*: Mr. Secretary, if I may, I know you're in Israel right now
and moving around, but I'd like to change gears on you just for a brief
moment here and ask you about a recent development in Bosnia, where at
the inauguration of the new Bosnian Parliament over the weekend, the
Serbs decided to stay away. They were not there. Then, more recently,
Bosnian Croats walked out of a session of the assembly, demanding
protection from the Muslim party. It would seem that this very delicate
Bosnian democracy isn't much of a democracy at all right now, at least
not yet. What do you make of what's going on over there?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, we were naturally disappointed that the
Bosnian Serbs did not participate in that ceremony. I think it is
important to remember that the three presidents did get together and
inaugurate the Presidency themselves, but we were disappointed by this.
I think it is a reflection of how difficult that situation is, how hard
it is to bring parties together who have been fighting a bloody war for
four years. We expect Krajisnik to be present at subsequent meetings,
but there will have to be a situation where the United States, the other
parties there, and IFOR will have to be involved in a day-to-day basis
as this new national government begins to take hold. No one should be
disappointed if there are some ups and downs in this situation. But I
think if we look back over the last several months, we have been
marching through a series of milestones, making steady progress.
QUESTION*: So it is not about to come unraveled?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Not about to come unraveled. I think the
parties each committed themselves again to go forward to form this
national government. It will not be easy, but if you think of the
number of milestones we passed with the deployment of IFOR, the
separation of the forces, the holding of the elections that so many
people said could not be held without violence, the fact there have been
almost no attacks on IFOR during this period. Let us take it step by
step and this is another important difficult step, but I think it can be
QUESTION*: Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you very, very much for
taking some time today to join us. I know you've got a very busy
schedule, an important one, and we appreciate your time.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you.
* Text of questions taken from CNN transcript of the program.
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