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State Department Spokesman Holds News Briefing on Middle East Peace SummitAired July 13, 2000 - 12:02 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: We are interrupting that story to go live to the area outside Camp David, Maryland. This is State Department spokesman Richard Boucher with a briefing.
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RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: ... is leading the United States delegation. There's a very full day planned. The secretary will continue the pattern of meetings that have been occurring over the last two days and continue to work on moving the ball forward.
Informal discussions have continued in a variety of configurations and settings. The secretary, during the course of the day, expects to meet with the leaders and with the negotiating teams.
In addition, the Israeli and Palestinian sides have continued their meetings with each other. Negotiators have met, and yesterday evening there was a meeting between Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat at Chairman Arafat's cabin before dinner.
The parties, the delegations, are grappling with the core issues of permanent status. These are tough issues for all of them; they involve their vital interests. And as Joe Lockhart mentioned yesterday, that's no surprise.
So with that review of events -- oh, I forget to mention: Dinner was called a Mediterranean barbecue, and I can go through the menu and get recipes for anybody who wants it.
OK, with that recounting of the events that have occurred, let me go to questions.
QUESTION: Apropos not hearing about the Arafat-Barak meeting until now, even though it occurred, you said, before dinner, there was some sort of a readout I believe last night, a brief one, could we count from now on for the American host spokesman to keep us as up to date on meetings that don't involve the president or the secretary of state or Mr. Berger as you keep us up to date on U.S.-involved meetings? BOUCHER: There was a piece there that I need to add to what you said before I say yes, and that's as up to date as possible. At the point at which we briefed you yesterday evening, we didn't have this information for you, and so we give it to you at the next first opportunity.
QUESTION: But by the way, just as part of the story, they did tell -- the U.S. was aware -- was indeed the president aware that the two leaders would meet? Did he have a hand in getting them together?
BOUCHER: They met with each other on their own initiative, but we were aware of the meeting, certainly.
QUESTION: Was that with delegates or without delegates?
BOUCHER: There were some delegation members there.
QUESTION: Were you informed before or after the meetings they were having?
BOUCHER: I don't know precisely. We were aware that they were meeting. I have to say, this is the kind of thing that we expect to go on. We expect meetings, as I said, in different configurations and settings: meetings at leaders' level, meetings at negotiator level, and you've seen some meetings of leaders with negotiators. So there are a variety of conversations going on, and this is the kind of thing we expect to happen.
QUESTION: But it all sounds very informal. Today, will you have specific times for these meetings, and then maybe something will happen in between or after?
BOUCHER: There are specific meetings that get set at specific times. When people want to see each other, they make arrangements for specific meetings, and then there are a variety of other conversations that occur more informally.
I have to say, as Joe Lockhart said yesterday, I don't want the informality of some of the arrangements and somewhat fluid nature of some of the meetings to distract you from the fact that these are serious discussions. They are grappling with some very tough issues that involve vital interests, and I wouldn't draw any conclusions from the informality.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that since the beginning of this summit that there's been any one-on-one meetings between Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak? He just did that.
BOUCHER: You mean one-on-one with nobody else present?
BOUCHER: I don't know if any of the meeting yesterday involved one-on-one. I do know that by and large there were other people -- other members of their negotiating teams present. QUESTION: Three ranking Palestinians arrive today and we know -- we understand that Chairman Arafat is going to meet with them. Have you received a request for these three to join the delegation (inaudible)?
BOUCHER: No, we haven't received a request.
QUESTION: Would you entertain the idea of letting these three people join Arafat, if Arafat wants to join them, wants to speak to them?
BOUCHER: There are expectations from the beginning that provisions can be made to bring a limited number of people for a limited period of time as necessary, as we decide is necessary.
So they would have to make the request to us and then, in conjunction with them, we would determine if we felt such a thing was necessary. So I'm not trying to open the door very wide, but at this point we don't have a request for that specific group.
QUESTION: Are we at the stage now where there is any kind of document that's being discussed?
BOUCHER: That's not something we can talk about.
BOUCHER: I'm sorry, we don't do questions that start with "if." That's a hypothetical question. If we get a request, we'll deal with it appropriately.
QUESTION: You don't mention any names of the Palestinian negotiators who met with the president or people that to remember who did not meet with the president yesterday.
BOUCHER: No, that's the kind of detail of the conversations that were not prepared...
BOUCHER: Yes, I don't want to start saying who said what, at what meeting, and the exact...
BOUCHER: Why not? Because you'll start drawing conclusions that are probably not justified.
QUESTION: Has the president offered to meet with Chairman Arafat and this delegation at that's traveling into the region?
BOUCHER: We don't have a request for the delegation to travel to -- so that's a mute question as well. QUESTION: Richard, the -- by my count, you've had one three-way meeting with the three leaders since this conference began. Do you expect -- did I miss one or two? And do you expect more and when do you expect them?
BOUCHER: Frankly, I'd have to go back and count myself.
Obviously, at dinner, all three leaders have been present both nights. They sit at a large table with the president on one side and Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak on either end. They're close to each other; everybody's talking to each other. So they've had a number of conversations between the three of them, among -- in groups and in other settings.
And in terms of the second part of your question, yes, we would expect to have continued meetings of different varieties: bilateral meetings, three-way meetings, meetings among the parties, meetings between us and the parties at various levels.
SHAW: State Department spokesman Richard Boucher speaking to reporters in Thurmont, Maryland, outside Camp David, where this important summit is under way. He alluded to a very sensitive matter for the Palestinian delegations. Some Palestinian opposition leaders have arrived from the West Bank. They want in.
We heard Richard Boucher say, provisions can be made to bring in a limited number of people for a limited time, as necessary. He stressed twice, maybe three times, that thus far the United States has not received a request.
With more on this, our senior White House correspondent John King --John.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, that request for a meeting, Palestinian opposition figures with Chairman Arafat up at Camp David an interesting question at this hour because some Palestinian sources telling CNN that it is their understanding that President Clinton has told Mr. Arafat he is OK with that meeting, as long as he could attend and address those opposition figures.
Palestinian sources saying, this meeting is critical because of disagreements in the Palestinian community. They say Mr. Arafat trying to build a consensus for peace so that he wants to meet not only with his supporters and his negotiators, but also with some who have a different view.
But, as you heard Mr. Boucher say, no official request made. So we still need to sort out as to whether there is an informal understanding between the president and Mr. Arafat, and whether that meeting will take place later today, as the Palestinians hope.
Now, it is the State Department spokesman briefing today because the president has left Camp David for now. He left Camp David this morning to go on to Baltimore, Maryland for a speech to the NAACP, but he will return to Camp David late this afternoon. And as we heard Mr. Boucher say, the meeting is continuing. No word of progress because of the imposed news blackout, but we do see some movement in the fact that last night, prior to dinner, for the first time, Prime Minister Barak and Mr. Arafat met face-to-face. Mr. Boucher saying some aides were present, some top advisers. But U.S. officials had been pushing for such a meeting. He said the president had no hand in arranging it.
But certainly, the president had made clear that he believed, if progress is to be made, the two leaders need to start speaking directly to each other.
Until the president gets back, the secretary of state in charge of these discussions. Once the president gets back, we are told he will be there throughout the weekend, again, trying to bridge these very difficult divides between the Israelis and the Palestinians -- Bernie.
SHAW: John, I am very curious about something. Obviously, the United States has to know how the Israelis feel about the Palestinian desire to have its members meet with Chairman Arafat at the summit.
KING: We are told there have been no Israeli objections to a meeting, per se. The question is whether they follow the protocol. Both sides were limited, we're told, to bringing a dozen negotiators in to Camp David. Now, a little bit of a change in the U.S. public position since yesterday. Lockhart, as one point yesterday said, he is the White House press secretary, said that there were no plans to make any exceptions. Mr. Boucher, today, saying that there are provisions for limited exceptions.
So it seems that the U.S. side is open to this meeting, and we've heard of no objections from the Israelis. Again, the Palestinian view is this is critical if Mr. Arafat is to build a consensus for peace not only among those who support him, but also his opposition figures in the Palestinian government.
SHAW: John King at the White House.
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