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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal logo Ambassador Edward Walker, Assistant Secretary
Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs

Remarks on His Recent Travel to the Middle East
U.S. Department of State, Press Briefing Room
Washington, DC, August 24, 2000


In the wake of the Camp David Summit, President Clinton and Secretary Albright asked me to consult with our Arab friends in the region. I was received at the highest level in every country I visited. I was asked to brief on the significant progress that was made at Camp David and identify the critical issues that were still outstanding. I was also asked to seek the counsel of our friends on how best to proceed and on ways we might approach the core issues including Jerusalem. I found intense interest in our briefing of the details of the discussions at Camp David and in the President's firm intention to continue our efforts and, if at all possible, to reach an agreement on the key issues separating the parties within the next few weeks.

Every Arab leader praised the efforts of the President and the Secretary and commended our intention to continue the process. Every Arab leader expressed a deep commitment to peace and to taking advantage of this historic opportunity to reach an agreement.

I was gratified by the indications of support we received and a general willingness to consider alternative solutions to the core Jerusalem problem, despite its complexity and sensitivity. I was particularly gratified by the concrete steps that several countries--prominent among them Egypt--promised to take to help resolve the issues. Other friends such as Jordan and Morocco also agreed to help in this process. Indeed, these countries have been active in following up on this agenda. I found active support for our efforts in Turkey, Tunisia and Algeria as well as in the Gulf.

In general, as a result of our consultations, I believe there is a better understanding of the key problems that came up at Camp David and our now active efforts to help resolve them.

As you know, I also had occasion to meet in Syria with Foreign Minister Shara and President Bashar al-Asad. This was our first opportunity to have a significant discussion with him on substance. The new Syrian president very favorably impressed me. He took firm control of the meeting, was well informed, asked incisive questions and was very much in command of the situation. He was open and clearly interested in our viewpoint.

President Bashar al-Asad made clear his commitment to the peace process. I stressed President Clinton's commitment to comprehensive peace and his desire to pursue the negotiations between Syria and Israel and Lebanon and Israel. We did not enter into the details of previous negotiations, nor was that my brief.

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