|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks following meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat
Erez Checkpoint, October 7, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat have asked me to speak on their behalf. We had some important discussions and a very productive three-way meeting, including an extension of our discussions over a wonderful lunch. We have agreed that the Washington summit will commence on October 15, and, as far as our discussions are concerned, we made significant and substantial progress on the further redeployment, security, the Gaza Industrial Estate and the airport, formation of an anti-incitement committee, and activation of people-to-people programs.
With this substantial progress having now been achieved and some understandings reached, I believe we are now in a far better position to finalize all the issues at the Washington summit. I'm now ready to take your questions.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, could you elaborate on the kind of progress that has been achieved regarding the thirteen percent -- the ten and the three -- further redeployment (inaudible)?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that, as you know, this is an issue that has many parts to it, as other parts of the discussions that we had. Nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to. That is kind of a standard for the discussions. But we have made, as I said, some substantial progress on that among other issues.
QUESTION: Could I just follow up and ask if the meeting in Washington that starts on the 15th will be a long one? Would you say more than a few days? A week or two weeks, like Camp David was?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's going to be hard to tell. We're all prepared to spend some substantial and intensive time there, and we have tried to set up the meeting in a way that will enable the three leaders to be able to spend that kind of time. But I don't want to predict the length of it.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, what do you see as being the most difficult issues that still need to be addressed (inaudible) down the list of progress? What do you see that still remains (inaudible)?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to single out what I feel are the most difficult issues because it all depends on how the discussion evolves. But while I am very encouraged by what I would call really a new spirit that was evident here in the talks that we had, there clearly are still many decisions to be made, the kinds of decisions that can only be made by the leaders themselves. And, those are the kinds of subjects that will be raised when we are altogether at the Washington summit, but I think that it would be wrong of me to pick one or another out. It all depends on how, there are a lot of complicated pieces to this puzzle and, you know, you make advances in one area and then something else happens and in an area that you did not expect to make advances on there is more movement on. But, I guess the best way I could describe it is that I think that this new spirit here was very helpful, and, I hope, very much, that it will be carried on to Washington but, at the same time, I am very realistic about the fact that there are still hard decisions that have to be made.
QUESTION: Secretary Albright, can you please tell us (inaudible) Arafat or you have any sort of idea if Mr. Arafat is willing to fulfill his commitments according to the Hebron accords, as far as what is concerned fighting terrorism? This is one question. And the second question, please, is there any Israeli/American understanding about the third phase of the withdrawal, and does Yasser Arafat accept this understanding?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that we have all along been pressing to make sure that various commitments are carried out. We have also made quite clear that fighting terrorism is something that has to be done on a full-time basis. And so, that point is one that we have made over and over again. As far as the third phase is concerned, I think that, again, this is one of the very important subjects that needs to be resolved and is part of the puzzle. And it is a subject that came up here, but it is one also that we will have to continue to have discussion on over in Washington.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you talked in interim meetings that you wanted to try to get some kind of Middle East agreement down here today. Have you been working on some kind of limited agreement and what happened?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, my intention in coming here was to put in place some of the building blocks for the Washington summit and to do everything I could to try to create a spirit of cooperation and to have the possibility of discussing all the relevant subjects that would be a part of the Washington summit. So, I didn't come here with any specific plan beyond wanting to put the building blocks into place. And I feel good about that. I think that this new spirit really was very evident in meetings that, frankly, were longer than I had expected, much more congenial than I had expected and more improvised than I had expected. For instance, the lunch, which came up on the spot and proved to be a good venue, not only for friendly discussion, but on non-peace process issues, but also on things to do with the peace process. So, as far as my goals are concerned I am more than satisfied, in fact, very pleasantly surprised.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you have made several references to the new spirit that you have found. What do you think accounts for it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think -- first of all, I think -- there is a greater sense of urgency. It is something that we have been talking about. The fact that we believe that time is not on our side, you know, that time is running out on this. And a general sense that -- let me interpose here -- I think that the meetings that we had in New York and Washington last week, I think, were very helpful in making clear the United States' commitment to moving this process forward. The meetings that I had, the meetings that the President had, the promise of meetings in Washington where we would all be together with the President's personal involvement. And a sense that this was the time to do something. Also, I think, that there was a -- I don't want to do psycho babble -- but there really was a sense that these two men felt that they had, that there was a stake in moving this forward. And the spirit of the meetings and then, you know, this is the first time that a Prime Minister of Israel has actually crossed over to have this meeting in Gaza. So, that kind of characterized the sense that these two leaders were putting their shoulder to the wheel to deal with the issues. But I don't want to over-emphasize something. I think there is a new spirit, but I'm very realistic. An awful lot of problems that still have to be resolved. And those are the kinds that the leaders themselves have to resolve when we are in Washington.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, there was some report/talk about a micro-deal, or a micro-agreement, that you are going to achieve here. Can you talk about that micro-deal, if there is anyone like this? The other point is, Mr. Netanyahu is going today to join the settlers in their celebrations in Ariel settlement. Are you worried of such support to the settlers from the Prime Minister?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I've already said that there has been no micro-deal, or however you state it, which was not something that I was intending -- that had not been part of my plan. But, what I had said, was that there had been discussions on a number -- where we made significant -- I'll just repeat the words I used -- made significant and substantial progress on five separate issues. So, I think that those I would regard as the kinds of building blocks that I was looking for. And I don't know what Prime Minister Netanyahu's schedule is, but I do think that it is very important for us to keep our eye on the ball. And that is now the Washington summit, and to stay away from unilateral statements and acts.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, clearly you are more up-beat than you were before the atmosphere, as you say, is more up-beat. But in terms of specific agreements, last night negotiators were working late into the night to try and at least make progress toward a deal on such issues as the airport and the Gaza Industrial Park at Qarni. And there was talk that Secretary Daley might even be able to open the Industrial Park during a visit here next week. Is there a chance that there could be an agreement on those issues before the Washington Summit, or do you feel confident they will be resolved at the Washington Summit?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't know where all this stuff comes from -- you all talking to each other, or -- but all I can....
QUESTION: We are talking to the negotiators.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the negotiators have been working very hard. They will continue to work hard. Ambassador Ross is going to stay here after I leave a little later, and he will continue to work. And there will be every attempt to make progress in all the areas that I mentioned, which happen to be the same ones that you have mentioned plus some additional ones. So, we are going to keep pressing and pushing and not hold back in any way but keep pushing the ball forward on all those areas.
QUESTION: You reported progress today. Do you think if there will be a signing of an agreement in Washington it will stop Mr. Arafat from declaring a State in May 1999? And then you spoke about dialogue -- people-to-people dialogue. For twenty days the Palestinians are living -- 2.5 million Palestinians are living -- under closure, and there was a decision to expand settlement in the heart of Hebron. How will you carry out dialogue when people are living under severe closure for at least twenty days now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the first part of your question, I think that what we are going to be trying to do in Washington is to work on all the issues that are part of the interim issues and then try to begin to give a kickoff to permanent status talks. So, I think that whatever question you ask in that regard then is hypothetical. Then, in terms of the living situation, let me just say that I think all of us know how difficult it has been here and how various problems exist, and that's the reason for the peace process. And while -- it's hard not to believe in miracles in this particular part of the world -- but I think that it is important to realize that there can be a shift in mood and that as a result of the hard decisions that the leaders can and must make, that then that will carry over to how the people relate to each other.
And one of the reasons that I think there is a desire to be more pro-active on the people-to-people activities is that if you get business people together or teachers together or children, that it helps to change the atmosphere. So, you really have something coming from two directions: the mood of the leadership and then the mood of the people. So I don't want to overstate my optimism. But I would like to say one more time that I had a sense after the meetings here, that there really is a new spirit of cooperation and a sense of urgency, and a desire to move the process forward. On the other hand, I wasn't born yesterday. There are still very many hard problems out there that the leaders themselves are very much aware of. And that they know that they are the ones that have to make the hard decisions whether they are in my presence or the President's presence in Washington. They are going to have to make those decisions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, one last one, if I may, unless you have addressed this. But some of us antiquarians who are veterans of Camp David remember Jimmy Carter's heroic efforts. Will this President be actually engaged and moving from side to side and bringing them together? What kind of a role will he play, or will he oversee and leave the hard bargaining to them?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I was actually alive at that period myself. (Laughter)
QUESTION: But you weren't at Camp David.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No I wasn't. I was at the White House, watching eagerly. I think that I can assure you that the President is going to be very much involved in a lot of the detailed work. I cannot now tell you exactly how it will work, but I know from having just now participated in bilaterals with him -- with these two leaders as well as the trilaterals -- is that he has a very special and uncanny ability to work with people that have difficult problems such as this and also to able to put himself in their shoes. So I think that he will be playing a very active role.
[End of Document]
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