|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks on visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak
Washington, D.C., July 20, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Earlier today, I met again with Israeli Prime Minister Barak. This was the Prime Minister's last in a series of meetings with the President, the Vice President and other Administration officials in recent days.
I think it's fair to say that the Prime Minister's visit has ushered in a new phase in both the US-Israeli relationship and the pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace. The foundation of relations between our two countries has always been rock solid. It's grown even deeper as a result of the bilateral initiatives announced yesterday and the spirit of seriousness and warmth reflected in the meetings this week. We are allies and partners, never more so than now.
At the same time, Israel's historic determination to pursue a lasting, comprehensive and secure peace -- highlighted by the Prime Minister's personal commitment -- has grown deeper as well. We all recognize that the road to peace remains a difficult one; we have no illusions about the obstacles we face. As the Prime Minister has said, tough and painful decisions will be required by all parties. But it's equally clear that we are now pointed in the right direction. A new opportunity exists; it must be seized. And for that to happen, all those with an interest in Middle East peace must do their part.
Discussions during the past several days have reinforced my view that Prime Minister Barak is very much aware of this opportunity and prepared to move decisively to grasp it. Clearly, the Prime Minister understands the value of energizing all the tracks of the peace process simultaneously, while also fulfilling the commitments Israel has made.
With the Palestinians, it's vital to recreate a real partnership; to implement Wye; and to begin the all-important permanent status negotiations. With the Syrians and Lebanese, it is equally essential to find the right way to resume negotiations so that moving towards a comprehensive peace becomes a reality. And throughout the region, it is essential to deepen support for the peace process so that a new spirit of cooperation can emerge and a new reality of shared prosperity and progress can be built. Our goal should be to broaden the orbit of the Arab-Israeli peace so that what has been a regional conflict can end in a regional peace.
As the President has said, the United States stands ready to do all that we can to facilitate and enhance this effort and to help negotiations succeed. I plan to travel to the region around the middle of next month to convey this message personally.
I have learned in this job not to make predictions, especially when it comes to the matter of Arab-Israeli peace -- there's an enormous amount of work to do and many challenges ahead. Nonetheless, I believe that with determination, conviction and creativity we can indeed find a way to build on the Prime Minister's visit and achieve real progress towards a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. That would be a great gift to the future for all the people of the region and for America's stake in a more peaceful, prosperous and stable world.
Now I'd be pleased to answer questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, with the trip drawing to a close, I think we were told at the White House the other day, when it's over that some sort of message or messages will go out to the Arab parties, I suppose analyzing or whatever. Could you tell us -- on Syria, especially -- the President mentioned Syria twice yesterday. Could you tell us what sort of capsule or whatever message will be transmitted and when? And is there a special message for Syria, because he seemed to -- Barak -- show a special willingness to enter in negotiations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that obviously it's going to be very important to let the other partners to the process know about what's going on. Partially that will be something that I will be doing on this trip. We obviously will be in contact in a variety of ways before that. With Syria specifically, the President said that he would be communicating a message to President Assad.
QUESTION: Can I follow on? Is it too early to ask you if there's some special emphasis stops, so to speak? Again, Syria is on our minds -- a lot of ours -- because you had a three-year stalemate and you're getting, obviously, signals in both directions that there may be a new interest in resuming negotiations. Do you expect -- Mr. Christopher spent an awful lot of time in Syria, sometimes was kept waiting an awful long time for an audience. But do you expect to be emphasizing that track particularly on your trip?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, the itinerary for my trip has not yet been made up. We'll let you know as it develops.
But let me just say that I think that one of the points that I take from my meetings with the Prime Minister is that what he really wants to do is to have all of the tracks energized. We will be following his lead on this in terms of really wanting to move the tracks without having any preconceptions about which one will move. It will develop a dynamic of its own, I think. And I, along with the other parts of this team, will be willing to go where it's necessary.
What I do think is important is that the Prime Minister has made clear that he wants to have the Syria track re-energized and that he wants to devote energy to it; obviously, we will also.
QUESTION: You mentioned that something further had to be done on the Damascus or Syrian track; that it wasn't settled here as to what the beginning point would be. Is that still a problem? And a second question -- were any confidence-building measures, such as suggested by Yossi Beilin yesterday, the Minister of Justice, in which he called for an end to the 50-year-old emergency regulations under which moderate physical pressure, which now is admitted to be torture, is being done against Palestinians and Palestinian-Americans. There are nine American citizens. Was that raised at all?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say this, that first of all, I think that, as I said on the Syrian issue, there is a desire to move forward on the issue, as the Prime Minister has said and the President indicated and I have. I think that we're going to be working to see, all of us, how to restart those.
On the other, I think there were discussions on confidence-building measures generally. I think what is very important here is to establish an environment in which these talks -- which are going to be difficult, I stressed that in my remarks and I repeat that now. We have no illusions about the fact that there are very many very difficult decisions that have to be made. And while there definitely is a new chapter and a new sense of invigoration here, there will be a great deal to do.
Part of it is creating an environment in which all the parties feel comfortable in making these hard decisions. Obviously, confidence-building measures, without discussing any specific one with you, are very much a part of that and have to be in order to establish this kind of an environment.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you're going to be meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister soon in the midst of another tense situation on the Taiwan Straits. I wondered, China today said it fears that Taiwan is drifting toward independence. I wondered if you felt the same drift and how you expect to sort of engage on this issue.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I am, as you pointed out, going to be seeing Foreign Minister Tang in Singapore. President Clinton has spoken with President Jiang. I can't speak for how either China or Taiwan discusses this; I can only speak from the perspective of the United States. We continue to reiterate, and will do so, our belief in a one-China policy; that it is very important for this situation to be settled by direct dialogue and with peaceful means. I think that this is something that is -- however one assesses what is going on in terms of statements being made, I think that the important point here is that the only way to resolve this is peacefully. That is a point I'm going to be making to Foreign Minister Tang.
At the same time, I want to tell you that Mr. Bush, who is the Chairman and Managing Director of the American Institute in Taiwan, is going to be going to Taiwan; and I have asked Assistant Secretary Roth to go to China Wednesday -- tomorrow -- in order to have some discussions which would precede my talks.
QUESTION: Are you disappointed that the Taiwanese have aggravated the Chinese? And do you think that the Chinese find this movement in an independent direction as provocative? Do you take the Chinese seriously that they are quite angry?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the Chinese have made some statements which are basically the ones that they have made previously. They would like to see a peaceful solution to this but they have not renounced the use of force; that is a reiteration of their position.
From the perspective of how we view this, I think that from our perspective, anything that moves away from what we are advising -- which is direct dialogue and a peaceful resolution to this -- is something that we would like to avoid. We have set out what we think is a good path to handle this and statements are not helpful in this regard.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, forgive me for completely switching gears, but it is a subject a lot of people are talking about. I know you were interviewed by John Kennedy, Jr. and George magazine, and I wonder if you can share any thoughts about him at this time?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I am of the generation that was formed by President Kennedy's presidency. It was the first time that I was in Washington, and I was a young woman going to graduate school when my twins were a year old at that stage. I was one of the people that was glued to the television and saw the salute of the little boy that we all were just -- I remember just sighing about that at the time.
I had known John Kennedy some in New York, a little bit. But when we had this interview, what impressed me so much was the seriousness of his questioning and that he was not kind of stuck with no -- this is not meant to be deprecatory to any other interviewer I've had -- but in terms of just kind of set questions; that he had a very fertile mind that allowed him to roam in the questioning, and that he was a sophisticated questioner and a very warm human being.
I have been an admirer of the Kennedy's -- all of them -- for a very, very long time and I think it is a great loss to this country that John Kennedy, Jr. is not going to be on the scene, because I think he was a very dedicated and fine young man.
QUESTION: As a sponsor of the Wye River Memorandum, what will be the US position if the Palestinian Authority refuses Prime Minister Barak's suggestion to merge the implementation of Wye River with the permanent status talks?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, again, I don't want to speculate overly much, except to say the following. First of all, we are also signatories of the Wye River Memorandum. Prime Minister Barak has said that he intends to carry it out. At the same time, he has said that he wants to talk to Chairman Arafat about it. We have indicated that what the leaders can agree on is something, obviously, that we have always wanted.
So I think we have to take this one step at a time. We are, as I said, co-signatories of the Wye River agreement. It was all negotiated in good faith. Prime Minister Barak said that he will honor the signatures by his country. We want to see where it goes.
What I think is so important now is for both sides to understand that it's the creation of this environment of being able to understand the needs of the other side that is so important. I was particularly impressed by Prime Minister Barak's approach to the issue and what I saw to be an understanding of the needs of his negotiating partners and his willingness to listen and his willingness to pursue a variety of paths here. So I think that we have to let this dynamic develop.
QUESTION: Am I allowed two questions?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What's the first one?
QUESTION: The first one -- Barak has repeatedly said that he's neither, at the present time, going to dismantle any settlements, or establish new ones. What about the question of expanding existing settlements; did this come up in the conversation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think here again, this goes to the point that I raised before. We believe that it is essential to create this environment that does not create difficulties. That is true from both sides. And again, Prime Minister Barak seems to be aware of the needs of his partners. I think that it's very important that there not be unilateral actions by either side. That does not really foster this kind of new mood and an environment that's necessary to make these very difficult decisions.
QUESTION: It's incredibly ambitious, setting a framework for having some peace agreement in place 15 or 18 months or whatever -- doing three tracks. Has there been any discussion about the refugees? I'm thinking specifically about compensation for them. Leaving aside the right to return and so on, I'm trying to get a grasp of how Barak sees this problem.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that it's obviously up to him and others to set deadlines or framework periods of time; it's not something we're doing. But I do think there is a value in compressing the amount of time here in order for this momentum to be able to not only take hold, but to be maintained. Negotiating for the sake of negotiating or kind of keeping a cottage industry of negotiations is not what anybody's looking for. The negotiations are taking place as a means towards an end.
I think that having this kind of a framework time is important and, as I've now said a couple of times, I think we have to see how the timing dynamic of it develops and how the various tracks work together.
I am not going to speak about the specifics of any of this and I think, if I could just kind of give you a heads-up about how we're going to operate, we're not going to be going into a lot of details. I think that the negotiations are going to be complicated -- the details of it -- something that should be carried on among the negotiators. The fact that we really want to move this forward now is what we're really looking for, and we're going to be supportive and we are not going to go into a lot of details on some of the questions that you might have.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, switching to China -- there are reports that Chinese companies transferred missile components to North Korea last month and that US intelligence knows the identities of these Chinese companies. I'm wondering if you could speak to that? And also, could this type of technology transfer trigger sanctions on these companies and North Korea?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that obviously we are concerned by reports that the DPRK may be seeking from China materials, such as specialty steel, for its missile program. However, as you know, we don't comment on alleged intelligence matters; but we do take all such reports seriously and we investigate them thoroughly. We have raised our concerns with China and we'll continue to do so.
As far your last part of the question is concerned, we have and will fully and faithfully implement the requirements of US law, and we would take any actions that were required by those laws were we to determine that the entities engaged in this were involved in sanctionable activities. But I really think that I've stated this fairly carefully in terms of what we know and how it's going to be pursued.
QUESTION: One more, Madame Secretary, please, on South Asia, please. Your meeting, Madame Secretary -- first off, you are doing a great job and so is Mr. Rubin.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. I appreciate that.
QUESTION: Number two, you will be meeting Mr. Jaswan Singh soon, and now, according to reports, 15 Syrians have been massacred in the Doda district by the militants. Madame Secretary, this cross-border terrorism is still continuing and as the agreement was signed here in Washington, written by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and President Clinton. And also you have been aware of this. How can the Indian and Pakistan talks continue if the terrorism continues? And what message, Madame Secretary, do you have for Mr. Jaswan Singh and for India and Pakistan on this agreement and beyond?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that obviously we have taken a great deal of interest in the whole issue of what is happening in the various disputes between India and Pakistan. And I think everybody would readily agree that the role that the President took about this on July 4 was very important in terms of moving forward.
Now, in terms of what you are saying, both Pakistani and Indian officials have made conflicting claims about the fighting on the Siachen Glacier and along the line of control. I think that the Pakistanis say that they repulsed two Indian attacks, and India says that the fighting never occurred. We can't verify either claim but we do know that violent incidents have in fact been taking place regularly on the line of control.
We have noted reports of the killing of these 15 inhabitants and we condemn attacks against civilians and obviously those who perpetrate them and those who give assistance to the perpetrators. Acts of terrorism must stop immediately because such actions make the Kashmir conflict more -- not less -- difficult to resolve.
We hope very much that India and Pakistan will resume their dialogue under the Lahore Process. And that is, frankly, what I'm going to be talking to Jaswan Singh about. He is someone that I've known for a long time and that has really been very important in the dialogue that we had on the nuclear issues, as well as on the Lahore Process. So I'm looking forward to seeing him in Singapore and being able to continue our discussion.
Thank you all very much.
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