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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy

Press Conference
Jerusalem, September 3, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): We are very glad to welcome the Secretary of State, Mrs. Madeleine Albright, here. She and the Administration and her aides have put great efforts to try and bring the different sides together and to promote the process. We recognize and appreciate this effort, which is done under the limitations which were accepted by all sides. We appreciate her activity here this day. We hope she will succeed for the benefit of all sides.

I hope that we will reach -- we are actually very close to reaching, to concluding the agreement between the two sides for the benefits of the process, the benefits of the peace. We must also mention that it was never in doubt that Israel would implement the agreement. From the side of Israel, we are trustworthy to our agreements. We are responsible, and we intend to implement them until the end. We also hope that the other side will accept its responsibilities in this process. I would also like to say that I hope that we are in an era that will bring a new atmosphere, that will bring a change in the atmosphere in the area. It is also essential that the leaders of the region speak peace to their nations. We will, in any case, not spare any efforts in order to facilitate and to accelerate the negotiations until we reach a final status position. That is the objective. The objective is peace and not the process itself.

In the international arena, we also would like that there should be a new atmosphere -- an atmosphere of respecting agreements. We hope that this message will be received on the other side. We also hope that the effort to bring a comprehensive peace will also come about, will also bring the opportunity to bring an end to the tragic and dramatic situation in Lebanon and that we will reach an agreement with that country. We also expect to see Syria joining this path to peace. It is now a time of goodwill and a time to reach a comprehensive agreement. We must take this opportunity. I also believe that through the counselor and the counseling we had here, that we will also further and make progress on the multilateral track. We must also seize the opportunity and make use of the goodwill of all those who assist us in this process, so that also the nations of the region will see the fruits of the peace.

I would like to thank again the Secretary of State who understands very well the subject that stands before us. She also assisted us in bringing the bridge between the two sides -- and we can work together in a new atmosphere to bring the process to its final end.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say how delighted I am to have the opportunity again to work with an old partner, Foreign Minister David Levy. We have worked together very well before, and we have had excellent meetings here, and our partnership is solid.

We had excellent meetings last night with the Prime Minister and his team. And as the Foreign Minister has said, we are hopeful that this agreement will be concluded, and that we will be able to really move forward in the comprehensive peace process, the elements of which he has described.

And so, I stand here with my partner, looking forward to additional work in putting together a comprehensive peace and with the fact that the parties themselves have been able to work out this agreement with some assistance from the United States and Egypt. We are hopeful that we will be able to move forward as soon as possible. Thank you.

QUESTION: Secretary of State of the United States acting in the role of mediator after the Prime Minister said he wanted the Americans as a facilitator only. Are you playing the role of a mediator?

FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): We will not go into details. All I can say is that we are very close. Both sides are interested. We are not going into a new dialogue. We are very close to concluding the details. I am optimistic. It could be that we will conclude the deal today. But, with respect to the Sabbath day, we might not sign it today. If it's today or tomorrow, that is not the fundamental issue. The fundamental issue is the agreement itself, and both sides are interested and willing.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that the United States is playing the role that is deemed useful by both the parties. As I said earlier, the parties themselves are the ones that have written this agreement and I was there basically in the role of a facilitator. Perhaps I should not introduce a new term into all this, but maybe I was just the handmaiden.

QUESTION: With the West Bank agreement being modified, is the U.S. role being modified too? Will the CIA continue to play a security role and will there continue to be intelligence sharing to combat terrorism. We haven't heard much on this.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as you know, Barry, we consider the problem of terrorism one of the major issues that we have dealt with in the past. It obviously is something that continues to be of concern to Israel and to the Palestinians. And again, without going into details, we will be as helpful as we are asked to be. And what I have found, and as the Prime Minister said this yesterday, is that he appreciated the role that the United States is playing. I frankly do not think that focusing so much exactly on what we are doing is the essential point here. The essential point here is that all of us are trying to move the peace process forward and we each fulfill a role that is helpful. I have to say that yesterday in Alexandria the Egyptians were very helpful. And they continue to be so. And I think that we are all doing what we can to put our shoulder to the wheel to get this across the line. So, I think that the definitional things of what we are doing here, at the moment, should take a back seat to what is actually being accomplished. As we said, we are hopeful, but -- to use an American phrase -- it ain't over until it's over. And we are going to keep working. We worked through the night, and that means all of us. And we will continue to do so.

QUESTION (in Hebrew): Question to the Foreign Minister, Mr. David Levy is what are thc chances that at the end of this process of negotiation the talks will begin with Syria?

FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): Syria is an important factor in the future framework of a comprehensive peace. That is how we see it. We would wish that the path with Syria would reopen, that we would do the work. And I hope, as it is important for both sides, that the way will be found, that the path will be found that will bring all sides back to the negotiating table. This is a sign of goodwill and we will seize it.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I would say that when I go to Damascus I will assess the situation and their willingness to move forward. You have heard now from the Foreign Minister Israel's perspective about the importance of moving forward on the Syrian track. We have said that it is important to move forward on all the tracks, including Lebanon. And I will make that point on behalf of the United States when I meet with President Assad.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that everybody is still working. The Foreign Minister and I have been in a meeting together talking about a lot of bilateral issues. I'm glad to hear that Chairman Arafat has announced this, but I think we have to check all the stops. But, as we both have said, as the result of all the work done primarily by the parties with some assistance by Egypt and the United States, that we are hopeful that this will indeed happen. And again, as the Foreign Minister said, the fact that it is Shabbat I think has delayed somewhat the possibilities of signing. But it isn't just that, it's the movement towards an agreement, and here we continue to be hopeful.

QUESTION (in Hebrew): The first question to the Foreign Minister David Levy: You have said that everyone has spoken about a new atmosphere, a mutual trust, but just recently in the past 24 hours we have heard that the Palestinians claim that there are threats and that Israel does not want to implement the agreement. Some said that there have not been such things since the period of Netanyahu. Does this facilitate the peace process?

FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): In every negotiation we hear announcements of different kinds and we have different atmospheres. In the end, in the final analysis, when there is an agreement, then all that is irrelevant. That is the name of the game. Everyone tries to say things in order to influence the tide in one way or another. The agreement is the answer. That is the end of all talk and that is what is required by all sides. I would like to also say that the Wye Agreement was a step forward, and today we are intending to reach an improvement -- the Wye Agreement improved, and that is the answer. After we implement Wye, and after it is achieved and agreed by all sides, that will be milestone for the final status. We will not spare any efforts in order to reach this agreement and to improve the agreement between the two sides. We are very close, perhaps it wasn't just for the watch for the time that is passing, perhaps today could have been a day of good will, but because of the hour, because of the winter clock, maybe it will be tomorrow.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I had a rather extensive meeting with Prime Minister Barak during the middle of the night. We met for -- I think it was about three hours -- and we covered an awful lot of issues. I don't know whether I'll be seeing him again today. We will certainly be in contact. When you are dealing with one of your closest friends, then one can be flexible. We have covered a lot of issues, and if it's necessary to talk to him, or he wants to talk to me, obviously it will be very easy to arrange.

[End of Document]

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