|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Foreign Minister David Levy
Press Briefing following meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Jerusalem, December 8, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
QUESTION (in Hebrew): Mr. Foreign Minister, if there is, in fact, no progress in the Syrian track during the next couple of weeks, is your promise to leave Lebanon in the year 2000 still standing?
FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): In the matter of the return to talks with Syria, between Syria and Israel, the United States and all the factors involved are working and putting in their utmost in order to bring about positive results in order to go forward towards a comprehensive peace.
In the matter of Lebanon, for us, we prefer a situation where we leave with an agreement. We will put in all our efforts in order to reach such an agreement. If an agreement of that kind is not attained, then Israel will decide, according to its own interests, what to do. We will not be hostage to a defiant stand of the Syrians.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you spent several hours with President Asad yesterday. You are not a doctor but can you tell us your impressions of his state of health and his state of mind and his grasp of the issues that needed to be discussed.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I definitely am not a medical doctor so I think it is quite inappropriate for me to make comments, but we did have a long meeting in which he was thoroughly engaged and I felt that it was a good meeting and that he was the major part of it.
QUESTION (in Hebrew): Mr. Foreign Minister, could you comment on the situation in Chechnya? We heard a fairly strong statement yesterday from President Clinton which said that Russia will pay a dear price for the Chechnya situation. What is your position on this?
FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): Israel cannot remain unmoved seeing the sight of innocent civilians and people who are suffering. We hope that this tragedy will find a political solution as soon as possible and these people will find the peace and tranquillity that they deserve. Russia, at the same time, has claimed that the terror is a big enemy of all. We cannot accept the existence of terror. It might even spread. At the same time, they also recognize the problem of the refugees, they see it as a problem which also affects them themselves. We hope, as I said before, that this matter will find a solution as soon as possible.
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