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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Briefing Aboard Aircraft En Route Shannon, Ireland from Cairo, Egypt
June 7, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the three key meetings you had, one with Arafat and the two with Barak. Some of the atmospherics in those or things you're picking up from them that lead you either to be encouraged or discouraged.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think they both understand that we are at a critical moment. We have said that to them. They say it to themselves. They say it to each other. I think everybody is aware the time pressure. That for me is a relatively positive development. Now it doesn't mean that they are on exactly the same schedule. But I think that the fact that Arafat is coming to Washington on Wednesday is helpful and Barak, as you know, saw the President in Lisbon, and I think we were all in the mood of rolling up sleeves and getting to work.

QUESTION: When will the Summit be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to predict that. I really think that getting into timing and predictions doesn't work at this point. We're all, starting from the President on down, really want to get to work and just keep working it through without any artificial stops and goes.

QUESTION: Did either Barak or Arafat make a commitment now that once the U.S. thinks that they are ready, that it would be positive to have a summit that they would attend?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We didn't get that far either. I think basically the underlying aspect of the question you ask, are they ready to have the U.S. call the audible, I think yes. Basically I think they wan us to help and that they are readier to take some guidance in terms of how to move the process forward. But obviously it always comes down to the same thing. We can do all those things but they are the ones who have to make the decisions. They want our help and we're obviously prepared to give it.

QUESTION: What are some possible good soft-landings to the refugee problem, especially those in Lebanon?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't want to go into the details of that. There are different ways of doing things and different headings and categories but I think it's not useful at this point to go into that.

QUESTION: ..the internal domestic political situation in Israel, do you think this might disrupt your attempts to get this done quickly.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think it's up to us to judge it and I think that we have to take our lead from the Prime Minister who I think gave every indication that he wanted to move the process forward. He's the one that has to make those judgements.

QUESTION: I guess the details of the two leaders on the negotiating teams coming here to Washington next week and also Arafat coming, did you call the President in the last two days in terms of conveying to him anything on this?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We had agreed on this before I left. Before I left we talked about the fact that we would issue the invitation, that the only thing that was up in the air was the date itself. I wanted to make sure I had a date so that I could announce it with Arafat. Sandy [Berger] was getting the date for me from Podesta and they called me with it. But all the rest of it we talked about and that's what we wanted to do. We talked about that after Lisbon and, I can't tell you exactly when because we had a lot of plane rides and a lot of meals together so we talked about that was the way we wanted to have it go.

QUESTION: Your meeting with the Syrian, we only have a background account, we don't have obviously your account. What did he say? Is he interested in reopening negotiations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that basically what we wanted to do was to get over the past and think about the future here, that the doors were open and that we should look at how to proceed. We talked about Lebanon and the importance of having that be a calm and secure situation. He and I have talked on the phone since Geneva. But I thought, and I think he did too, that it was a good idea to have a fact-to-fact, and we'll probably see each other again and basically just open up the channels.

QUESTION: But I mean is he interest in making any ... it always gets down to the same point that they have a position. It's not like the Palestinians. They tell you what they want and they've never changed. They didn't change for Clinton. Did they change for you today?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I did not get any indication of a change, no.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea when you might go back?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think what we have to do, and we will keep in touch here, is they are going to come, the negotiators, Monday, Tuesday, then Arafat will come on Wednesday, then they might stay a little bit longer, and then we're going to see day-by-day where we are, whether there's a basis -- I might go back there -- we might get them together. We're just going to be pragmatic here. That's what this takes.

QUESTION: If there is going to b a summit, does that require you to go back and personally deliver invitations?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What we're really trying to do is we're going to assess this very carefully. We're not going to waste time and add steps that we don't need. Nor are we going to skip steps that are important for the process to go forward.

QUESTION: Do you see maybe next week rolling into a three-way summit if things go right?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: My own sense is that is too early.

QUESTION: That negotiations would lead directly to a summit?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think that next week's would, no. But I would like to convey the fact that we are really going to keep pressing towards a conclusion of this which means that instead of 20 hours a day that we'll spend on it, we may spend 24 hours a day. We're really going to work this issue. But that doesn't mean that everything will happen rapidly. It has to be done step-by-step and well-prepared or it won't work.

QUESTION: Is there any kind of level of frustration that you feel? I mean you have both leaders saying yes we're committed, we're still committed but they don't make the political decisions. Do you get the sense that they have really told their negotiators now "let's get this done."

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I honestly don't know. I think that that's what we would like them to do an we'll see when they get to Washington. Out of frustration pearls are born.

QUESTION: As every oyster knows.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As every oyster knows.

QUESTION: A broader question: You mentioned it in the press conference in Egypt the fact that this has become a very high priority for the President, that he's going to devote a lot of time to it. Is it your sense that an arms reduction deal or some type of grand bargain with the Russians is probably going to be more difficult to achieve between now and the end of this presidency, is the President and are you shifting focus toward the Middle East now as maybe the one thing you can achieve in seven months?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It may end up looking that way to you but that is not the plan. The President has two more scheduled meetings with Putin. One in Okinawa and one at the Millennium Summit and obviously a lot more intervening discussions. One of the advantages of having a large government is that he and I don't have to work on everything personally for the process to go forward so clearly we are going to keep going on the negotiations with the Russians. There will be expert-level talks and other aspects of that that will be pushed forward and the President after all has said that he would make a decision based on those four criteria. We have a lot of other things to do. As I said in Cairo, the President really has a passion for peace and he want to work on this and he will set aside the time that is necessary but it doesn't mean that he isn't going to do a lot of other things at the same time. And there are lots of us that are involved in various pieces of it.

QUESTION: Do you think that Arafat really has accommodated himself to the idea of the survival of the State of Israel? Is he capable of bargaining in good faith and can his successors be relied upon to keep whatever agreement that Arafat signs?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that Arafat crossed that line about survival of Israel some time ago. I think that the important meetings that we had in Gaza with the PNC in December '98 -- he's crossed that path. One has to count on the fact that his successors will feel the same way. That's true of any agreement that you have to make sure that it's a good, solid agreement that has benefits for both sides which is how it becomes self-enforcing.

Thank you.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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