|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, and
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister David Levy
Press remarks prior to their meeting
Washington, D.C., May 16, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am very pleased to be able to welcome Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Israel, David Levy, to the State Department today. I have been looking forward to this meeting. We have had many phone conversations recently, and I'm very glad that he is here. I would like to extend our personal welcome to him and to his party.
The U.S. relationship with Israel is an especially close one. It is based on shared interests, the closest cultural ties and a shared desire for peace in the Middle East. This Administration's support for the security and well-being of Israel is without parallel. Today, with the Foreign Minister, we're going to review a number of issues of bilateral interest, regional issues and, of course, developments in the Middle East peace process.
Once again, I welcome the deputy prime minister here, and I look forward to fruitful discussions. Mr. Levy.
FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY (in Hebrew): Thank you very much. I'm glad to meet Secretary of State Albright. It is really no secret that we have many joint issues between--common between the two countries, we have to discuss as friends and responsible partners. We have issues that we have to find answers to. The peace process is a common goal to both countries, and we have to work very hard for it to succeed; to increase the hope and to remove the dangers in a region which has known many, many problems. But for peace, you have to work very hard in order to achieve it.
Israel has chosen, of its own free will, to join the peace process. It is of value for her and to the region. Naturally, the two parties have to find a resolution between them. The U.S. service is invaluable and appreciated by all parties. The friendship between the two countries brings us to close consultations and joint work. I hope that our efforts will succeed, because there is no alternative to peace. We have to fulfill all agreements, but also to curb the expectations. The most important expectation is the success of the process itself. We will make every effort in order to succeed.
With the Secretary of State, it's a pleasure and a heavy responsibility to work together; and I am extremely happy to work together with the Secretary of State. From the Israeli people to the American people on this happy occasion, we wish a very happy birthday to the Secretary of State.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. The longest celebrated birthday--thank you very much.
QUESTION: Happy Birthday, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
QUESTION: Happy Birthday from the press corps, which is a gentle way of getting into a tough question. Madame Secretary, do you think friends should be wiretapping friends? If those reports are correct, then Mr. Minister, do you think Israel should give up some of its foreign aid to help Jordan?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thanks for the birthday wishes, Barry. Let me just say that our relationships with Israel are the closest ever. We have, obviously, the best relations. I speak with the Prime Minister frequently, and with the Foreign Minister. I think that we always have to remember the closeness of the ties between Israel and the United States.
FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY: Aid to Jordan is a mutual desire of the United States and Israel. It's an important link to strengthen the peace process. I'm sure we will find a common way in order to achieve this goal.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied with the efforts of both Israel and the Palestinians to move the peace process forward during the Ross mission? And if you're not, will you personally get involved, go to the region and put your own (inaudible) on the table?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that I've spoken to Dennis very frequently on this last mission that he has been on. He has had extensive contacts with all the people in the region and has, I think, had a set of talks that have been fairly productive. I think that clearly there continues to be the need to bring the parties together in a really strong and productive dialogue. We will be pressing to do that. Dennis will be back later today, and he's going to report to the President and to me on the progress that has been made.
But I think the issue that has to be kept in mind--and the Foreign Minister said this himself--it is actually the two parties that have to come together. It is the two parties that have to make the difficult decisions here. Obviously, the United States will do what we can here and will keep pursuing our role. But it is the parties that have to make the difficult decisions. As for my own plans, as I have said a number times, I have been deeply involved in this. The questions are, when will I go to the region? The region has been coming here, as evidenced by the presence of the Foreign Minister. There have been, as you know, a number of visits by the leaders from the region, and more phone calls than I can even tell you about.
But I will go there when the time is right and when the parties are prepared to really make some of the decisions that are required.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I was wondering if you'll be talking specifically about what was said rather fuzzily here and at the White House yesterday--suggesting that part of the aid that the United States would like to dig up for Jordan might come out of the pie that now is divided between Israel and Egypt? And if I may indulge also, do you have any information about Mr. Mobutu's apparent departure from Kinshasa?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me again build on what the Foreign Minister said. We have, for some time, been looking for ways to help Jordan and the other friends of peace in the Middle East. The President discussed the issue with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He also--the Prime Minister--shares an interest in establishing a fund for Middle East peace and security to help achieve these goals.
We are now examining, with the Israelis, details on how best to move forward on this. When we reach a conclusion on this, we'll be consulting with Congress. But I think, again, as the Foreign Minister himself said, we all have a common interest in trying to help Jordan and the friends of peace.
On the issue of Mr. Mobutu, we believe that he has departed from Kinshasa and is in his village. We believe that his departure now opens the way for a peaceful resolution of the military conflict. We are, at this stage, working with all the parties so that we can avoid bloodshed, and also to do what can be done in terms of contributing to a process that would be peaceful and have an inclusive transition that would result in free and fair elections.
I think the most important point here is that Zaire now needs to move forward, away from war, towards peace, stability and elections.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, (inaudible).
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we are obviously following the situation very carefully. It is one of the subjects that I'm going to be discussing with the Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER LEVY: Thank you.
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