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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu
Joint Press Availability, Royal Garden Hotel
London, United Kingdom, November 14, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me begin by saying that I made clear that for the sake of the Middle East peace process and for our broader mutual interests in the region, it is time for us to move on the peace process. We, the Prime Minister and I, have had very useful discussions, and we talked about the steps that need to be taken to overcome the impasse and move forward on our four-part agenda with a greater sense of urgency; and I would reiterate that I found our discussions most useful.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you, Madam Secretary. We've had what I would categorize, too, as useful discussions. I think there is no question that Secretary Albright's involvement and purposeful efforts to move the process forward find not only an echo but resonate very deeply in our conceptions and our desires to find ways to move the process forward. We discussed it. I understand the Secretary will discuss it tomorrow with Chairman Arafat, and I think that with goodwill and a great deal of effort and assistance by the Secretary of State we hope that we'll find such a path.
QUESTION: Secretary of State, may I ask about the Iraq crisis? Do you think the Iraqis will launch Scud missiles as happened in the Gulf war? Would you allow Israel to respond in defense of an air strike?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that this is not the time to engage in speculation about military action. We are working very hard to have intense diplomacy. It is very important for us to make quite clear, as the international community, that it is essential for us to act together so that Saddam Hussein gets the message that he must reverse course. And it is our hope that, as a result of yet another very firm statement from the United Nations Security Council, he will get the message that it is Saddam Hussein against the world. And the world is making quite clear that he needs to reverse course. Our strategy is to combine intensive diplomacy with a robust military presence in the Gulf, which we think is the best way to convince Saddam Hussein to reverse course.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu, it's obvious that the failure to achieve progress, constant progress, in the Middle East peace process is complicating your efforts to achieve other goals, (inaudible) for the unified stand against Iraq (inaudible) Doha economic summit. I wonder how much this broader context (inaudible) and whether you thought that this meeting (inaudible) early (inaudible)?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we discussed both subjects as separate items because they were both of great concern to us. Both the Prime Minister and I expressed deep concern about what was happening in Iraq and both agreed that it was essential that Saddam Hussein reverse course and that his actions were threatening to the region. We also both discussed, obviously, the importance of moving forward on the Middle East peace process. As far as Doha is concerned, I expressed the fact that I believed it was important for the meeting to go forward because it institutionalizes aspects of the peace process and the importance of making these institutions valid and making them grow and the reason that I am attending is because America keeps its word.
QUESTION: Madam Albright...
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think, perhaps, the Prime Minister was supposed to answer.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I think everyone in the world is concerned with what is happening with Iraq, and I think that anyone who wants to see peace and stability in our part of the world supports the American-led effort at the United Nations to find an end, a suitable end, to the Iraqi infractions. We have to say, as the Secretary said, we live in a tough neighborhood, and in this neighborhood, on our eastern flank, in the Persian Gulf there is a radical regime that has displayed, time and again, the kind of aggressive impulses and I remind you that the Gulf War took place before the Madrid Conference, before we had made the progress that we have made since and we are committed to move forward from now into the future. So I think that -- unfortunately, may I say -- I think that that aggression, unfortunately, stands on its own, and one would hope that there will be a suitable and speedy end to this crisis.
QUESTION: (First question in Hebrew). And a question to the Secretary of State. Did the Prime Minister say that he is willing to go ahead with the implementation of the second phase of the FRD and how do you relate to the Israeli positions that Arafat keeps releasing terrorists from his prisons? According to the Israeli intelligence report, there, thirty-eight terrorists were released since the last attacks in Jerusalem, including a terrorist that was responsible for the attack in Diezengoff Center in 1996. How do you relate to this Israeli position?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (In Hebrew)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me reiterate what the Prime Minister said. We talked about all parts of our four part agenda which includes security, further redeployments, time-out, and final settlement. So we covered, at our talks, all aspects of that because they are of interest to us and I think that that probably deals with your question.
QUESTION: Mr. Prime Minister, I was wondering if, given your stated commitment to move forward with the peace process, and given the state of things right now, if you are thinking perhaps that the four part agenda, as it is laid out, might be the incorrect mix of things because there doesn't seem to be much progress at this point at all, even though you're working very hard, I'm sure, on those four pieces of the agenda.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Well I think it really would not serve any useful purpose to get into our discussions. I assure you they were they were comprehensive, they were serious, they were to the point. I think the Secretary brings a clear commitment, which we share, to try to do everything that we can bring and that the Palestinians can bring to find a way forward. I think with goodwill and a proper understanding of the importance of the joint efforts by Israel and the Palestinian Authority, a way could be found. We're looking for it, and looking for it seriously.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I'm not going to get into details. We talked in a comprehensive way, but I don't think it would serve a productive purpose right now to get into the details.
QUESTION: Secretary last time you visited the area Israel and Palestinian Authorities, you said you are not going to come back unless things are going forward. Do you feel now things are going forward or are you still hearing things without any progress? (Question continues in Hebrew).
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say I am reserving judgement as to what we have accomplished I think that, as I made clear the last time, that we were all together on this I am not going to over state the case. We have had useful discussions. We have many issues that we talked about in our attempt to narrow the gaps, but I am going to reserve judgement. Let me go back on the issue that was asked in the previous question: I would say that the security cooperation is good. We're watching things very carefully. I don't have any comment on the specifics, but it is essential that there must be a hundred percent effort to control violence and terror and it must be a hundred percent effort over time.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: (Answers in Hebrew)
QUESTION: If the PLO is still committed to Israel's destruction, Mr. Prime Minister, when Israel has issued major territorial and other concessions under Oslo, why can't Israel convey to the world's media that Arab intransigence is the real barrier to progress?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: If you ask me about the gap between perception and reality we can spend a good portion of today and a good part of tomorrow, but the Sabbath will soon be upon us, so I will not be able to exhaust the many injustices done to our position. We are committed to keep our side of the agreement. We have. We redeployed in Hebron , we've released women prisoners, we've lifted the closure. We've done all those things that we agreed upon. We'd like to see an equal commitment on the other side, including the fulfilment of the nullification of the Palestinian Charter, which is still on the books, still calls for our destruction.
Obviously, anything that we discuss involves reciprocity. It involves security, it involves the quest to move this process forward in ways that we're exploring now. I don't think there's anything more useful that I would say, but I like what you say and I hope you repeat it endlessly. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mrs. Albright, are you going to convey a good message or good news to Mr. Arafat tomorrow, that the Prime Minister will comply with the Hebron agreement that he signed himself?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am going to make the same statements to Chairman Arafat: that it is essential for the sake of the Middle East peace and for the broader issues in the region for there to be some narrowing of these gaps and for moving on this process. I believe it is essential for both sides to live up to agreements and not to take any steps that make it more complicated to move the process forward. It is time to move the process forward, and that is the message I am delivering to both parties, because I believe that time is being lost and that it is essential to keep the process moving.
QUESTION: A question to the Prime Minister first, and then a question to the Secretary of State. Mr. Prime Minister, your Foreign Minister decided to not go to Doha. Do you agree with this position and is this not an insult to the Secretary of State, who is going to Doha? And for the Secretary of State you said that you wouldn't go back to the region to tread water, I presume, I mean do you think you are not treading water here?
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: We support the efforts of the United States to try to move the process forward on all its counts. We also think that the multi-lateral aspects of peace are important. There are multi-lateral talks and we hope they will be resumed. In fact, I spoke yesterday about it to Prime Minister Blair since Britain will soon lead the European Community and Europe has an important element there. Obviously, we follow the efforts of some to obstruct, but that is not our purpose. A senior minister of our government is going there. We , I think, express by that -- I'm talking about Mr. Sharansky, he is not exactly a junior member of the cabinet -- I think it expresses our support for this effort.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that, as I said earlier, I am reserving judgment. I think after I see Chairman Arafat and I see some results, I will tell you whether I am able to take my first stroke.
QUESTION: Secretary of State you are in the process of rebuilding our coalition against Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq. I was wondering if you were intending to enlist the support of Chairman Yasser Arafat in that effort tomorrow and to urge him to stand up against those in the Palestinian Authority who seem to be identifying themselves with the position taken by the Iraqi President?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me that we are very concerned about what Saddam Hussein is doing, and let me use your question to make the following announcement.
The President has announced some additional force deployments to the Gulf as a prudent measure. I think that very much underlines an earlier statement I made, which is that our strategy is to combine intensive diplomacy with a robust military presence in the Gulf, which we see as the best way to convince Saddam Hussein to reverse course. I will discuss the situation in Iraq with Chairman Arafat and state to him that our belief is that the international community wants to see Saddam Hussein reverse course and that Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction are a threat to everybody in the region, and that they will not discriminate if and when they are used. Therefore it is important for the international community to understand that he is no threat to any single country, but to the region and to the world, which is why we see the international community solidly uniting behind the United Nations mission and making sure that this situation is reversed.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Madam Secretary, I have to intervene for a mundane reason, but an important one for me. On occasion there are reports, largely exaggerated, of my political demise. They have always proven to be wrong. But one of the things that a Prime Minister of Israel does is respect the Sabbath, which will be with us in exactly 2 minutes; and in order not to make any of these reports come true, I am forced to terminate my part in this conference. Of course out of deference, I leave it to you to decide if you will join me. But I am going to be able to entertain no more questions, which leaves all the floor to you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm happy to take advantage of your wish.
PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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