Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:Good afternoon, everybody. Let me just say that Chairman Arafat and I have had very useful and constructive discussions. We went over in some detail our four- part agenda, and spent some time discussing the various aspects of it.
I think that you all know me well enough to know that when I say that we have had some very serious and fruitful discussions, that I am telling it like it is. Because if we weren't having them, I would be also telling you that. Just as with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Chairman and I went over some of the interim issues, and we are making some headway on those and should be able to come to closure soon. We have decided that we would have another meeting. I will meet separately with the Prime Minister and the Chairman upon my return from Africa, in Europe next week. We will be able at that stage, I think, to move forward. As I have said to both of them, they have some work to do and some decisions to make before we have those meetings somewhere in Western Europe upon my return from Africa.
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:[official translation from Arabic] I would like to thank you, Madam Secretary, very much for this meeting, which I consider as an important and constructive meeting. At the same time, I would like to take this opportunity to convey my thanks to President Clinton for his keen interest to move the peace process forward and to protect it from the dangers surrounding the peace process. The peace process in the Middle East is an important process that represents Palestinian needs and Israeli needs and Arab needs and international needs. I also would like to reiterate my thanks to Secretary Albright for the efforts that she is exerting to move the peace process forward and to carry out the implementation of the agreements that were signed between us and the Israelis. This is important, I repeat not only important to the Palestinians and Israelis but the entire world. Once again, Madam Secretary, from the bottom of my heart, I really would like to thank you for your concern and your great efforts in having these meetings, and to see those constructive movements by the United States and to see those [inaudible] activities to protect the peace process and move it forward. I would like to assure you, Madam Secretary, that the Palestinian position regarding the peace process is clear. This process is a strategic choice for the Palestinian people. It is the peace of the brave that I have signed with late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, our friend whom we have lost, and also which we signed with Mr. Shimon Peres, and also which we signed part of it with Mr. Netanyahu personally through the Hebron Protocol. Once again Madam Secretary, from the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank you and please convey my best wishes to President Clinton for the extensive efforts you and he are carrying out to protect the peace process.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:Mr. Chairman, I thank you for having met me once again in Switzerland, and for continuing to come to these meetings.
QUESTION:I was wondering if you could tell us anything new on the security front because that seems to be Israel's demand and I wondered if you had any observations on Mr. Sharon's drawing, apparently of security belts. You not to long, actually several months ago, spoke of not wanting to see things done on either side that could be perceived as provocative. Do you consider that provocative?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:Well let me first of all say that we obviously did discuss the security situation and Chairman Arafat understands the importance of doing everything, having a hundred percent effort on his part on the security situation and there is not question that there has been improvement in security cooperation but there is always more that can be done, both by the Palestinian authority unilaterally and in strengthening Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and cooperation and I reminded the Chairman that there can be no complacency, that it requires 100 percent effort 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that the terrorists are unrelenting and so must the efforts against them be unrelenting. As far as Mr. Sharon's plans I think that these are permanent status issues and need to be discussed within that context, and there is a lot of discussion going on in Israel now about a variety of plans and I think that it is inappropriate for me to comment on that kind of discussion at this time. As I said these are final status discussions.
QUESTION:With regards to the Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank territories in terms of percentages, could you perhaps both comment on what the Palestinians are expecting and perhaps what you the United States, Mrs. Albright, would be willing to accept or push?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:Mr. Chairman, do you want to go first?
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:[official translation from Arabic] I am not asking for anything more than what's in the agreements between ourselves and the Israelis.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:We would like to see a credible further redeployment. We want to make sure that there is a combination of quality and quantity and something that is a credible deployment.
QUESTION:Madam Secretary, yesterday this five month parameter was floated around by Israel saying that no real withdrawal could be considered before that time. I am wondering if the United States looks at that as being a wedge being thrown into these efforts that you have so gallantly put forward on behalf of the US. And I would like the Chairman to also respond to that, if he thought this announcement or pronouncement if you will by the Prime Minister was somehow throwing a wedge in the peace process.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:Let me say as I responded to the previous question, there clearly is a connection in terms of the quality, quantity, timing of the FRDs and I think that they are all connected with each other in a way that is part of what we are discussing. Let me just say that the five months did not come up in my discussion with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:[official translation from Arabic] I would like to say, and as I said earlier, that I am not asking for more than I have signed in our agreements, either in the agreements that we did sign at the White House, or the agreements that we did sign in Cairo, or the agreements that we did sign lately with Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the Hebron agreement.
QUESTION:Chairman Arafat, I was wondering if after your discussion with Secretary Albright if you could report anything that would move you closer to agreeing to enter final status talks?
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:[official translation from Arabic] We are not against entering talks regarding the permanent status talks because that is an important thing for us, there is no doubt about it. And it is one of the elements which I consider as fundamental and we have agreed on that with the Israelis, but there is no doubt that this is linked also to the faithful and accurate implementation of the various previous agreements, in other words we cannot jump the requirements of the interim period and go to the permanent status.
QUESTION:[official translation from Arabic] Chairman Arafat, did Secretary Albright give you the plan regarding the further redeployment and would the Palestinian Authority accept that plan with a promise that further redeployment will be carried out.
CHAIRMAN ARAFAT:[official translation from Arabic] Until now there is no detailed plan that we have received from the Israeli side, but the American efforts are going on, and Secretary Albright in particular is still carrying out these efforts, but we do not have the detailed plan you are referring to.
[End of Document]
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