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Camp David Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart

THE WHITE HOUSE


Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland)

For Immediate Release July 16, 2000

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART

Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland

10:55 A.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Good morning, everybody. For those of you who were lucky enough to get home yesterday, welcome back. For those of you who weren't, I share your pain. Let me briefly run through the schedule up until the point where I think we briefed you yesterday informally. And then I'll tell you what little I know about today.

I think as we told you yesterday, yesterday was a day of informal discussions. The President spent a little bit of time in these discussions with the groups that were working on the issues. He had a session with Prime Minister Barak and with Chairman Arafat. They all dined together last night. Last night's seating arrangement allowed for the President to sit between the two leaders, so they had a discussion through the dinner. The President met with his team after that dinner, and then retired for the evening.

The discussions between the groups, between the parties, have gone on sort of at their own schedule, so I don't have a sort of point-by-point, meeting-by-meeting readout of that.

As for today, the President is at the Evergreen Chapel now for services. They began at 10:30 a.m. This is a weekly custom for the President when he's up here. Generally, services are attended by about 60 or so people from the base, mostly military personnel who are stationed there. When that meeting is over, the President will have a session with his team as they go over the schedule for the rest of the day and make some decisions on what they do today.

Let me give you a little bit more, though, on a question that has come up a few times -- the delegates who are in Emmitsburg. They met last night in an informal session. The Americans and the Palestinians talked from about 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.to work out how they would proceed. The American group and the Israelis met at about 9:30 p.m. for an hour. They met this morning in an trilateral meeting at about 8:45 a.m., agreed almost immediately to break into smaller groups. They've proceeded to do that and are meeting now in smaller groups. As I get more on that, I will let you know.

That's what I have.

Q Joe, you mentioned dinner last night. When he sits between the two of them, does he talk to one and then the other? Does this become a three-way conversation?

MR. LOCKHART: I think it's a combination of, because obviously each of the other leaders has someone to their other side. So it's a combination of the three of them talking to each other with some one-on-one conversation, and some as the other person is, in a polite way, speaking to the person to their left, I guess.

Q Joe, there is a lot of pessimism coming out of Jerusalem today. Precisely, the Israeli Foreign Minister told reporters that after talking to people here at Camp David that they are not very close at all and that he's not very optimistic. Any comment on that appraisal? Is that justified?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into handicapping the comments of those who aren't here. They're free to make them. You are free to report them. But their existential meaning on these talks are debatable.

Q Well, Joe, what about the people who are here? Are they making progress?

MR. LOCKHART: I think as I've said throughout the week, I'm not going to try to provide a progress report. I'll give you the bear minimum of what the schedule is and let those who are in these sessions at Camp David concentrate on the difficult issues that face them, and spending a minimum amount of time worrying about what's getting written in the paper.

Q Joe, can you confirm that a second Israeli has joined the Israeli team in negotiating --

MR. LOCKHART: I'll check on that. I don't know. I know that they're still not at the number that --

Q -- Israeli sources have said a second so-called expert --

MR. LOCKHART: That's easy to check.

Q On the Emmitsburg talks, you said they broke into smaller groups this morning. Are those three-way smaller groups, or is it --

MR. LOCKHART: I think so, but we'll double-check whether there's an American assigned to each of these groups. I don't know that, but, again, that's easy to check.

Q I know who the Palestinians are down in Emmitsburg, but I don't know who the Israelis are in Emmitsburg. Can you give me an idea of who they are?

MR. LOCKHART: We'll get State to take a look and see if we can come up with that list.

Q -- issue by issue of the groups?

MR. LOCKHART: They literally broke I think at 9:00 a.m. this morning to get into the groups, so I don't know how they are defining their groups. But we should be able to come up with that. There's less of a veil of secrecy on what they're doing, as opposed to what I am charged to talk about.

Q Joe, have you heard from the parties whether they would be willing to stay after the President leaves?

MR. LOCKHART: As far as I'm aware, there hasn't been any discussion of that.

Q Joe, is the President still planning to leave on Wednesday, and, if so, what time on Wednesday?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have a time, but the President has a schedule in Tokyo and Okinawa of important G-8 responsibility.

Q Joe, back to the dinner meeting last night. Would you say the atmosphere was positive and that the atmosphere in the talks remained as positive as they were in the beginning?

MR. LOCKHART: I think they dinners have always had a positive feel to them because of the inherent atmosphere and, you know, people coming together for a meal. I think in any negotiation that has now entered it's fifth or sixth day, as you get to the hard issues -- I mentioned the other day that these issues are difficult -- the atmosphere can be tense. That's certainly the case in any number of conversations and discussions as they try to work through these. So I don't want to create the false impression that because they come together each evening for a meal in a positive atmosphere that that permeates all the discussions.

Q -- or some progress up until the day they go, or do they work separately on different issues, unconnected --

MR. LOCKHART: My sense is that there is not a lot of linkage between what's going on at Camp David and the beginning of these discussions.

Q Joe, do you have any -- China and Pakistan, Iran.

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have very much on that. I don't have any -- no one has informed me that it came up in the context of the Camp David discussions. But it obviously underscores our concern about proliferation in the region and proliferation overall, and demonstrates why we do so much work in that field.

Q Can you explain what -- meaning of the talks taking place in Emmitsburg? Do you see that as an intensification? Is it going to help make things go faster back at Camp David? And how do they supplement what's going on --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, there are obviously issues that -- non-core issues that the delegates at Emmitsburg on working on that are important to get worked through. But I think the difficult issues that those that are at Camp David are trying to work through are, in the sense of these discussions, separate and apart. I mean, eventually, these will all have to be decided. So I would warn against trying to read too much into what's going on in Emmitsburg.

Q Are the delegates satisfied with -- some of these reports out of -- some are a violation of that?

MR. LOCKHART: Listen, there has been -- I think the substance of what's been going on has generally been kept in Camp David. There's a lot of people talking; a lot of them don't know what they're talking about. Only time will tell who does and who doesn't.

I'll give you one real-time example of the unfortunate person who had to field the phone calls last night, who, within 15 minutes received a phone call from one distinguished news organization saying a particular delegation had just reported that talks had broken down, or were breaking down and going very badly, and then got a phone call 15 minutes later from another distinguished news organization citing the same delegation sources as saying they were close to a breakthrough. So it's entertaining. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, could you give us a little bit on the President's other activity? For one thing, presumably, he still has Okinawa. Is he getting a chance to prepare, is he reading up on the economic issues? Is there anything you can tell about what he did after the talks last night -- did he watch the White Sox game, did he --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know after they broke. Obviously, the President's daughter is still here, so in the break times he's getting a chance to spend some time with her. That is particularly when they break for the evening.

As far as Okinawa, the President is getting his daily foreign policy briefing every morning, he's spending time with his Chief of Staff every day. I suspect that given the pressure of these talks at Camp David that a lot of the preparation we'll do for Okinawa will be on that very long plane journey, as far as him getting caught up on his reading. And we'll probably do our trip briefing on the plane.

Q Joe, time is running short now. Is there any sense of greater intensity about these talks?

MR. LOCKHART: I think everyone understands the calendar. Everybody understands what the issues are and what the schedule is. So I think they understand that an intense effort is needed.

Q Joe, if the President leaves to Okinawa, is there a possibility of the negotiation going on under the auspices of Madeleine Albright or --

MR. LOCKHART: That is a question that would involve speculation, which I'm not going to engage in.

Q Joe, can you say that the Chairman -- over the last few days in part of the discussions that they've --

MR. LOCKHART: It's not been reported to me that that's been specifically mentioned, but obviously it underscores -- I would think all sides believe that an agreement needs to be reached, and an agreement is in the interest of all sides.

Q Are the negotiators still divided into certain groups, into different groups, each group working on a certain, on one different core issue?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q They are.

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q What happens -- if the President does go to Japan, what happens to the delegations? Will they stay?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, that's very similar to the speculative question that I got over here, which I didn't answer, so I won't answer that.

Q Would you confirm that the U.S. has already presented its bridging proposals?

MR. LOCKHART: I am not going to get into any discussion, as that goes to substance, but -- actually I think I'll stop there. (Laughter.)

Q You said the groups, they're divided up according to issues now. Are those issues then Jerusalem, borders, refugees?

MR. LOCKHART: Without giving you names of the groups or attendees to each group, they are roughly according to the well-known core issues.

Q So three, four, or --

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into numbers.

Q If and when an agreement is reached here, or at a future date, does the White House want to have a signing ceremony at the White House? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: What do you think, a signing ceremony? Well, listen, that is in the category of things, problems that people who work on that sort of thing would love to have, but no one is focused on that at this point.

Q Can you confirm the Post report today about the price tag for the deal from Congress?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't know that there is a specific price tag that anyone with an authoritative voice has used. Those with not authoritative voices are free to speculate. I have said all along that the U.S. government has traditionally tried to find a way to play a constructive role in these peace agreements. Should that be necessary here, we would look to do that. The President has consulted Congress throughout this process, and as appropriate, will consult more closely, should some sort of package need to be put together.

Q -- by both presidential candidates yesterday. Has the Vice President been speaking with President Clinton on -- is he being briefed about what's going on?

MR. LOCKHART: He's certainly, through his own national security team, can get briefed on the overall situation here. The only time that I know they spoke this week is, the President talked to him the night that the Vice President spoke at the NAACP, which was in preparation of the President speaking to the NAACP. The only thing that I talked to the President about, about that conversation was the speech. So whether they talked in general or specifically about what was going on up here, I don't really know.

Q Joe, can you confirm that United Nations resolutions, such as 242, 338 and 194 to secure the cornerstone for policy in the Middle East peace process?

MR. LOCKHART: Let's get an agreement first, P.J. says.

Q Joe, this week, about 400 presidential scholars from 35 countries are meeting on war and peace at Georgetown University.

MR. LOCKHART: Very good university.

Q -- and the President was going to meet them at the White House, but it was cancelled because of this, I believe. There are those in the peace process here because -- Palestine and Israel --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, on a personal note, the President was actually quite concerned and was trying to find some time to reach out to the people -- a number of groups that he had to cancel over the last week. But I think it's quite important in many different senses that a positive atmosphere and an atmosphere conducive to reach an agreement be reached, and I think all parties here are appreciative of those who endeavor in that vein.

That's a good last question.

Q What time this afternoon?

MR. LOCKHART: At 4:00 p.m. or 5:00 p.m.

END 11:10 A.M. EDT


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