Briefing by Joe Lockhart From Camp David (2)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland)
For Immediate Release July 19, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART
Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland
11:10 A.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Let me, as has become my custom, give you a brief rundown of what's transpired since the last time I think you talked to PJ late last night. The President last night had -- I think this was some time after about 10:00 p.m. -- had a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Barak, and then a -- which was over at the Prime Minister's cabin. And then the President hosted Chairman Arafat back at his cabin, the President's cabin.
The President came back, met with the team for a while, and finished up, I think it was a little bit after 1:00 a.m. I know that there were various negotiators who stayed up and continued work -- work continued within I think all three of the delegations until very early this morning.
The President started this morning at 9:00 a.m. with a meeting with his team, and a short time ago he began a bilateral meeting with Chairman Arafat.
Q Before the summit began, the President, Secretary Albright, Sandy Berger were all saying that what both sides had to understand in this process was that neither of them were going to get 100 percent of all their demands. At this late hour, now, do they understand that, or are you still trying to convince them that they have to understand it?
MR. LOCKHART: It's certainly a point that we have made over and over in public and in private, and I think ultimately, only time will tell the full comprehension of both sides on that concept.
Q Does that mean the answer is no, they don't understand?
MR. LOCKHART: The answer to that is only time will tell, and it's open question.
Q -- so far today, was the President's decision to extend productive? Was it worth it?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the fact that he's sitting in a bilateral with Chairman Arafat as we speak indicates that we think it's worth it.
Q Joe, tell us a little bit about how he made the decision. Did he tell Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak in those final bilats last night that he was doing it, or did he make the decision afterwards? And did they agree to some specific agenda as prerequisite for extending the deadline?
MR. LOCKHART: The formal communication happened through the negotiators, rather than in the leaders' meeting. I can't be certain of that because I didn't query the President about whether he raised it. The final decision to go ahead and put this off and stay another day wasn't made formally until after the two bilaterals were done. And then shortly thereafter we put out some paper here.
Q -- whether or not there was some sort of an agenda that could be worked on today, as prerequisite for extending the talks?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think certainly we wouldn't stay if we didn't think there was some chance of having a productive day. Whether the day turns out to be productive, again, we'll know at the end of the day.
Q -- whether there was a set list of things that were going to be --
MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't point to a set list of things. I think the parties know what they need to do. And we felt that staying an extra day gave us a greater chance to get where we need the go.
Q Joe, can you confirm that the President has received a letter from the Orthodox and the Armenian community leaders in Jerusalem to take part in any future -- in any talks concerning the future of Jerusalem?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that a letter has been received. I'll check that.
Q Joe, we have seen the departure of one member of the Palestinian delegation for his son's wedding, he needed to go back. But is there further deterioration of the delegations, are other people departing? And the ongoing --
MR. LOCKHART: No -- well, let me deal with that in two parts. One is, I think we've been providing running commentary on the fact that Abu Mazen's son is getting married tomorrow. I think he delayed returning as long as he could, but he did need to return this morning. The good news in all of this is because I've made an international event out of his son's wedding, I did receive an invitation. (Laughter.) The bad news is I'll be in Japan during the time of the -- or on the way to Japan -- during the time of the wedding.
On all the other reports, for those of you who have been through this kind of event before, there's a lot of stuff that flies around the air that's not worth a whole lot, but fills some column inches, and makes some people happy, and bumps you up in wherever you are in the news report, but just has no reflection of what's going on. What is going is these discussions are continuing; that's why we're here. And the President will work hard to do the best he can this day, and will travel to Japan tomorrow.
Q Joe, let me just follow up on that, because there have been some talk that if the leaders return to the region, they're going to be subject to too much political pressure back home, there will be too many leaks, and it will make it very difficult to resume the negotiations or schedule another round of talks. Do you feel confident that enough progress has been made that if either leader were to return to the Middle East, that you think that the progress that has been made thus far could be continued?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think without getting -- I'm not going to discuss the substance of the talks, which handicaps my ability to answer that question. But let me take that and a lot of questions off the table right now by saying that the discussions continue; there will be plenty of time for analysis of those discussions when they're complete, and I'll leave it until then.
Q Joe, has there been a paper statement released by Barak office? There have been reports to that effect? Is the White House aware of any genuine document coming out of Barak's office today regarding his leaving or any other subject?
MR. LOCKHART: The White House has not been informed of anyone planning to leave.
Q That's not what I asked --
MR. LOCKHART: Let me finish my answer if you don't mind. The White House has not been informed of anyone willing to leave. We have, because a number of --
Q Planning --
MR. LOCKHART: Planning to leave -- sorry. But because there were a number of calls based on some interesting reporting out of the region, we checked with the spokesman for Prime Minister Barak, who assured us there was neither a written, nor an oral official statement issued from Jerusalem this morning.
Q The Israeli press just announced that we were leaving this afternoon.
Q Yes, they told us to pack, because we are leaving tonight at 8:00 p.m.
MR. LOCKHART: Let me -- I've been doing this a long time. And I understand, and I've done it in a variety of roles. And when the President says he's leaving at the end of the day and you're at a meeting with the President and you have to check out of your hotel, it's probably a good piece of advice that you make sure that your bags are packed. But I wouldn't read what has been read into this by many of you.
Q What do you make out of this, that the President could delay his departure to attend the meeting in Okinawa, and Abu Mazen could not delay the wedding of his son?
MR. LOCKHART: I think both people made the right decision.
Q Can you rule out any possibility of cancelling the trip? Do you rule out any possibility of cancelling the trip?
MR. LOCKHART: I think sometime in the late hours of -- or the early hours of tomorrow, we will be on a plane to Japan.
Q Joe, do you know if Chairman Arafat has made any phone calls to President Mubarak, to the Saudi leadership or anyone else?
MR. LOCKHART: None that I'm aware of.
Q Joe, has the President entertained the idea that while he will be going to Japan, the parties will continue with Mrs. Albright and wait until he gets back?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that that issue has been formally discussed. It's been widely speculated in the papers, so anyone who reads the newspaper knows that people on the outside have raised the possibility, but nobody said to me that we've made any kind of request or discussed the ability of that to happen.
Q Joe, what did the President sense in the bilats last night led him to believe that another 24 hours might be able to get him what he didn't think he could get by 9:00 a.m. this morning?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President made a judgment that the issues here are important enough and the stakes are high enough that spending an extra day -- and it was a difficult decision, because he had an important day planned in Tokyo for tomorrow, and he regrets having to cancel that -- but he made the judgment that he would take the extra day to see what additional work could be done.
Q But did he get a sense that they were willing to compromise? Did he get any sense that there was something that could be -- was he reading any kind of signals from the leaders that led him to believe that he was close enough that delaying by a day --
MR. LOCKHART: I think it would be impossible for me to give a fuller answer to that without getting into the substance of the discussions.
Q Joe, as you know, the President is scheduled Friday morning to address some commemorative services for Japanese and Americans who were killed in World War II on Okinawa. Can you tell us how important that ceremony is to the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's a very important part of the trip. In addition to the G-8 responsibilities, it's a chance to speak to the people of Okinawa. So the President is very much looking forward to doing that event.
Q The Israelis are claiming right now that -- Arafat isn't willing to any compromise at all.
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think that those who are in the talks aren't talking. Those who are outside the talks may or may not know what they're talking about.
Q The Japanese made their displeasure at the President's decision not to send Secretary Albright to Japan for the foreign ministers meeting of the G-8. What has been the reaction from the Japanese --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'll let the Japanese foreign ministry and the Prime Minister speak for themselves. But I think those who are involved in international affairs in a way like the Japanese are, as a leader in the world, understand the responsibilities that international leaders take upon themselves and the difficult decisions that sometimes have to be made.
Q Joe, when were the Japanese informed of this decision?
MR. LOCKHART: I think a couple of hours before we formally decided what we were doing, they were given a heads-up, the foreign ministry, that we were heading in this direction.
Q Joe, you took a question from me three days ago -- if the United Nations resolutions such as 242 and 338 and 194, constitute the cornerstone of your foreign policy in the Middle East. Can you answer me now?
MR. LOCKHART: The answer is, what we said is the basis of reaching a peace agreement hasn't changed over the times of these talks.
Q Joe, most of these reports that you object to seem to be in one category, suggestion of brinkmanship, even a suggestion of game-playing. I think you used "good faith" to describe the talks a few days ago. Would you still say that in these last hours, the parties are operating in good faith and not -- well, not engaging in a little game-playing?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, if you stack up the news clips as we've gone through this process, I think with each and every day there's probably more reporting on people who are trying to provide some inside analysis of what's going on. But I think, ultimately, the test that I've put to this thing is, are the talks going on on the basis of the issues in front of them, or are they spending a lot of time arguing over what's in the paper in the morning. And these last nine or 10 days have been remarkably free of the latter.
Q But, Joe, you don't consider this latest story of statements in the region violate the news blackout in any fashion?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I have yet to see somebody who's involved in the talks quoted in any of these stories, so unless -- I heard that, Barry. I heard that. (Laughter.)
Q I want to make sure they did. (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: Okay, that's good. You know, the mike is over here, you might just --
Q Joe, are you ruling out a 48-hour delay in the President's departure?
MR. LOCKHART: I am not going to get into a speculative discussion of the President's schedule, only that we'll leave for Japan sometime after midnight tonight.
Q Have the delegations here -- there are some delegations who are saying that they have been told that they could expect a 48-hour delay. Is that's more erroneous recording?
MR. LOCKHART: That would be erroneous reporting and information.
Q Joe, can you tell us, totally based on what happens, whether you would leave from here, or whether you would go back to Washington first?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's based on what happens at Camp, and that is a logistical question. We're certainly capable of taking a stop between here and Dulles, or going directly.
Q Do you think the issues that are being dealing here are important enough to have another extra day for the President here, or maybe cancelling all the trip to Japan?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think at this point I don't believe it's a question of providing unlimited time as finding a way to a solution to these issues. They're well-known. The parties' positions are well-known to each other. It's a question of whether the parties are going to be willing to step up and take the difficult decisions for peace. And as far as prognosticating on whether that will happen, I'm unable to do that.
Q -- the Secretary Summers is going to be in Tokyo, and he would replace President --
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, Secretary Summers left early this morning, and will participate in a series of events in Tokyo in place of the President. The bilateral meeting that the President had scheduled with Prime Minister Mori, however, I expect to be rescheduled.
Q You speak about the summit, and we see that there is no summit between the three leaders. We can't understand why did the President try and --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, again, the meetings are still unfolding. They're going in a way that we believe offers the best chance for reaching an agreement. And once it's all done we'll have some time for analysis.
Q You kept saying over these extraordinary -- the President wants to seal the deal before he goes to Japan. And you are saying he is still going to Japan. If he wants a deal before he goes Japan, is there any scheduling in that if there is a deal there would be a signing ceremony?
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I think that's probably one of the -- you can put in the categories of the easy ones. It's pretty easy to get that put together and I don't think anyone is worrying too much about that.
Q Would it be accurate to say that a sensitive agreement has been reached and just to paint a good picture for each party, and then details to be followed later in upcoming summit?
MR. LOCKHART: That wouldn't be accurate to say.
Q Can you characterize the mood now? You suggested that they've increased the pace and intensity, so they must be getting to a fever pitch up there.
MR. LOCKHART: We've been searching -- I've been searching for an adjective -- that's not a bad one, fever pitch.
Q Joe, is it absolutely hard and fast, cannot be changed, that by this time tomorrow you'll be on your way to Japan?
MR. LOCKHART: The President's schedule is the schedule; I expect we'll be on that plane.
Q But the President's schedule was the schedule a couple days ago and you didn't even --
MR. LOCKHART: Duly noted. (Laughter.)
Q So you're saying that it's up in the air?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not. I'm saying that we made a decision to postpone by 24 hours. We've done that. But as I speak to you here, right now, we plan to get on a plane later on tonight and go to Japan.
Q Joe, can I go back to a domestic question that I asked you yesterday? Is it safe to assume that since I asked you, the President has not make any further decision about his role as the honorary --
MR. LOCKHART: That is safe to assume. It's an important role, but it has been pushed aside by bigger issues.
Q You seem in your answers to a couple questions, you seem to be saying -- you say that the question is whether the parties are willing to make, to step up and make the difficult decisions for peace. And in the answer to my first question you said it was an open question. So is there any sign from either side that they're willing to compromise on any of the issues?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I can't answer that question without getting into the substance of the talks, so I'll leave it until I'm in a position to answer it.
Q But your answers imply that, no, they're not.
MR. LOCKHART: My answers were not meant to imply.
Q When you say later tonight, do you mean tomorrow morning? You said, later tonight -- do you mean tomorrow morning?
MR. LOCKHART: Well, later tonight, it's going to be sometime before the sun comes up tomorrow. We'll still working out the logistics of how the events will work and then what time we need to leave.
Q Joe -- with weather like this tomorrow, will it be like noon tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: No, no, no.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't really think so. No, I plan to be back here at 5:00 p.m. unless something changes. If something changes, we'll let you know.
Q You said that you're not willing to give them unlimited time to reach an agreement, but you've given them an extra 24 hours now. What indication was there that the 24 hours would bare any sort of fruit?
MR. LOCKHART: It's a judgment that the President made that it was useful and in the interest of the peace process to do that. But it's not an open-ended commitment.
Q Are you considering the summit to be a success if there's even a partial agreement of some of the areas already agreed to, and then leave --
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not going to get into speculating about how we'll comment on it afterwards.
Q According to the schedule, the President is going to give a huge speech in Okinawa at 10:00 a.m. Friday morning. It means he shall leave for Japan before 8:00 a.m. Eastern time tomorrow morning. So do you think --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, that's after the sun comes up, so I think I'm pretty much in the right ball park here. (Laughter.)
Q If I could ask you a non-summit question.
MR. LOCKHART: Please. Step right up. (Laughter.)
Q Do you have any reaction to an -- agency report quoting President Clinton saying that Kim Jong-Il has said he's willing to give up his missiles in return for cooperation on space technology?
MR. LOCKHART: I haven't seen that report. Obviously, we've done a lot of work on that front, on the North Korean missile program. Let me get a chance to look at that before I comment any further, though.
Q Can you say that the two leaders, Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak, did everything and doing everything to achieve a peace?
MR. LOCKHART: Again, I think that is a better question to be put once these talks are concluded and we're in the analysis phase.
Q Did the President at any time since your last meeting phone any leaders or talk to Mubarak or anybody?
MR. LOCKHART: Let me, just in the interest of being forthcoming, the President has made a call in the last couple of days to Sheik Zayid of the UAE, who is in the United States for medical treatment, and he called him to wish him well and wish him recovery. But they did not have a discussion about the Middle East peace process.
Q When was it?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that was two days ago. Yesterday, sorry.
Q Did he make any call to President Mubarak or another president in the Middle East?
MR. LOCKHART: No, no. Thank you.
END 11:30 A.M. EDT