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Boucher Press Briefing on Camp David Talks

Boucher Press Briefing on Camp David Talks

U.S. Department of State Richard Boucher, Department of State Spokesman Press Briefing, The Camp David Peace Talks Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland, July 21, 2000

5:00 P.M. EDT

Mr. Boucher: Let me run through a few of the activities this afternoon for you and tell you where we are as we do the last briefing before Sunday morning. So we will try to give you a sense of what's going on.

Today, small groups of negotiators continued to meet throughout the afternoon to discuss these core issues up at Camp David. The Secretary participated in some of the discussions in one of these groups and she has been kept up to date on the activity and discussions of the others. She has been meeting on and off with her team. At lunch, the Secretary held a discussion with senior negotiators from both sides and they discussed all the issues.

One new development coming up is they've agreed to take an hour or so off and play a game of basketball. The teams will be mixed up between Americans, Palestinians and Israelis. So there will be a basketball up there at 6:00 p.m.

Question: I'll bet I know whose idea it was.

Mr. Boucher: No, it wasn't, as a matter of fact. He had to be talked into it.

Question: Will Secretary Albright be playing?

Mr. Boucher: I'm not aware that Secretary Albright, Chairman Arafat or Prime Minister Barak is participating but it is open to anybody up there who wants to play.

Question: What time does it start, Richard? Can we have travel pool to shoot that, please?

Mr. Boucher: No.

The game starts at 6 o'clock and it's open to American, Palestinian and Israeli delegations, some of the folks from Camp David. So it will just be a pick-up game with a lot of people.

Question: Are there no coaches then for either side?

Mr. Boucher: I'm sure there's moral support from the leadership. But they're not divided up into sides so they will find it hard to figure out which team to support. (Laughter.) Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it.

In other--back to the work at hand. There is a Shabbat dinner tonight hosted by the Israelis to which the American and Palestinian delegations are invited. We have heard a lot of people are showing up, but I don't expect the leaders all to be there.

Question: But Arafat's not coming, is that what you're saying?

Question: Is it a kosher dinner? Do you happen to know?

Mr. Boucher: I know there is kosher food available at Camp David for anybody who wants it so I'm not sure if the whole dinner is kosher or just for those who want it.

Question: You didn't expect all the leaders or any of them?

Mr. Boucher: Well, it's open to everyone so one or two may show up but not necessarily--this is not planned as an event for everybody.

Question: What's been the gist of Secretary Albright's day today?

Mr. Boucher: The gist of her day has been to keep in touch with her team, with the negotiating groups, the small groups that have been meeting on specific issues. She's had discussions with one of those groups, she's had discussions with people involved in those groups. The Americans have been sometimes participating in these small groups, sometimes not, have been in and out. So she's been sort of monitoring the process, pushing the process forward, encouraging the process and generally making sure this process of discussion among small groups of people is moving forward.

Let me just tell you that in our view the parties are making serious efforts to deal with the issues, serious efforts are under way by the negotiators, led by their leadership, to try to deal with these issues. But, nonetheless, it remains very hard going. As we've said before, the issues are tough and they're really trying to deal with them.

Okay, now let's go to questions.

Question: I just wanted to ask if those working groups are organized by issue.

Mr. Boucher: The small groups that are meeting are organized on issues in order to deal with all the core issues that need to be discussed.

Question: There is a group for this and a group for that and a group for that, by issue?

Mr. Boucher: Yeah.

Question: She did not meet with either Arafat or Barak thus far today?

Mr. Boucher: No. She's had some discussions with their people and talked about things back and forth but not had direct meetings with them.

Question: Are you expecting a meeting--

Mr. Boucher: I don't know of any that are planned at this point.

Question: Is there any plan for the talks at Emmitsburg--for there to be a more direct exchange on what's going on at Camp David with what's going on in Emmitsburg?

Mr. Boucher: No, not in that sense. Some of these non-core, generic issues, things like that were discussed last week at Emmitsburg, the economics, the water, the civil affairs, some of these issues have been discussed by some people up at Camp David in the context of the negotiations on the core issues, but there has been nothing the other way around.

Question: I have two questions. What is the plan for tomorrow, Saturday? And the other question, is the schedule for President Clinton becoming more clear so we can say when he is probably coming back?

Mr. Boucher: No, I don't have a new schedule on President Clinton but I would expect that to come out of the traveling White House in Okinawa anyway. As of the time I came down to brief, we didn't have anything new from them; I don't think they have it yet.

And the plan for tomorrow is to continue informal discussions, to continue discussions between the parties, but to plan the activities as we did last week in keeping with the religious obligations of the parties.

Question: A photo was distributed earlier today showing the Secretary, Barak and Arafat looking very happy. Can you tell us what happened there, what that was, what was said?

Mr. Boucher: That was last night, before the dinner. That was when they were greeting each other, I think. I forget who came in last, but when they were first all three together saying hello to each other before dinner. I think I described it earlier as a friendly greeting, but also a serious mood and discussion at dinner that followed.

Question: --what they discussed at dinner?

Mr. Boucher: During the dinner, they talked about some of the issues and some of the processes that were going on at Camp David, but it wasn't a working dinner, it wasn't a detailed discussion of the issues.

Question: Any plans for them to go off campus this weekend?

Mr. Boucher: No plans at this point. If something changes, we'll tell you.

Question: How did Madeleine Albright react to the G-8 picture signed by all of the leaders faxed to her?

Mr. Boucher: I wasn't aware of that, so I will have to check on that.

Question: Two questions. One, since we last asked you this question, has she had any need to speak to President Clinton, has she spoken to the President?

Mr. Boucher: No, she hasn't.

Question: And then secondly, they've all been here for a long time and all three leaders, Secretary Albright, Barak and Arafat, have other things to tend to. Have there been any other pressing issues that Secretary Albright has had to focus some time on this week or today and what about the other two?

Mr. Boucher: I assume that they're all sort of keeping up with the other work as they need to. Obviously, leaders have other things to do, even though the most important thing may be here. Secretary Albright has done some other work and kept up on some of the other issues, largely handled it by talking to members of her staff, calling people who are working on things for her in Washington.

Question: Are there any separate dinner plans for Barak tonight, to invite Arafat?

Mr. Boucher: I think I described that. The Israeli delegation is hosting a dinner tonight. Americans and Palestinians are invited to it, but I don't necessarily expect that all the leaders would be there.

Question: We are reading in the media overseas about the issues on the table at Camp David. Does this mean that the leaders are allowed to talk with their government and does this mean an easing of the blackout with the leaders at Camp David?

Mr. Boucher: Are you starting to tell me what your sources are? (Laughter.) No, the blackout remains and we do expect people to respect it. We're all aware that there are a great many media reports out there. We know that some of them are true and many of them are not. I know I was quoted as saying something the other day that I had never said and was actually in one of your questions and not in one of my answers, so don't believe everything you read.

Question: TASS is reporting that Putin has pledged his support for the peace process and whatever comes out of it. Was that solicited and what role do you see Russia play in this?

Mr. Boucher: I'm sure that the Middle East Peace Process was part of the discussion with the President and President Putin in Okinawa and I think the White House has briefed on that, so I think I'll leave it to that.

Question: Has the King of Jordan talked to Arafat today?

Mr. Boucher: I'm not aware of any further phone calls, but I couldn't say for sure.

Question: For them playing basketball one hour from now, I understand it's Shabbat, but the case wasn't like that a week ago. Does that mean--like they have formal meetings. Does this mean that everybody now is waiting for President Clinton to come back so that they can--

Mr. Boucher: No, as I said, there is a very serious effort under way. People have been up there working very hard in very sometimes tense, always intense circumstances. We're ten days, eleven days into this. People have found various forms of recreation, some people have gone running, some have gone walking, some have played pool, things like that. And at this point, the idea came up, folks decided to organize a basketball game. The amount of work being done is prodigious, but also people need a chance every now and then to unwind and to make a little effort in another direction. So that's all that's going on; it doesn't detract from the seriousness.

Question: Where is the basketball court?

Mr. Boucher: At Camp David.

Question: Is it outside or is it inside some recreation facility?

Mr. Boucher: It's inside, but I'm not sure I can describe it exactly.

Question: Arafat playing?

Mr. Boucher: There is no team roster yet, but I hadn't heard that any of the leaders was intending to play.

Question: There was a report from Egypt quoting an advisor of President Mubarak and the same report quoting Esmat Abdel Meguid, the Secretary of the Arab League, both saying that it would be impossible to get an agreement without granting Palestinians sovereignty over Jerusalem. Can you comment on that?

Mr. Boucher: No. There's a lot of commentary out in the region. There are a lot of views, a lot of people expressing a lot of views. I caution you against believing that those views are necessarily based on any real understanding or detailed information about what's going on at Camp David. People obviously have their views and they're going to express them.

Question: But this is the advisor of the Egyptian President. You know, President Clinton--

Mr. Boucher: I'm not trying to denigrate him. I know he's a very able and brilliant man, but there are a lot of views generally out there in the region and people are going to express their views. I don't take any one or the other as being more informed.

Question: A non-Middle East question. Federal agents today arrested 16, 17 people in Charlotte, North Carolina, allegedly involved with Hizbollah. Can you tell us anything more about that and how many other cells are suspected--

Mr. Boucher: I don't have anything for you on that. I think you would have to go to the domestic agencies for that.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 5:15 p.m.)

###

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