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Briefing by Joe Lockhart From Camp David – Jul 24

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland)

For Immediate Release July 24, 2000

PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART

Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland

4:40 P.M. EDT

MR. LOCKHART: Okay, let me bring you up to date since we spoke last, a few hours ago.

As I indicated this morning, the President, just before 11:00 a.m., went into the first meeting with the small group of negotiators. He had a series of meetings that lasted between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The President took a break at 3:00 p.m. I expect him to meet with the team within the next half hour and resume the negotiating at roughly 6:00 p.m. tonight.

Our team, for their part, spent the break time together working through a number of issues. I talked to several of those on our side who are involved in negotiating, in addition to the intensive and substantive, they added that it was both exhaustive and exhausting. I think everyone is feeling the effect of some late nights, but they're still hard at it.

Other than that, the evening will be open. There obviously is a possibility for a number of meetings of different types, we'll let you know before we let you go tonight.

Q Joe, can you fill in a couple of small --

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q Those series of meetings would mean with a mixed team of negotiators?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes. They did things in a variety of formats, both separately and together, between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.

Q And you said this morning they're working their way through all issues. Is that still the case?

MR. LOCKHART: That is still the case.

Q As the summit spokesman, you tell us habitually that the President met with his people. But what have Arafat and Barak been doing? Have they been getting reports?

MR. LOCKHART: They've been getting reports from their team and they've been meeting in a variety of formats with their own teams.

Q Joe, what is the latest in the rolling assessment?

MR. LOCKHART: It's still rolling. (Laughter.)

Q It's still rolling, but, I mean, has he decided -- has he come to a point where he would make another -- in this rolling series of assessments or are we still operating on the one front that --

MR. LOCKHART: I think we're still operating from where we were this morning, that it's still constructive to continue these sessions. I think they had almost four hours' worth this morning; they'll go back at it this evening and we'll just have to see where they go.

Q Joe, these are extremely complicated issues. Would it be fair to say that the negotiators are not keeping all the details in their head, and that -- pieces of paper --

MR. LOCKHART: Certainly, people are taking notes.

Q Joe, what's the significance of the President's meeting with teams of negotiators and -- without the presence of Arafat and Barak?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I think the significance is there are a number of issues, all of which have significant sub-issues and they're trying to work through to find areas of agreement.

Q Who do you think the President is going to meet with assuming -- is that the U.S. team?

MR. LOCKHART: U.S. team, yes.

Q -- evening? How close are they to getting any --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, they're in proximity very close. When we call and ask for a meeting we generally get one, it's a question of what's the most useful thing to do. Right now we think working with the negotiating teams is the most constructive way to move forward, but I would -- certainly wouldn't rule out that he'd sit and talk to the leaders tonight.

Q Is the President trying to find areas of agreement? You said they're trying to find areas of agreement.

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q They must have found an area or two by now, no?

MR. LOCKHART: They've probably found some areas, they've probably found some issues. But this is as -- as the question indicated, these are very difficult issues, and do have some very complicated parts to them.

Q Has the President been in touch with any foreign leaders in the last --

MR. LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

Q Is it still the case that the President hasn't discussed any calendar deadlines of the summit --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, should I let him in our little secret? I mean, there's sort of an informal deadline that we've all been working off. All parties want to be available to see Kathy Lee's last show, on Friday -- (laughter) -- so I would expect we'll be done by then. But besides that, no.

Q Let me try for clarity on a couple. One is, without asking for the substance of the proposal, the proposal that is being discussed on Jerusalem continues to be described as an American proposal. Can you at least help clarify whether it is, indeed, an American proposal that is being discussed?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not going to try to help on if there's a proposal, who's it is, or what the details are. I've read a lot in the last few days, and as the question indicated today, the batting average hasn't improved very much.

Q Can I get clarity on one more thing that you were asked about earlier today with this Jonathan Pollard? There are continuing reports on that, as well, that the Israelis are asking for an agreement on Jonathan Pollard. You said earlier today that Pollard has not been a topic of discussion, is that correct?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware that it's come up in the context of the discussions. But what I did say, and what is the reality is, I don't know of any time the President has met with Barak in any format or extended session where at some point it's not raised.

Q -- on that, there is a lot of speculation that the President may at least keep the -- at least part of the -- peace negotiations, how it might affect his wife's Senate race. And, certainly, the issue of Jonathan Pollard is one that is watched closely by a lot of New York voters. Has he been in discussions with the First Lady at all during his time at Camp David about what a --

MR. LOCKHART: I certainly know he's talked to her, but I'd be very surprised to learn that they were talking about Jonathan Pollard.

Q Is he going to Arkansas tomorrow?

MR. LOCKHART: The President is still scheduled to go. We're supposed to leave at about lunchtime and return sometime after midnight.

Q Joe, can you say anything about the talks going on at Emmitsburg? I understood it's something of a problem, separated the issues -- two of the major issues, water and the economy. It seems to me that they've made some progress there that might alleviate tensions, it might create other possibilities of getting agreement elsewhere. Has there been anything done on that and have you experienced a separation of these issues --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't have anything beyond what Richard discussed yesterday, so I'd refer you to his transcript.

Q Last week, the -- last week you characterized the objective -- agreement --

MR. LOCKHART: No, still an agreement.

Q Agreement?

MR. LOCKHART: Agreement.

Q Is there an issue among the final set of issues that are being discussed only by the leaders, without the negotiators? Something like Jerusalem?

MR. LOCKHART: No, my understanding is that all issues have been discussed both at the leader level and among the negotiators.

Q Joe, when you say, agreement, are you talking final status agreement or framework agreement, or any kind of agreements?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm talking about an agreement between the two sides.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. LOCKHART: We didn't put a name to it, but -- (laughter) -- I think that would be probably correct. I mean, the Secretary of State, should the President leave the talks, will take over for the President and keep the discussions going.

Q Is that certain? You're planning on the talks continuing through tomorrow noon?

MR. LOCKHART: I probably broke my rule about speculating a day ahead. We are taking this through today, which is Monday. We'll worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.

Q -- given the fact that people are getting tired, leading you to believe that these situations might --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I guess there is a breaking point at some point, but it remains to be seen whether exhaustion will help the process or hurt the process. You know, I think you could find examples from other negotiations where exhaustion worked to their advantage and some others where it didn't.

Q This is my first summit, so forgive me if this is a terribly naive question. But I thought that the point of these things were to bring together leaders face-to-face, and in two weeks there hasn't been a trilateral meeting, in my understanding, except for a couple things at dinner. Could you explain to people like me why that's okay, why that's not a sign that things aren't --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I would disagree only with what the point is. The point is to get an agreement, and we make an assessment on what is the most constructive way to get from a position now where we don't have agreement to a point where the parties do agree. There is a variety of ways to do that and we will employ the ones that, in our judgment, we believe have the best chance of bringing about an agreement.

Q In your judgment. But does this approach have the consent of the two leaders?

MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any dissention at all on this issue.

Q I mean, they could take a break.

MR. LOCKHART: Oh, absolutely, there's nothing -- there is absolutely nothing that prevents any other kind of discussion or format.

Q Joe, without going into details, would you say that in the past couple of weeks red lines have been crossed, a kind of sufficient creativity has been shown that taboos have been broken on both sides?

MR. LOCKHART: I wouldn't say.

Q -- either last night or today at Camp David?

MR. LOCKHART: Well, there have been a variety of people involved, depending on the issue they were discussing. So in a sense, yes, because there are some people who are more expert on some issues than others. But there has been, obviously, a pool of negotiators they've drawn on that have been used in different combinations and different groupings.

Q Last night and today?

MR. LOCKHART: Last night and today.

Q Is there a total number of -- or is that -- whether it should never have left or --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I'm actually only referring to what's going on at Camp David.

Q It's been about 24 hours since the President returned from Okinawa. Is he more or less hopeful about the --

MR. LOCKHART: I think he's right where he was when he left Japan and spoke to you all last.

Q Joe, the negotiators that are meeting with the President, you say different people at different times. What are the ones that aren't meeting with the President doing? Are they also meeting on other issues or --

MR. LOCKHART: I think there are a series of other informal discussions that are going on. There is a set group of issues, and I think there are some discussions going on informally on other issues when the President is focused on one with a set of negotiators.

Q Why is it advantageous at this point for the President to be meeting just with the negotiators? Is it because of certain technical details that they can handle that the leaders don't need to be --

MR. LOCKHART: I think there's -- they are using a number of different tools to try to reach an agreement, one of which is to sit and go through, with all the substantive detail necessary, through a number of issues, the work that needs to be done to get there. It's our judgement at this point that the President, working intensively with the negotiators, is the most productive use of time in order to get to the agreement.

Q It's been said -- often been said that the leaders have to make a hard decision. Is that still -- I don't mean checking a box, I mean, you know, a made in America plan of -- is usually thought of as not necessarily the best way to go, that the leaders have to come to terms. If they don't meet, they don't see each other, they're not part of the talks -- the President is involved in the details --

MR. LOCKHART: The President has been back for about 18 hours. He's already met with the leaders once each, and I think the fact that there are negotiators working through hard issues should not indicate in any way shape or form that the leaders are not making the decisions and making the calls.

Q That's still the basic bedrock?

MR. LOCKHART: Yes.

Q We're still talking about a framework agreement, aren't we?

MR. LOCKHART: We're talking about an agreement.

Q Could it go on again until 5:00 a.m. in the morning? Is that thinkable, in terms of the exhaustion that's --

MR. LOCKHART: It's certainly possible.

Q Joe, you're unclear as to whether the President today met with both sets of negotiators at the same time?

MR. LOCKHART: No, I'm not -- let me be clear. He's done both. He's met with both of them at the same time, he's met with them separately, and throughout the afternoon.

Q So do we have a set up for a 9:30 p.m. or so, or is it just open ended, so far as the next fill in?

MR. LOCKHART: We'll probably do something, try to give you some sense at 8:00 p.m. or so, and if we need to keep it open ended we will.

Q Joe, can I ask you about a different topic?

MR. LOCKHART: Sure.

Q Since you've been here, the Senate has run into some problems with passage of normalized trade relations with China. Does the President feel confident of its passage? Does he see the potential for a delay, does he think a delay will be in the best interests of --

MR. LOCKHART: Well, I don't think there's anyone on our side, from the President on down, who thinks delay is in the best interest of the PNTR, normalized trade with China. I know that there has been a lot of work done on trying to get this scheduled. It's something that I think the President believes is a high priority, and it's certainly our hope that the Senate will bring it up as quickly as I can.

Q Is he making any phone calls on this issue --

MR. LOCKHART: He's talked to Senator Lott about this.

Q Joe, in case we're on other subjects, has the President come to any conclusion as to whether the North Koreans can be persuaded or, in fact, are inclined to convert their missile program into a civilian satellite program?

MR. LOCKHART: I don't know that we have reached any conclusion different than when he was asked this in Japan. As he said in Japan, it is an idea that certainly warrants more attention, to try to understand exactly what the North Koreans may have been saying. I think as the President said, President Putin also, in their discussion indicated some lack of clarity on what they were suggesting.

Q Joe, regarding the tax cuts passed by the Republicans. The President put off action on that -- vetoes, until the after the talks here have concluded so as not to --

MR. LOCKHART: I don't' know. First off we have to get the bills, which I don't think we have. My understanding is the bills were passed, and will be sent to us, timed to the Republican Convention, rather than desire to have tax cuts for the American people.

I understand it's going to be done in a way that they don't have to deal with estate tax during their convention. I can understand that. When you give an $800,000 tax cut to the top one percent of Americans and leave everyone else paying for it, it's not the kind of thing you want to put on national television during prime time.

The others, you know, when they come down, we'll have to make a decision.

Q Do you have any view, or the President have an assessment of Dick Cheney as the Vice Presidential candidate?

MR. LOCKHART: I think Governor Bush promised that our eyes would light up when he made his decision, so my eyes are ready, we'll just have to see.

Q Would you come out and light up for us? (Laughter.) I mean, how would we know? (Laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: I may just have to leak that to you, Barry. (Laughter.)

Q Joe, speaking of the Republican Convention, what if the President were to get an agreement out of this summit, and it happened to be during the week of the convention? Would that be ill-mannered? Would that be -- (laughter.)

MR. LOCKHART: Let me say that, you know, there's no way to predict how long this will go. I don't think there's a sense that those two things are going to collide. But I will say that when asked on the subject, Governor Bush has been properly supportive of the President and his efforts. So I don't think on either side there's any attempt to play politics with this, and I hope it stays that way.

Thank you.

Q Thanks very much.

END 5:00 P.M. EDT

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