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Albright Urges Barak and Arafat to share Knowledge

25 July 2000

Transcript:
Albright Briefing on Middle East Peace Talks

Urges Barak and Arafat to share knowledge with their publics


Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said July 25 that the Middle East peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians July 11-24 at Camp David, Maryland, were "extraordinary. They were intense, they were very difficult. They were unprecedented in terms of delving into the details of the most sensitive issues of permanent status. And they did make progress.

"Unfortunately, while progress was made on all the core issues, it wasn't possible to reach agreement at this time."

President Clinton "had no illusions about the difficulties of the task," in convening the summit, Albright said, "but the deepening deadlock between the two sides required a bold decision on our part, and the President took it."

"I think that it's very important that people understand how intensely the negotiations were carried on, how everybody gave it his or her best, and how much people were seeking for answers," she said. "Everybody worked very hard [but] it just was evident that at this time it was not possible to come to a conclusion."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat both agreed that "after a period of reflection and assessment, the negotiating process would continue" and that "an agreement on all permanent status issues should be concluded as soon as possible," the Secretary said. "For our part, we will work with both sides, in the next few weeks, as they address the best way to resume their discussions and move towards peace."

Albright acknowledged that Prime Minister Barak is going to experience difficulties when he returns home, "But I think that what he did was bold and courageous and clearly showed his dedication to peace," she said. Chairman Arafat also will have to explain to his people what has happened and they need to be more apprised of the political discussion, she added.

"It's very important that Chairman Arafat share his experiences and his knowledge of what the Israeli people need now with his public, as I hope very much that Prime Minister Barak will share more his knowledge about the Palestinian needs," Albright said.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman

July 25, 2000

ON-THE-RECORD BRIEFING SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT ON THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS

Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As President Clinton said earlier today, the negotiations were extraordinary. They were intense. They were very difficult. They were unprecedented in terms of delving into the details of the most sensitive issues of permanent status, and they did make progress.

Unfortunately, while progress was made on all the core issues, it wasn't possible to reach agreement at this time. Nevertheless, both leaders agreed that after a period of reflection and assessment the negotiating process would continue; that the aim of the negotiations is to put an end to decades of conflict; that an agreement on all permanent status issues should be concluded as soon as possible; that negotiations based on Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 are the only way to achieve such an agreement; that unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of negotiations should be avoided; and that there will be close consultations with the President and with me in the period ahead.

In convening this summit, the President had no illusions about the difficulties of the task, but the deepening deadlock between the two sides required a bold decision on our part, and the President took it. Clearly, after 14 days at Camp David, the parties have not overcome their differences and must still bridge real gaps, but they approach this challenge now having tackled issues that were off limits previously, and having gained far greater insight into the possibilities and limitations on each side.

Both need to reflect on the meaning of their discussions at Camp David, and how to draw the appropriate lessons from them. For our part, we will work with both sides in the next few weeks as they address the best way to resume their discussions and move towards peace.

Before I take your questions, I'd like to express our deep condolences to the families of those who were on the Concorde and crashed, and we are working with local authorities and doing everything we can to be of assistance in this.

Q: UESTION: Madame Secretary, who gave up first in these talks? Was it the Palestinians, the Israelis, or did President Clinton just decide that you couldn't go on?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it was -- we had spent so much time working, and I think it became evident at like 1:00 or 2:00 this morning that basically there were some gaps that could not be overcome at this session and that it would be better, as I said in my statement, as the President said, to break that up and to go back to the region to reflect.

But I think that it's very important that people understand how intensely the negotiations were carried on, how everybody gave it his or her best, and how much people were seeking for answers. So I don't think it's really -- the question is not who gave up what, or who gave up first, or who is to blame, but basically that it was everybody worked very hard, and that it just was evident that at this time it was not possible to come to a conclusion.

Q: Madame Secretary, can you say what it will take now, in order to address the topics which were not resolved by these talks?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what we have to do is, as the President made clear in his statement, nothing is agreed on until everything is agreed on and the commitments that were made by all are set aside. But what has not been set aside is the ability now, I think, that's present of the two parties to see more deeply into each other's needs, and to understand some of the elements of what it takes to deal with these core issues.

The truth is that these were issues that seven years ago had been kind of pushed down the road, at Oslo, and we had talked about them. But this intensity of dealing on -- I can say a day-and-night basis for 14 days, allowed the two parties to see more inside each other. And I think what it will take is a continuation of discussions at a variety of levels and to see if agreement can be reached on these. There's a lot of good work that was done, and we now have to build on it.

Q: Madame Secretary, if you could have found a solution on Jerusalem, do you think that the other core issues, refugees and borders, would have fallen into place? Were the gaps on those other core issues more narrow than they were with Jerusalem?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, again, as the President said and I certainly saw, Jerusalem was the hardest issue. There's no question about it. And it's hard because it hasn't been resolved for a thousand -- you know, hundreds of years, and it's a very unique place that requires a lot of careful thought and working together.

So clearly it was the hardest, but the others were hard, too. I think that we made a lot of progress. And, again, I think that there were elements of the other core issues that were coming quite close, but there still were certain gaps that needed to be resolved on those, and a lot of details. And as we often know, the devil is in the detail. So while there was incredible progress, I think across the board, there still is work to do on all the issues.

Q: Madame Secretary, back to Jerusalem, just two quick things. Did you ever take Jerusalem off the table and try for a partial agreement? And, also, what do you think will happen to Barak and Arafat when they go back home, particularly Barak, who President Clinton said made the most of the compromises and moved the furthest?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that there were a number of ways that we tried to look at Jerusalem and looked at ways of kind of pushing that further down the road, but that was not acceptable. And there were lots of different ways of examining the issue and trying to figure out how to work it.

As far as both leaders, I think Prime Minister Barak has made no secret of the fact that he is going to experience difficulties. He was experiencing them before he left. But I think that what he did was bold and courageous and clearly showed his dedication to peace.

And what I have found interesting, though -- I clearly haven't read enough -- is that something that has happened now in Israel, is that there is an ongoing discussion about issues that really were not discussed before, so it has opened up a dialogue. And I just say that some of the other Israeli -- members of the Israeli delegation thought that it was very useful, that the people are now in Israel talking about subjects that they had not really talked about before. So I expect that there will be a lively political debate. Israel is known for that. But I think Prime Minister Barak should go home proud of what he tried.

Chairman Arafat, I think, has to -- you know, he will be going back to his Palestinian people also explaining all the things that happened. And I think they need to be more apprised, be much more a part of this political discussion and begin to think more about some of the issues that came out. Both the publics have to be more a part of what is going on. And I think it's very important that Chairman Arafat share his experiences and his knowledge of what the Israeli people need now with his public, as I hope very much that Prime Minister Barak will share more his knowledge about the Palestinian need.

Q: If I could follow up, one of the reasons we were given, I believe on background during the Camp David talks, was that you didn't want the leaders to go home and have the pressures from their people. Why now do you think that might help?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, pressures isn't the right word. I think that what I think is going to be useful is to try to have informed publics about what is going on because I think -- I know this sounds a little crazy because we've all talked about these issues quite a lot here, but the truth is that a lot of these issues have been kind of off the table for a lot of time. People might have been talking about them privately but they were not part of the public discourse. And I think that that will help in terms of how the publics and the leaders relate on the difficult aspects.

I am not underestimating the difficulties of them going home and dealing with this. I think they both, in different ways, will have to deal with it. But it's important; I think we accomplished a lot; I think the President did the right thing in having this summit; and we now have to, after a period of reflection, follow up.

Q: A two-parter. First of all, Madame Secretary, did you manage to win an agreement from Yasser Arafat not to declare independence on September 13th; and secondly, how critical was his letter last night as the turning point, this point at which you realized that you could -- that there was no agreement imminent?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we've made very clear that we think that unilateral actions are not useful. That includes the declaration of a Palestinian state. And I think we made that very evident, and we'll continue to do so.

The letter, I think -- it's hard to describe this exactly. I mean, it was, whatever, 4:00 in the morning or something, or 3:00. But I think that we had kind of a sense that this kind of thing was coming because we'd spent a lot of time just previous to that with negotiators, and I think this was kind of an official way of stating it. But it was evident, unfortunately, that we weren't going to --

Q: Was there any chance that this was brinksmanship that went awry, that he was trying to perhaps squeeze some kind of a concession out of the Israelis, and that --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm not going to psychoanalyze here. I think that it was hard negotiations across the board with delegations at every hour of the day and night, either walking or in these golf carts or in eating in various places. And I think that there were various -- you know, as in any negotiation of this kind, there's a certain rhythm, and I wouldn't call it brinksmanship. I think that everybody worked very hard.

And I think that it's very important for people to understand the personal effort that went into this by the leaders, and especially President Clinton, who I think the American people should be very proud of the amount of time that he personally spent on every detail of this.

Q: Secretary Albright, the statement about no unilateral actions, does that last until September 13th? Does it endure beyond September 13th?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have believed that it's important -- you know, what we were working at was to have a Palestinian state as part of a comprehensive aspect, not unilateral. We don't think that that's the right approach to this, and we hope very much that we can get back to having comprehensive negotiations that will include all of this and that the unilateral actions have not proven the most useful in this peace process. And what we have to keep our mind on is that trying to accomplish a peace still continues to be the major goal of the parties and of the United States, and we will continue to do everything we can.

And all of us know, probably more than we did going in, that these are really tough issues. Some of them don't lend themselves to pragmatic solutions. Some of them are deeply held views and principles, and both the parties know and need to continue to know that neither can get 100 percent of what it wants.

MR. REEKER: Thank you very much. Thank you, Madame Secretary.

(end transcript)

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