U.S. Department of State, James P. Rubin, Assistant Secretary, Press Briefing on Middle East Peace Negotiations, Chesapeake College, Wye Mills, Maryland, October 20, 1998


12:23 P.M. EDT


MR. RUBIN:  Greetings, welcome to day six here at the Wye Conference
facility.  We have another sunny day.  Again, I'm not quite sure what
that means but it means that it's sunny.

With respect to the schedule let me say the following: Secretary
Albright will be meeting with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister
Netanyahu prior to the arrival of the President. I expect her also to
meet with King Hussein early on.  As far as the committee meetings are
concerned, my understanding is that both the airport and the seaport
will meet this afternoon beginning at 1:00, that that should also
include by the end of the day discussions on safe passage, the legal
issues, and the economic issues.  So that's a full work plan.

Prior to the President's arrival, what tends to happen is that upon
arriving the President is briefed by Secretary Albright about what
meetings she has had and what the best next steps are.  But the
President is going to be arriving this afternoon.

With respect to King Hussein, I think it should be quite clear why we've
asked him -- the Secretary has asked him to come.  King Hussein is a
person with great integrity who has enormous support amongst many
different peoples in the Middle East.  He's someone who we hope will be
able to instill in the two delegations a greater understanding of the
need to make the tough choices that are necessary to reach an agreement.
Given his charisma, given his special role in the past, given the warm
and -- extensively warm feelings that people have for him, and given his
obvious willingness to try to play a part in the drama unfolding here at
Wye, he is a very welcome participant in the discussions.  Barry.

Q  Continuing on that point, will he be sort of at the ready to meet
with--to join the conversations or dinners, or lunches?  In other words,
do you have some--we realize he has medical problems--does he have some-
-sort of a notion of how long he might be here and how active he might
be?  And while you're at it, if the Secretary has made any calls, talked
to other folks, you know, there's Clinton-Mubarek and now we have the
king here--any other consultations?

MR. RUBIN:  Not outside of Wye today with respect to the Middle East.  I
believe she spoke to the prime minister already this morning about some
logistical needs that needed to be accomplished.

With respect to the king, obviously I can't speak for the king.  We
don't yet have agreement by the king's delegation to the rules that are
respected mostly by the other delegations.  But I do expect him to be a
key player in this drama, and that he will meet with the President.  He
will meet with the two leaders and be available during the course of the
day where we think he can make the most difference in encouraging the
leaders and their delegations to focus on moving ahead, rather than
focusing on longstanding complaints and concerns.  Andrea.

Q  Jamie, you didn't mention specifically--of the groups that are going
to be meeting--any groups that might meet on security.  Is there--is
there a role that you hope King Hussein will play in bridging any
remaining gaps on security?  Or has that already been put aside?

MR. RUBIN:  I wouldn't put it that way, but it's a good question.  I
think on the security issue, there are experts here--and there are
experts who report up the chain to their leaders about what steps have
been offered, what steps can be made, what is realistic in terms of
meeting the specifications of the American initiative on security.
Those folks have been meeting in a variety of ways throughout.

They met yesterday.  I expect them to meet today.  It's not always in a
formal committee setting, and I tried to give you a list of those other
committees because I know that some had asked me earlier today about
what other work was going on.  So the security work is going on, and I
don't expect King Hussein to get into the details of what constitutes
security cooperation.  I do expect him--should he be meeting with the
sides--to emphasize the importance of resolving these questions.  Steve,
yes.

Q  Just a point of information--originally it was said Clinton would
leave about 11:30 and arrive here about noon and that King Hussein would
arrive here about noon.  Do you have a better fix on their schedules?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't have a schedule.  I understand King Hussein is
coming by helicopter.  I don't believe he is coming with the President.
I think he will be here shortly.  But I just don't have the--I mean,
they are all coming in the next couple of hours.

Q  I mean, can you give us a better idea of how the morning has been
spent?

MR. RUBIN:  Yes.

Q  Before they arrived?

MR. RUBIN:  Secretary Albright spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu by
phone, and he and she talked about some logistics.  We talked to the
Israelis and Palestinians about the arrival of King Hussein.  We also
talked about how to organize the day. The Secretary will be meeting, as
I indicated, this hour with both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman
Arafat, and then briefing the President on our next steps, probably
meeting with King Hussein, as well.

But again, as you can see there's three sets of--there's really five
sets of principal schedules.  What we're trying to do is turn what had
been a two-way tag-team diplomacy, perhaps into a little bit more of a
three-way tag-team diplomacy.

Q  Jamie, did (inaudible).

MR. RUBIN:  Let's just go over here, and we'll go there.  Yes, Jim.

Q  The fact that the legal people are meeting, does that mean that you
are now at a stage where you're beginning to draft (inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, again, I don't want to get into paperwork.  But I can
understand the logic of your question.

Q  But that's usually the case, when the lawyers get involved, they're
usually putting things down in words that will be--stand up to scrutiny
and stand up to--to various treaty requirements.  Is that the case now?

MR. RUBIN:  The various elements of the American initiative may or may
not take various forms, if it's agreed to.  I would be surprised if, at
some level things weren't going to end up being written down if we
weren't able to achieve progress.  But I don't want to say any more than
to tell you that over the last--probably since the meeting that the
President and the Secretary had with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister
Netanyahu yesterday, that clearly we're into a phase of very hard
bargaining, that a lot of the underbrush has been cleared away.  It's a
part of the endgame that is getting more and more serious.

As we indicated earlier, some obstacles have been overcome, but
significant gaps remain.  Tom.

Q  Jamie, King Hussein is the author of a celebrated letter expressing
his profound disappointment and sorrow at the way Prime Minister
Netanyahu had--in the king's view--back-tracked on the peace process.
And a year after that letter was written, he said that he would send it
again and word it even more strongly.  Given that, how does he fit into
the dynamic down here?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, you know the Foreign Minister Sharon went to see him
prior to coming here.  Clearly, the Israelis and the Jordanians have
talked to each other and have certain respect--sufficient respect for
each other to try to work through problems, and let's hope that he won't
want to sign a letter like that in the future.  Roy and then Karen.

Q  Jamie, can you say a little bit more about how King Hussein came to
be involved?  I mean, how did he come to Washington?  Was this his
suggestion?  Was he just passing through?

MR. RUBIN:  Passing through, I think would not be accurate.  I think
that the Secretary has spoken to him in recent days.  I think the
feeling was that he could play a constructive role.  We weren't quite
sure when and how to deploy his unique role.  Today the Secretary
decided to ask him to come, and he has demonstrated a willingness to
come.

Q  But did she ask him to stop in Washington just so that he could be
on--

MR. RUBIN:  I don't remember whether--what the--I mean, he had--you'll
have to talk to his spokesman about what his schedules would or wouldn't
have been in the absence of these talks.  But clearly we want him to
play a role.  Carol, Andrea, Charlie, and then we'll go up there.

Q  After the last--whatever, 12 hours or so, are you in a better
position to say whether you feel the two sides have the political will
to come to an agreement?

MR. RUBIN:  We'll know that at the end of the day, not necessarily
today.  But the end of the day metaphorically.  It's just impossible to
answer that question.  Certainly the intentions have been expressed,
well expressed as a desire to reach an agreement that meets the needs of
each side.  But whether that includes the kind of understanding of the
needs and requirements of the other side is what a negotiation is all
about.

That is what we hope--in addition to the work that President Clinton and
the Secretary have done, we hope that King Hussein can help both leaders
understand the needs and limitations and requirements of the other.
We're, I think, past the atmospherics and down to hard bargaining.
Andrea and then Charlie.

Q  Okay, is there a particular part of this agreement--you said you've
cleared out a lot of the underbrush--is there a particular part of the
agreement where you would like King Hussein to exert his influence and
use the special relationship that he has with both leaders to--to solve
that?  And then I just have another --

MR. RUBIN:  Yes, that's a very good question, and the best answer I can
offer you--the most accurate answer is that we will know that during the
course of the day.  We know he has this special role.  We know there is
an extreme reservoir of good will towards him and trust.  What we are
going to try to do is see whether--when we see where the biggest
stumbling blocks are whether we can encourage him and he can encourage
them to overcome those stumbling blocks.  So there's nothing decided in
advance.

Q  Do you feel any more optimistic or--because yesterday you said that
what had happened on Monday in southern Israel had complicated things--
do you feel that there is a new spirit after President Clinton's
meetings with both leaders last night?

MR. RUBIN:  I think it's fair to say that as a result of those
discussions that we're hopeful that it will be less complicated.

Q  Do you think you'll get a comprehensive deal?  Are you still working
for that?  Or are you--

MR. RUBIN:  You know, I've heard one particular delegation say they're
for both a comprehensive deal, a partial deal, no deal.  So I can't
quite figure out who is for what any more in terms of the public
presentation.

I know what we're for, and what we're for is to try to do all the work
that we can do in the shortest possible time because we feel a sense of
urgency about making peace.  What the result of that effort will be--the
result of King Hussein's arrival will be--is just anyone's guess at this
time.  Charlie and then we'll go--Charlie and then Lee--and then back to
Steve and Mark.  Yes.

Q  The meetings that the Secretary will hold with Netanyahu and Arafat,
they will be by phone?  They'll be--

MR. RUBIN:  No, in person, I believe.

Q  Short?  Did you indicate?

MR. RUBIN:  (Inaudible) tend to be updates and try to review what's
happened over night, whether we've moved on any particular issue, try to
make her assessment for the President of what issues that he ought to
focus on in his discussions with them.

Q  And also though you've mentioned--or talked a little bit about
contact with others--and Mubarek was asked about, do you know of any
contact between President Mubarek and either of the other sides,
especially the Palestinians?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't know the answer to that.  Lee.

Q  You have talked about a sense of urgency, is there any sort of
deadline that is being imposed--both in terms of practical matters and
in terms of the U.S. desire to bring this to closure?  Is this going to
keep going on day after day?  Or should this be resolved in a few days?
By tomorrow?  By next month?  When?

MR. RUBIN:  Wow, there are lot of options.  Let me try to state it as
clearly and accurately as I can.  This cannot go on indefinitely, but we
are taking it one day at a time.

(Laughter.)

Q  From what you've said, there seems to have been a period where some
of the grievance announcing and posturing seemed to have stopped and the
two sides have gone into more serious work--

MR. RUBIN:  I think that--

Q  Why do you say that happened and is there a proximate cause for that
happening?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't want to overstate the fact that I indicated that I
think we're into a more of a hard bargaining phase because that's not
designed to say that we know the outcome in any way.

I think that after the complicating effect of the terrorist act
yesterday, that did throw a wrench in the works.  Then last night, the
President and the Secretary met with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister
Netanyahu for a very long meeting.  I think it was almost two hours
prior to dinner.  Then they had a dinner with their larger delegation,
including ministers from the--the Israeli side and the--some of the key
Palestinian negotiators, including Abu Mazzen* and Abu Allah*.  As a
result of all of that, I'm trying to reflect the mood and the pace of
work and the extent to which people are rushing around and trying to
come up with bridging ideas and ways to resolve existing problems,
rather than rebutting talking points.

So my sense of that is there's a little bit more of that today than
there was yesterday, and that's the best way I can judge it for you.
Barry and then Mark.

Q  In the U.S. view in the mediation room is security--are security and
territory immutably linked?

MR. RUBIN:  Certainly our initiative has regarded--our initiative
designed to take the interim--I'm trying to answer it the only way I
know how.  The interim issues--remaining issues included Israeli claims-
-justified--that the Palestinians were--when we began all this--not
implementing the required steps in security.  Meanwhile, the Israelis
were not conducting the further redeployments.  Therefore, that's about
land and it's about security.  So the initiative was designed to create
a parallel process.  As greater and greater security is provided and
implemented, greater and greater amounts of land will be turned over.
So both of those are integral and parallel in the American initiative.

Now, when you get into this process what you find is each one of the
sides links one step--not just to the other, but to a third and fourth
and a fifth thing.  So one of the things that's been going on a lot is
linkage, de-linkage, and re-linkage--sometimes all in the same
paragraph, or the same meeting.  So what we're trying to do is sort this
out, as best as we can so that we can put the interim issues behind us
and move to a continue phase of discussions on the permanent status
issue.  That, in the broadest sense, is what we're trying to do.

Q  You know, I'm--you know, that answers most of the question.  I'm
thinking mechanically.

MR. RUBIN:  Right.

Q  When you mention committees--like safe passage--

MR. RUBIN:  Right.

Q  --is being dealt with sort of separately?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, it's one of the interim committee issues that need to
be resolved in order for the permanent status talks to start with out
all this old business still remaining in jeopardy and in controversy.

Q  How about the prisoners?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, as you know, the Palestinians feel very strongly about
that, and the other side--the Israelis--feel quite strongly about other
security matters.  So that's a factor that has to be taken into account.
But the core of the American initiative is a parallel process on turning
over territory and providing security through fighting terrorism.

Q  You realize I can't come at you because you couldn't respond, but we
began to talk in terms of a possible partial agreement.  But the point
of what I'm asking you is--how many of these various things can be un-
linked from the--

MR. RUBIN:  That's up to the parties.  Yes.  Oh, I'm sorry--I know Mark
had a question.  I'll come back to seconds--

Q  Two related questions--

MR. RUBIN:  Second links, yes.

Q  Jamie, have you seen a demonstration of political will by either
side?  And do you expect the king to get into the substance of
bargaining?  Or is he here mostly to strengthen each side's political
will?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I don't think those two can be disentangled.  The
political will be demonstrated in the willingness to make some tough
decisions, which is about bargaining.  So I can't imagine he will come
here without in some way or another getting involved in the decision-
making that the leaders have to make.

With respect to a demonstration of political will, Secretary Albright
made very clear that in the original meeting that she managed to put
together in New York, which was the first in a very long time--and then
the lunch in the Erez in Israel, there was a new spirit that permitted
this kind of meeting and permitted serious discussions to go on.  That
spirit carried over into the discussions here at Wye.  Whether or not it
yields the political--I'm sorry--the will that is necessary is not a
thing that can be half true.  So I don't know how to parse it down.
Charlie, Jim, and then in the back, yes.

Q  Jamie, all the issues obviously can't be on the front burner.  Is the
Israeli concern over the charter and that issue, would it be fair to say
that is on the back burner of discussions?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't agree that--you would be surprised how every issue
can be on the front burner.  You know, you try to make a list of front
burner and back burner issues, and everybody wants their issue on the
front burner.  So the front burner is full.  Yes.

Q  You say the aim is to get to the final phase of negotiations.  Does
that imply that you are now thinking of skipping or probing (inaudible)
a third (inaudible)?

MR. RUBIN:  I think you were there yesterday.  You, I hope, heard my
answer on the third phase issue, and that hasn't changed.  Yes.  I'm
sorry there and then Sid.  Yes.

Q  Here?

MR. RUBIN:  Yes.

Q  Yeah.  When Hebron--

MR. RUBIN:  (Inaudible) I can answer it, but usually I can't.

Q  I hope so.  When Hebron broke down or got close to breaking down and
Mubarek was not very helpful, you turned to King Hussein.  Now, Mubarek
has not been involved here.  Hussein is now being brought in as the big
gun.  What kind of consultation did you have with the delegations--
Netanyahu and Arafat, obviously--before bringing in King Hussein?  Was
that discussed with them?  Do you know?

MR. RUBIN:  The Israelis and the Palestinians were well aware of our
intention to consider asking King Hussein to come here.  With respect to
the Egyptians, the President, I believe, has spoken to President
Mubarek.  I believe we've been providing briefings and seeking
suggestions from the Egyptians at lower levels, as well.  So we're
trying to deploy those individuals and governments who we think can help
at the time we best choose.  That's our job- to try to figure out how to
get assistance in convincing the leaders to make these tough calls.
Yes.

Q  Jamie, I know you don't speak for the Israelis but I'll take a whack
at this.  What do you attribute their willingness to get back to
negotiations across the board after their very blustery and very well
organized, very well publicized suspension of all but the security talks
yesterday?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, all I can say is that we're here to make peace.  Some
people may want to score points during the course of the day.  We're
here to make peace and that's what we're here to do.  Yes.

Q  You said earlier that we want to put the interim issues behind us--I
don't want to quote precisely--and then perhaps move on to the final
status.  When you mention interim issues, does this also mean putting on
the table the scope and timetable for the third and final troop pullback
from the West Bank?

MR. RUBIN:  I was just asked about that--

Q  I'm sorry.

MR. RUBIN:  The answer I gave yesterday hopefully I will use the exact
same words as yesterday.  If I don't, consider yesterday's definitive
because I didn't hear about it afterwards.  That is--

(Laughter.)

MR. RUBIN:  --that the goal is to ensure that if we are able to achieve
the first and second further redeployments implementation and the steps
on security that we need, then we don't want to see the third
redeployment issue put us right back where we've been for that last 18
months, and we want us to be able to move to the permanent status talks
without that issue causing the same level of disruption that the second
and first have in the last several months.  Andrea, yes.

Q  Is there a chance that we could move to permanent status with some of
the remaining issues unresolved?

MR. RUBIN:  It depends on what they are and it depends on how--I mean,
technically speaking the permanent status talks could have been going on
for some time.  But neither the sides felt that in the absence of
getting this current business done, going to new business was not going
to be useful.  But if you remember, it was Prime Minister Netanyahu who
wanted to put as many of the interim issues as possible behind us and
get to accelerated permanent status talks.  That was what we tried to do
with our initiative that began, you know, the beginning of this year in
earnest with specific information, specific ideas.  Had we been able to
do it then, we would have had six months to work on permanent status
which we have not had because for six odd months the sides have not come
to agreement.

Q  So this summit could end with something less than a comprehensive
deal?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I don't want to characterize it for you. I just want
to say that what we're focused on is getting the job done, and the job
includes the pieces necessary to put the peace process back on track.
That means being able to move directly to final status talks.  Whether
we end up with something less than that, you know, we certainly hope
not.  Yes.

Q  I understand where your focus is now.  But has there been any
parallel discussions--or parts of discussions between the President and
Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu about a timetable for final
status?  About how are we are going to go if we get beyond these issues?

MR. RUBIN:  I can't rule out that their long term views about peace in
the Middle East and the needs of their respective peoples have been
discussed by the leaders with the president.  I would be surprised if
they weren't at some level.

But as far as what the bargaining and the work and the negotiations have
been about, they've been about the various issues that together
constitute the current and old business of Oslo and not the permanent
status.

Q  Well, has--in the trilateral last night, did Chairman Arafat and
Prime Minister Netanyahu actually talk directly to each other about
where they want to go?

MR. RUBIN:  I recall that--especially during the two-hour meeting, the
President presented, you know, his summary of where we were and then
wanted to hear them out, and they talked to each other about their
concerns, their constraints, their needs--for several hours during the
meeting the Secretary and the President had and then the dinner the
President and the Secretary had.  Yes.

Q  Jamie, a few moments ago you referred to the drama unfolding here at
the Wye--I think you used drama in another sentence.  In the past few
days you've been talking about the informal atmosphere, et cetera--has
something changed of the mood or the atmosphere inside that would
suggest more drama?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I tried to answer in response to Steve's question a
little bit about where things were yesterday and where they are today.
To give you a flavor of it, I'm also looking for metaphors to have
something to say.  Yes.  You had a question--your hand is down.  Yes.

Q  You said we're down to hard bargaining.

MR. RUBIN:  Right.

Q  Can you give us any indication which side is bargaining harder?  Or
on the flip side, which side might be closer to accepting the deal?

MR. RUBIN:  I hesitate to answer that question fully.

Q  I have a (inaudible).

MR. RUBIN:  Let's do one more from Wye and then we'll--

Q  Well, in--one of the things in drama is--

MR. RUBIN:  Any other subjects--

Q  In drama you often have a deus ex machina*--in Greek drama--and I was
just wondering, is this the role that you're hoping King Hussein will
play?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, one would certainly hope that something would fly into
the Wye River Conference Center from the air and change the dynamic.
Yes.

Q  Is the United States or the Administration consulting or putting
pressure to trying to influence in any way the British decision on what
do about extraditing Pinochet?

MR. RUBIN:  No.  Yes.

Q  Cuba's President Fidel Castro--interview with CNN tonight--will say
the U.S. tolerates or allows people to live in this country and operate
and carry out attacks against Cuba--economic sabotage he says.  Is there
any reaction from the U.S. to his charges?

MR. RUBIN:  We hear from time to time these kind of ridiculous
allegations from Fidel Castro.  Let me say, as the series of events over
the last weeks should make clear, we've arrested people and are
committed to vigorously enforce our laws, and those include laws against
espionage and they also include laws against terrorism.  We are
committed to fight terrorism here and in every country in the world.
Unfortunately, again, Fidel Castro is wrong.  Betsy.

Q  Jamie, do you have anything new today on Milosevic and compliance?

MR. RUBIN:  On the Kosovo subject, let me make three pretty simple
points for you.  First of all, General Clark is returning, is there
today in Belgrade.  He will be providing very specific information to
President Milosevic about his failure to comply fully with the
requirements of the international community.  He will be making very
clear that NATO will use military force against the Serbs if he doesn't
comply.  With respect to the situation on the ground, I get conflicting
pictures from those who are in a position to know -- not because of any
design but because each group has a different thing it tends to focus
on.

Broadly speaking, the UNHCR has apparently noted that larger numbers of
IDPs--that is internally displaced persons--are heading down from the
hills.  The U.S. has reopened the information center in Pristina*.
There were three monitoring teams out and they confirmed that there was
some small arms fire in several towns.  It's hard to know who started
the shooting.  Tanks and artillery seem to be in about the same
positions they held yesterday.  The police are rebuilding some of their
positions.

But let me say more broadly, with respect to the overall situation--and
this is based both on monitor reports, NGO reports, aerial verification
and our own ways of determining what's going on there, the cease-fire is
generally holding.  We want to make clear that we don't accept anyone
provoking hostile activity, whether that's the KLA or the Serbs.  But
regardless of what happens in terms of a provocation, it's unacceptable
for the Serbs to respond by attacking civilians through shelling or any
other large-scale use of military power.  So we don't want the KLA
provoking.  We know the difference between self-defense on the part of
the Serbs and using provocation as an excuse to engage in wholesale
hostilities against the people there.

Q  Do you feel we're further along today than we were yesterday?

MR. RUBIN:  Again, this is one of those things that I think we'll know
more after General Clark meets with President Milosevic.  Yes.

Q  Can you just give a percentage as to how much of the Secretary's time
has been devoted to non-Middle East subjects?  Ten, 20?

MR. RUBIN:  Some but not a substantial portion has been devoted to other
subjects.  I think Kosovo, primarily.  She's had some calls with some
other ministers.  But I would say a health majority of her time has been
spent on this subject.  Yes.

Q  Can you clarify on the OSCE observers -- are you expecting all 2,000
to arrive?  Or--there was a news story out the other day that it might
be as few as 800?

MR. RUBIN:  Right.  William Walker*, the American candidate, I
understand has been--either announced or will be announced as the chief
of the OSCE Verification Force.  I have heard of a number of countries
offering 50 to 100--150 people.  It's going to take some time to get
this thing up and running.  I think that we're trying to kick-start it.
I think one has to see how many can be brought to bear quickly, how well
they can do their job, how many obstacles are in the way of them doing
their job and then we'll know the answer to what the ultimate number is.
I would point out that the--I believe the sentence in the agreement is
up to 2,000.

Q  How many Americans will there be?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't think we've made a final determination, but I'm
confident we'll have a significant contribution?

Q  A hundred, 200, 400?

MR. RUBIN:  I just can't give you that number.

(The briefing concluded at 1:12 P.M.)


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