DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(New York, New York)
For Immediate Release September 23, l998
REMARKS BY JAMES P. RUBIN, SPOKESMAN AFTER SECRETARY ALBRIGHT'S MEETING WITH ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU
UN Plaza Hotel
New York, New York
September 23, 1998
MR. RUBIN: First of all, let me apologize for the logistical
On the substantive side, let me say that Secretary Albright, obviously,
is going to try to spend what reasonable time she can this week and
through the weekend trying to advance the peace process that has been
stalled for so long. It's been a long 18 months without any progress
whatsoever in the peace process. That is why we put together a set of
ideas designed to put the process back on track.
There are many pieces of these ideas, as those of you who have heard us
speak before know. They include further redeployment of territory in
the West Bank in order to change the status under the interim
agreement. There are the important security issues that we consider a
sine qua non for the peace process to be advanced. There is the
importance of making sure that there are no unilateral steps taken that
undermine the process. There are the remaining interim issues,
including the industrial estate and the airports. These are a whole
package of issues.
Ambassador Ross spent a long time in the Middle East working on them.
Secretary Albright had a very constructive discussion with Prime
Minister Netanyahu, which she reported to you. Our goal in the coming
week is to try to make progress where we can and lock in that progress
so that a structure can be created to put the peace process back on
QUESTION: Can you come to closure this week?
MR. RUBIN: I think if by closure you mean a full set of agreement on
all the details of what's necessary to put the peace process back on
track and get the interim agreement steps implemented so that one can
move directly to the permanent status talks, that's probably a bridge
What we are trying to do is lock in the progress on the important
principles that we need to get agreement on if we're going to succeed
in putting the process back on track.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) UN a unilateral step?
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry, I didn't understand the question.
QUESTION: Is declaring a state by Arafat or an attempt to declare a
state in a UN forum a unilateral step?
MR. RUBIN: Well, wherever a unilateral statement of that kind would be
made -- in New York or anywhere else -- it would be a unilateral action
that we have opposed, just like many unilateral actions that both sides
have taken in recent months and years that we have said are not helpful
to peace in the Middle East.
QUESTION: Do you see any sign of a softening in attitude of the two
parties, mutually -- that is, Arafat and Netanyahu?
MR. RUBIN: At this point, having been at this for a long, long time,
it is clear to us that what we can do is put our shoulder to the wheel,
try to be as creative as we can. One does often sense that the closer
one gets, the more each of them step back. But we're nevertheless
determined to do what we can do to be as creative as possible with
language and assurances so that we can lock in important progress where
we can in the coming days.
QUESTION: Will there be any trilateral meetings between the Secretary
and the Prime Minister and Yasser Arafat?
MR. RUBIN: That has not been decided at this point. What I can say is
we do expect Secretary Albright to meet with Chairman Arafat in New
York when he arrives. I would also expect there to be additional
meetings between Secretary Albright and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
As far as the three of them meeting, no such decision has been taken at
QUESTION: But he's coming here on Saturday, I think. Will she come
back to New York from Washington?
MR. RUBIN: We are going to do what we need to do, as I indicated at
the outset, to try to apply the necessary time and energy to try to
advance the process. Exact scheduling items about where she will be
and what will be necessary are still being worked out. But I would
expect her to meet with Chairman Arafat, and I would be surprised if
she didn't meet again with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Is there any significance to the fact
that there was no one from the US present with the Prime Minister when
we had the briefing?
MR. RUBIN: No. She spoke -- she wasn't expected to speak in that
rather uncomfortable, narrow corridor.
QUESTION: There is widespread expectation here that Arafat is going to
declare an independent state and going to appeal for worldwide support
and recognition for it. Now, what's the United States going to do if
he does that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, that's, again, a bridge that we wouldn't want to
cross; and I'm not going to prejudge what his decisions will be. It
has certainly been our view for a long time that unilateral
declarations and unilateral actions that prejudge the outcome of the
peace process are not helpful and can only harm that process. That is
a principle that we have held to for some time now, and we would expect
to hold to it in any future action or statement by one of the leaders.
QUESTION: Did you over-jump all of the obstacles, this 13 percent
question, including the 3 percent of the nature reserves?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary of State share the Prime Minister's view
that the declaration of an independent Palestinian state will
jeopardize chances of a meeting with Yasser Arafat and a continuation
of the peace process?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I think I've answered several times the question of
America's view of such a declaration or any statement or action by
either party that would have the effect of prejudging a permanent
status issue. That is our view, and that view hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Some of us are getting the impression that territory, which
was once the big ticket item, isn't the big ticket item anymore. Now,
is it because we're hearing the Israelis on security, or is the 13
percent -- if you don't want to use percentage -- that's pretty well
resolved, isn't it, except for security?
MR. RUBIN: No, on the contrary. In response to the last question, I
made clear that that has not been resolved. It has not been resolved.
The major issues are the scope of the further redeployment; the
security measures that need to be taken in parallel with any further
redeployment; the assurances on unilateral actions to prevent the
further deterioration in the process; as well as the interim issues
such as the Gaza industrial state and the airport and safe passage.
Those are the panoply of issues in the categories that I described
them, and in no case have they been solved.
QUESTION: Did Albright discuss settlements at all with Mr. Netanyahu?
MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't be in a position to say everything she talked
about; but certainly I've given you the lay-down of the categories, and
in each category important issues were discussed.
QUESTION: What are the conditions for a meeting between Arafat and
Netanyahu, as far as the US is concerned?
MR. RUBIN: We aren't in a position to make preconditions for two other
people meeting. What we are trying to do is to advance the process.
So we're working with them on the substantive and procedural steps that
need to be taken in order for the process to be advanced.
We have said for some time, if sufficient work was done and it was
right for a three-way meeting, that we would be supportive of that.
But the question is the work, and that's what Secretary Albright will
be doing in the coming days.
QUESTION: Follow-up -- is there an ABC for that; A, B, C and then
there's a meeting?
MR. RUBIN: Maybe you can ABC to the other two leaders.
QUESTION: Has Madame Secretary heard about the proposal of President
Vaclav Havel that she can be, probably in the future, president of
MR. RUBIN: I'm sure that thought has not crossed her mind. She has
plenty of work to do, as you can see.
QUESTION: Would you like to answer that question a little more -- the
MR. RUBIN: I think I was pretty definitive.
QUESTION: So no meeting has been scheduled yet or is -- right?
MR. RUBIN: A three-way meeting?
MR. RUBIN: Correct. I said that before, yes.
QUESTION: Is there any understanding -- (inaudible) --
MR. RUBIN: No, I think what this meeting was about was laying the
groundwork for a set of discussions and meetings that we expect to have
in the coming days so that we can make progress and lock in progress on
the key issues needed to put the peace process back on track.
QUESTION: What are the Secretary's plans about Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: Today, I believe she will be going to a Contact Group
meeting in which that will be discussed.
QUESTION: She's not going to sit in on the Security Council?
MR. RUBIN: I don't think so.
QUESTION: Is there a meeting scheduled between Mrs. Albright and Mr.
MR. RUBIN: What I said earlier was that I expect Chairman Arafat and
the Secretary to meet sometime this weekend. The details haven't been
arranged, but I would expect such a meeting to occur.
QUESTION: Was the issue of Jonathon Pollard raised in the meeting?
MR. RUBIN: No, not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: What is your comment about the meeting between Mr. Moussa
and Mr. Netanyahu and Mrs. Albright today?
MR. RUBIN: Well, they had a good very short discussion -- maybe three
or four or five minutes. They talked about the importance of progress
in the peace process.
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