U.S. Department of State, James P. Rubin, Spokesman, Press Briefing at the Waldorf-Astoria, Back-to-back meetings with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu, New York, New York, September 26, 1998


Back-to-back meetings with Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu


MR. RUBIN:  They started the meeting about 15 minutes ago.  Coincidentally, the
meeting is being held in what was Secretary Albright's former drawing room on
the 42nd floor of the Waldorf where she used to live.

It went straight into a one-on-one.  There were no formalities of any kind with
the larger group.  I expect them to be there for some time.  We are expecting
the Secretary to leave and to go over to the Park Lane a little later.  I don't
have a time for you right now.

In both cases, I don't believe there will be any press arrangements in terms of
photo ops or anything like that.

So as far as what the objectives are, if you need a reiterated version for
objectives, I will keep it short and sweet.  The fact that they went right into
a one-on-one makes clear that the Secretary intends to get right down to
business and to try to see if in these back-to-back meetings with Chairman
Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu she can help broker agreements that will
make progress on the key categories and, if possible, lock in that progress very
soon on the key points that we have been pushing for some time.

As far as our optimism is concerned, as she told me in the car on the way over,
she has given up trying to predict the telltale signs what might yield in terms
of success.  Clearly, a lot of work has gone into this, but it's really going to
be up to them whether, when push comes to shove in the coming days, they want to
find some areas where they can lock in progress.

Q  Now, you said twice now--and it began with Lee Katz' question, and I didn't
think much of the question--but now you have picked up a couple of times just
now in the last two minutes about locking in.  That is beginning to sound like
she's willing to seal a deal that isn't a total deal if she can get something
done.  Is that what you mean?

MR. RUBIN:  I mean--

Q  Some attributes of the West Bank agreement instead of--aspects instead of all
if you can't get them all?

MR. RUBIN:  I think I addressed that extensively in the briefing on Friday, but
let me try it again.

Q  I was here.

MR. RUBIN:  In Washington.  Those of us who worked --

Q  I just read an anonymous official.

MR. RUBIN:  No, I was on the record on this point extensively.

Q  George wrote about the anonymous official.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, he could have used my name.

Q  No, not--another point.  On another point.  But say it again anyhow.

MR. RUBIN:  Let me try to say it again.  We recognize that there are many pieces
to this set of ideas, and they include the interim committee issues; they
include the scope and nature of the further redeployment; they include the
systemic infrastructure to fight terrorism; and they include the steps that need
to be taken or agreements that need to be reached to avoid unilateral actions
that can undermine the whole process.  Those are, in addition to the permanent
status talks, the key categories of work.

We have always recognized that because this together constitutes the set of
things you need to do in order to start the permanent status talks, that nothing
is agreed until everything is agreed.  Nevertheless, as one works one's way
through each of these issues, to the extent one can find a diplomatically
acceptable way to record agreements that advance or solve key issues, we want to
do that.  We have been unable to do that up to now and, if we can, we would like
to do that.

But that doesn't mean that it's a full - it's an agreement and it's an accord.
It just means that key aspects can be agreed.

Q  And if you get those key aspects agreed, is that sufficient to move to final
status talks?

MR. RUBIN:  No.

Q  But if you get them agreed, will we know?  Will you hold up a sign and say--

MR. RUBIN:  I don't know.  We'll have to ...

Q  Will someone hold up a sign and say, well, we've got about two-thirds of the
stuff agreed?

MR. RUBIN:  Right now we're trying to work on getting those agreements.  Later
we'll worry about how they will be publicly described.

Q  Do you have at least an agreement from the two sides on this strategy?  I
mean, do they agree that this is what - this is a push to get a partial
agreement?

MR. RUBIN:  Again, I would hesitate to use the word "partial agreement."   What I
am trying to communicate to you is that we do believe that there are areas that
are ripe for progress - and key areas, not small details but key points.  And if
one of those key points is - he can take a picture,  I don't care as long as
Barry is in the picture--if, on a key point that we can reach an agreement in
principle or an agreement in detail on that key point, we want to do so.
Secretary Albright made clear that this was a diplomatic objective of these set
of meetings here in New York and in Washington to Prime Minister Netanyahu on
whatever day it was we were here--I've forgotten--Thursday.  She will make the
same point to Chairman Arafat tonight.

Q  But months ago you were within easy range of -

MR. RUBIN:  Let me just let him ask a question.

Q  No, I swear it follows right up.  Months ago you were in easy range of
terribly simple points which was the right of safe passage, a seaport and
industrial zone, and American mediators eschewed the opportunity to do that to
go for the larger picture on the sense that these weren't enough.  They wanted
to try for everything.

Now, except for the fact that that may not be key stuff, it sounds like, having
been frustrated all these months, you'll accept at least for now something less
than the whole.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, we'll have to ...

Q  There's no way - if you want to avoid the word "partial" that's fine.

MR. RUBIN:  I'm not ...

Q  And I can't blame you for settling for less.

MR. RUBIN:  I'm just trying to ...

Q  But that's what you're doing.

MR. RUBIN:  I'm trying to make sure that we don't misunderstand each other.
That's all I'm trying to do.  You guys will write what you think I said.  I will
try to communicate it as best as I can here on Saturday night.

Q  If they lock in key points, will there be a public announcement, we have a--
do you want to call it a partial agreement?  "We have an agreement on some key
points"?

MR. RUBIN:  Let me say this:  We are working to see if we can get the agreement
on the key points.  If we do, then we will decide how to communicate that.  Is
it private?  Is it just something we refer to tangentially?  Is it something we
make more clear publicly?  That's like icing on the cake if you have the
agreement how you discuss it publicly.

But, again, what I am trying to focus on, number one, is that we do not expect
to be able to solve all of the detailed points in those four areas that would be
necessary to complete the U.S. initiative and to launch immediately the final
status talks.  That is not the objective of the next few days.  We do not expect
to be able to do so.

To the extent that on some of the key points we can get either an agreement in
principle or a detailed agreement, that is what we are going to try to do and I
expect that to be communicated in some form.

Q  But, you know, the Israelis are saying that they think there has been
progress on the 13 percent withdrawal.  Where is the grounds for that?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, again, I try not to comment on their specific comments on the
substance because we think it's wiser not to talk about the substance until we
have ...

Q  But would you differ with it?

MR. RUBIN:  We've made progress in the recent weeks on the - on all of the key
points we've made progress.  Whether we are able to turn that progress into some
recorded agreement or agreement in principle is what we are working on today.

Q  And how much of a threat to that progress could Arafat's threat to declare
statehood be at this point?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, it's impossible to predict what he will say, and it is
impossible to predict what effect what he will say has.  All we can say is our
view, and our view is that it would be a mistake and not helpful for Chairman
Arafat to make a unilateral statement, including a statement about declaration
of a Palestinian state, just as we have argued consistently that it is a mistake
for the Israeli side to make unilateral statements or take unilateral actions on
subjects that are, by agreement, designed to be resolved in -

Q  Will she communicate that to him?

MR. RUBIN:  Surely, yes.

Q  Is it fair to say that you're putting on this push now and you're willing to
settle for things that you weren't willing to settle for--

MR. RUBIN:  I don't agree with that.

Q  Okay.  Well, all right.

MR. RUBIN:  I know Barry said it and I ...

Q  No, no.  I said this the other day.  In fact, I wrote this the other day.
So, but because of the threat of Arafat's wanting to declare statehood ...

MR. RUBIN:  That's not the -

Q  Isn't that upping the pressroom kind of blind?

MR. RUBIN:  All right. Let me state very cleanly--I mean, you can--

Q  It helps.

MR. RUBIN:  We do not take this view of how to do this work here in New York and
in Washington on the basis of what he may or may not say in the General
Assembly.  It's on the basis of our concern about the deterioration in the
process, the lack of trust and confidence between the sides, and the looming
arrival of May the 4th, 1999, when the agreements were supposed to have been
completed.  All the agreements.  That is what gives us a sense of urgency.   We
certainly hope that the two leaders have an equivalent sense of urgency so that
they can make the tough choices that need to be made for us to get this
agreement.

Q  Except that Arafat's threat is part of that sort of climate.

MR. RUBIN:  Right, and there have been other statements and threats that have
been part of this climate for the last six months, and we have had the equal
sense of urgency.  All I am telling you is that, to the extent you see the
coincidence as you see it as a new approach to the diplomacy and Arafat's
speech, that is not the motivator.

Q  What does tomorrow look like?  Do you know at this point?

MR. RUBIN:  Don't know.  As soon as I know I'll tell you.

Q  Now, the Palestinian guy I got on the phone--and God knows who I got on the
phone--thinks Arafat is going over there Monday night--is that correct--to the
White House?

MR. RUBIN:  I don't think it's Monday night.

Q  No?

Q  Is she definitely going to see Netanyahu tonight?

MR. RUBIN:  Yes.

Q  Can you do two things: one, let us know when she's gone to see Netanyahu?

MR. RUBIN:  Yes. If it's not me, I'll have Lee give you time checks.

Q  And, also, if there is anything that you can say at the end.  I presume
you'll have nothing to say, you know, in the middle.

MR. RUBIN:  This is going to be my wrap for the rest of the night.

Q  No readout?

MR. RUBIN:  No readout.

Q  That means nothing?  Not even ...

MR. RUBIN:  Nothing.

Q  All right.

MR. RUBIN:  I mean, if you want times of meetings and confirmations that they
happened, how long did they go on, were they one-on-ones, I will try to ...

Q  Right, but when it's over.  When it's all over.

MR. RUBIN:  And when it's over you can get that through Lee.  But as far as
substance, I don't intend to say anything different no matter what happens
unless, you know, something really weird happens.

Q  Or good.

Q  And, also, if you can give me some idea of what ... at the end of the night
if you know what is going to happen tomorrow, too.

MR. RUBIN:  Right, on schedule and timing.  It may be Lee.  That may be your
man.

Q  That's fine.

MR. RUBIN:  But somebody will be your man.  Or your woman, depending on who we
are.

Q  Arafat's speech and the whole thing with the Palestinian state, will you be
satisfied if Arafat stops on the tone of his speech, meaning ...

MR. RUBIN:  Well, you're talking about a speech that he hasn't delivered yet.

Q  Right.  He has said - but I tell you what he was going to say.

MR. RUBIN:  What?

Q  He was going to reaffirm that on the May the 4th, 1999, he is going to
declare a Palestinian state.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, we'll have to see what he says.  We will make clear to him, as
we have to the Israeli side before they make statements or actions, our
position, our clear position of principle on unilateral statements and actions.

Q  Okay, thank you very much.

MR. RUBIN:  Okay.


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