RUBIN: Greetings, welcome to the State Department briefing. This is on-the-
record as long as I can sustain that. I just thought I would try to give you a
chance to ask any question on any subject for those of you who know there won't
be a briefing in Washington today.
On the schedule and the remaining events. Secretary Albright will be having
dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu at 10:00 tonight, and that is the next
meeting. I do expect meetings tomorrow, the exact nature and timing of which I
can't confirm for you at this time, but I am here to take your questions
QUESTION: What are your plans after tomorrow?
RUBIN: After tomorrow it is still a strong possibility that she will travel to
Europe to deal with the Kosovo issue. Again, it could be Brussels; it could be
another European city. She's been in touch with several foreign ministers over
the last several days. Today I know she spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov and
Foreign Minister Cook. She received reports from Ambassador Holbrooke. A lot
of it will depend on where the other European allies are and what we think the
best way is to keep the pressure on for decision-making in NATO which is what we
believe is the motivating factor, or the only possible motivating factor, for
Slobodan Milosevic to comply with the Security Council's requirements.
RUBIN: I wouldn't rule that out.
QUESTION: We've had reports that at least six of the European Union members
have expressed reservations about NATO military action. And this kind of report
seems to be totally at odds with what you and the Secretary said about strong
support for a strong NATO position. Could you talk a little bit about that.
And the fact that you haven't settled on a city yet -- does that suggest that
NATO is just not prepared to make a decision?
RUBIN: Let me make two points. First of all, I think nobody is anxious to use
military force, the United States included. That is not our goal. Our goal is
to achieve compliance with the international community's demands. Everyone has
reservations about the use of force. The question is what will stop a
humanitarian crisis from turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, and what will
stop the potential for this war spreading to other countries. It is our view
that in the absence of the credible threat of the use of force, President
Milosevic will not take the necessary measures to turn around this major crisis.
There are a variety of views in other countries in Europe about this question.
I am not going to purport to speak for them. What I can say is we think the
momentum is still there, that the alliance is moving rapidly towards a decision-
making time. The exact time-frame of that is something that is being judged day
by day. We do not believe that the current scene is one in which the European
countries are moving away from recognizing that it is a credible threat of force
that is what can make diplomacy achieve a verifiable and durable agreement that
ensures that President Milosevic meets the various requirements that you are
QUESTION: How would you characterize today's meetings?
RUBIN: Well, I think the Secretary's characterization was striking. She's been
in a lot of meetings in the Middle East, and a lot of meetings on the Middle
East in other countries and in the United States, and I certainly think she was
encouraged that both leaders are getting down to business, that the mood is
certainly the right mood, but whether the right atmospherics, the right mood and
the goodwill that she experienced today is enough to begin to make some concrete
agreements on the various pieces of this puzzle we have to put together. You
have heard us say for some time that the peace process is way off track.
Certainly, today, and in recent weeks we can now see ahead of us the way towards
putting it back on track. And that is something we haven't been able to see
QUESTION: Can you confirm that there is a three-way meeting -- Albright,
Arafat, and Netanyahu -- tomorrow at eleven o'clock at Erez? And secondly, what
would that signify?
RUBIN: The best I can offer you is that's certainly a possibility.
QUESTION: In percentages, what is the possibility of a three-way tomorrow? And
if it doesn't take place, what does that do for the schedule of a mid-October
summit in Washington?
RUBIN: The meetings today involved some discussions about dates, and trying to
nail down exactly when we would have the Washington summit, and what the various
items that would be left to deal with are. All I can say is that it is
certainly a possibility that there will be such a meeting, but it has not been
decided upon. And, unlike others in this business, I don't confirm things that
haven't been agreed to.
QUESTION: Could you please relate to the understanding between Israel and the
United States about the third phase of the redeployment? The third phase -- is
there an understanding? If you could elaborate about it?
RUBIN: Well, clearly, that is a piece of the puzzle, and it is something that
everyone knows is there. And it is something that if it is not dealt with could
put us back into the same kind of situation we're in now, even as we work to get
an agreement on the second and the first phase, and
to move to permanent status talks. So, it's part of the discussions, but the
exact nature of any understandings on that I am not prepared to discuss
QUESTION: Is that something that needs to be settled now, in this agreement, or
is it something that you are going to handle as they had already agreed, in a
committee, once final status talks begin? Or has that been changed? Is it
something that has to come up again?
RUBIN: Again, part of the problem here in all the issues is that at various
times ideas are put forward, people talk about them, and they say that some idea
or another is satisfactory. But, it's never really nailed down because, as we
have come to say, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So, I am not
going to dismiss what it is that you said, only to say that we are quite aware
of the issue, and it is something that has to be part of the puzzle if you are
going to move directly from the interim issues that are now outstanding, resolve
all of them -- that is, the interim committee issues, the further redeployment
in the first and second phase, the security steps that need to be taken, the
infrastructure that needs to be built to fight security, and the confidence that
unilateral actions and statements won't take place after this agreement.
Because, let's bear in mind, even if we were to get this agreement, an agreement
is a piece of paper. What matters is the implementation of this agreement. And
given the lack of trust and confidence between the parties that has existed for
so long, we are not just looking for the set of issues that are outstanding to
be resolved, but we are looking for a climate to be created through making these
agreements so that you have some reasonable prospect that they will be
implemented. If they are not implemented well or other issues that can come up
during the further discussions arise, then you could be back to where you
started. But, again, as I list the problems, I don't want to distract you from
the fact that prior to now it has been very hard to see the path for putting the
peace process back on track, and now that path is at least clear.
QUESTION: Was there anything specific or substantive accomplished today that
you could tell us about?
RUBIN: Well, if you had not added that last clause, I might have been able to
say "yes." I think the work is substantive. It is very hard to communicate
publicly substantive ideas until they are ripe for public discussion because if
they are discussed publicly often people walk away from things that seemed
agreed. But, we do believe that we are making substantive progress. But to be
more specific than that would risk the problem that I just described.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, apparently Yeltsin made some rather strident comments in
opposition to the use of force and the Duma, some people within it, threatened
to break off the agreement that Russia has with NATO. In view of the rather
tenuous nature of U.S.-Russia relations right now, how much is that contributing
to both U.S. reservations about the use of force and in your view European
reservations among the other NATO allies?
RUBIN: It's hard to speak for the others. For ourselves, let me say that our
pattern in the U.S.- Russia relationship has been one to try to develop areas of
agreement, to try to work together where we can, and where we can't work
together is to manage those differences as best we can. There have been various
times in which the Russians have said many things about the use of force in
Bosnia, the use of force in other parts of the world, and we're certainly
respectful of their views, but as far as our determination, we are not deterred
or moved off our determination that the threat of force is a necessary
prerequisite for getting President Milosevic to comply by the fact that the
Russians have reservations, or even stronger than reservations about it. We
will continue to consult with the Russians and we believe that NATO is the form
that is the correct organization to take action, if that becomes necessary, and
we do not believe that NATO action requires the approval of Russia. In short,
we want Russia to have a voice in these kinds of decisions pursuant to our
cooperation, but no veto.
QUESTION: Saeb Erekat said last week, I think on Friday, that there was an
awful lot of agreement in a lot of areas and what was necessary now was the
political will to square the circle.
RUBIN: I can agree with that on both sides.
QUESTION: OK. Was there any retreat in any area that you've seen today? And
the next question is -- perhaps we can get at it better this way -- that Dennis
(Ross) and Martin (Indyk) are staying behind. How would you describe what faces
them and what they have to do after the Secretary leaves to pull off the
RUBIN: The Washington Summit is designed to terminate -- I'd rather not use
that word -- to close, to finish off (laughter) the issues that are outstanding.
There a lot of them, there are dozens of them, there are many categories,
whether it's the interim issues, i.e. the airport, the industrial estate, the
safe passage -- these are not complete. There are dozens of minor problems in
these areas. And number two, with respect to the further redeployment. I think
while there has certainly been a lot of positive movement -- and I don't know
what phrase everyone is using publicly now, but that issue has been largely
resolved. It has not been completely resolved. Words matter and there are
still words outstanding in that area.
Thirdly, and this is probably one of the more complex of the issues: If we're
going to get an agreement that puts Oslo back on track, that puts the peace
process back on track, the institutionalization of security cooperation is a
complex and demanding task in the area of police, in the area of weapons, in the
area of incitement, in a number of areas that require an institutionalized
pattern of cooperation that's been missing, and that is complex, it cuts to the
core of the interests of the two parties, both in terms of what Arafat can do,
and what the Israelis want him to do, and understandably want him to do. These
are very complex. There are a lot of details associated with that.
Finally, the unilateral area, the unilateral statements, and the unilateral
actions. You've been here and have seen a lot of that. We think it's been
happening on both sides. In order to have confidence that we will not move from
a period of an agreement into another crisis, we have to talk about that and see
if we can satisfy ourselves and both parties that making the tough decisions on
those other areas is not going to lead to a problem in that. So let me finish,
and then we can have a follow up. What I'm trying to say is there are dozens of
issues in all of these categories. The Secretary's trip is designed to resolve
as many of these substantive issues as possible in this two day period, to lock
them in and then leave Dennis and Martin here to clear away further underbrush
during the coming days, so that when we get to Washington, the number of issues
is such that it can be solved in a short number of days. These are complex
issues and we're trying to do our best to put the President and the two leaders
in a position to finish the job in Washington, and that is what they're doing.
QUESTION: Let me follow-up. Last night Bibi talking to the Christian
fundamentalists used the phrase on security agreement, an agreement which I
believe we have negotiated. Bar-Illan said on-the-record last week that there's
an American working plan which, if the Palestinians agree to -- the implication
of both those remarks is that the Israelis and the Americans are in agreement on
the security blueprint which is being worked on. What I want to know is, is
that an accurate characterization, that the United States and Israel are now in
an agreement on the security plan, a security blueprint, and it's up to the
Palestinians to be brought around to that? Is that accurate?
RUBIN: Well let me say this. We obviously closely coordinate our work. And we
have worked closely with both sides on many of the issues in these documents
that we're working on. But it would not be fair to say that all the details of
the security side, or any other side, are fully agreed with one party or
another. That is what we are working on now.
QUESTION: Is it possible that Arafat and Netanyahu would go to Washington with
many issues outstanding, or will the major issues have to be resolved before
they leave for the summit?
RUBIN: I think we envisage the Washington summit as an intensive multi-day
exercise, where some heavy lifting is going to be required. We do not envisage
it as a photo op where everything is pre-packaged, and signed and sealed, and
just needs to be delivered. On the contrary, we do not expect to complete in
the Secretary's trip, or in any of the experts' work that follow, all the
details of this complex set of agreements.
QUESTION: Why did you use the phrase "possibility"? Are you just being
technically correct about the Washington summit? Has it slipped now in time and
RUBIN: If I made the word.... We still expect there to be a meeting in mid-
October. I haven't heard anything.
QUESTION: But are the dates slipping now? Doesn't that mean something?
RUBIN: You know, it is funny you say that. As far as I can tell, it's going
like this. (Mr. Rubin demonstrates side-to-side movement.) So it's not
slipping. It's going back and forth until we nail down a date.
QUESTION: How can you be so upbeat about the progress today, when right after
Netanyahu meets Albright, his government goes and approves -- at least moves in
the direction of approving -- a new permanent settlement in Hebron, a place
which is obviously the source of great tension? Why is that not a slap in her
RUBIN: I don't have the details on that particular government decision. I
asked about that before I came down here, and they are not available to us. Let
me be clear. Because I said that it is possible to see the way to put the peace
process back on track, that also means it's not on track now. There is
distrust, and there is a lack of confidence. That is why it is so hard to
resolve some of these small, detailed issues. And there is the prospect, as we
have said, in both cases of unilateral statements and actions that can harm the
peace process. So we are not saying everything is rosy. On the contrary, I
think if you look at the scope of our statements publicly about this, and the
point that I was trying to make, what I'm trying to say is this teetering
process that has been in such jeopardy for so long, now may be, possibly, is
something that we can see the way clear to put it back on track. That is not
intended to say that everything is rosy. On the contrary, it is not.
QUESTION: On that specific issue though, the settlement issue?
RUBIN: Well, as I indicated, I don't have the details of that particular
QUESTION: Given all that that you just said, is there any possibility at all
that there won't be a Washington summit?
RUBIN: As far as I can tell from the discussions today, the expectation still
is that people will be coming to Washington, or the Washington area in mid-
October in order to finish the work that needs to be completed, yes.
QUESTION: Regarding the security matter: the picture that the Israelis are
portraying whereby although there are a lot of outstanding issues to be resolved
the main issue is security, and if that is agreed upon, i.e. if the Palestinians
accept the working-paper presented by the Israelis agreed upon with the
Americans, everything else will fall into place. Is that a portrayal which is
accurate in your view?
RUBIN: We do not think this is a problem now where it's only up the Palestinian
side. We think there are significant problems in many of these areas that will
require tough choices by both the Palestinians and the Israelis if we are to
complete this work. It is not a simple matter of getting one side to agree to
something that has been pre-cooked with the other two.
QUESTION: Nevertheless the Israelis make a big issue of security.
RUBIN: It's a big issue for us too.
QUESTION: Right. And Arafat's line on security is peace is security. That
sort of leaves a lot still to be said. He speaks in epigrams like that. So the
Israelis are very specific. You refer to details all over the lot that have to
be tended. The details to me means whether the license plate is green or red.
They're talking about confiscating weapons -- you don't want me to go through
the whole thing -- the Covenant, not having twenty-three people or twenty-five
Hamas people in the Palestinian police force. With all due respect, I don't
think these are details. Can you tell me if these specific things are being
addressed, or if the U.S. solution is greater cooperation between the two of
them on their exchange of security information -- they'll do a better job if
they work better together? That seems to be the way you guys are going.
RUBIN: With all due respect, I don't think the use of a technical term "detail"
should impart any political meaning, and I think the United States has done more
and worked harder to try to nail down the kind of security procedures that will
institutionalize cooperation and make it a one hundred percent effort, so as to
limit the possibility of terrorist acts. That is something that we feel as
strongly as the Israelis or anybody in this room about. But if you are asking a
negotiating question about how to agree to various procedures, some of which
might be what's the committee called?; will information go through one committee
or another committee? That's a detail. And so those kind of details, however,
in this business, can often take on a life of their own and can be enough to put
a stop to negotiations. So in all the categories there are details; in some of
the categories there is more agreement in principle and agreement in substance
in key elements than there are in other categories. I would say that in the
further redeployment we are further along than we are in other areas, but even
in the security area there is a requirement for work on both sides, in the sense
that things have to be nailed down. Things have to be agreed to. People have
to realize what is possible and what is not possible. And what we're trying to
do is put forward an agreement that has the maximum chance to prevent terrorist
incidents that undermine the peace process.
QUESTION: That's the second time you used the construction "what's possible."
I can think of two reasons you might be saying that. The first might be that
it's impossible, as everybody keeps saying, to give one hundred percent
guarantee that terrorism can be stopped. Another construction of possible is
that Arafat for political reasons can just go so far in confiscating weapons,
making sure Hamas people stay in jail, etc, etc. What do you mean by "it's
possible," in other words there are limits to what can be done, but what are the
limitations based on?
RUBIN: Well I'm not going to make a political assessment of Chairman Arafat's
ability to control these matters at this point that's not something we normally
do in this form. I will say that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the
President have made clear that even a one hundred per cent effort to fight
terrorism can't always yield a one hundred per cent perfect result.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion at the moment of a possible extension to the
May 1999 completion date? Is that something that Washington could see as
RUBIN: Well, right now the May date is seen less as something to be extended
than as reality that everybody faces, and that is, that in the absence of
putting the peace process back on track and in the absence of getting agreement
on the interim issues that are outstanding and launching the permanent status
talks, that date portends great danger for the people of the Middle East. If,
on the other hand, there was a peace process that was back on track where there
was further redeployment, there was security cooperation in full and
comprehensive and sustained and there was agreement on those other aspects that
I talked about and one had launched permanent status talks, although the
expectation was that they would complete by May 4, one can envisage, you know,
the good will and trust and confidence of the parties making it possible to make
as much progress as possible before May 4 and working after that. But, that is
not something that is easy to contemplate at this time when there is no real
peace process occurring, in fact, when there is no agreement on the interim
issues, there is no agreement on the further redeployment, there is no security
cooperation, there are unilateral actions and statements being made by both
sides. So, one can contemplate it but it's not really very meaningful in the
absence of those other steps.
QUESTION: Late last year, Israeli security people sat down with Palestinian
security people with the help of the CIA station chief here and worked out a
security protocol that was written down in the form of a non-paper and then
repudiated by Mr. Netanyahu. Is the current security protocol shaping up to
look any different than the one he put in the trash last year?
RUBIN: That is some loaded language. I am not really in a position to talk
about documents purported to have been arranged by the CIA station chief.
QUESTION: Are there other maps now that are being produced or being discussed?
And, secondly, you all said before starting -- a couple of weeks ago -- before
drafting this agreement. Can you say, have the number of brackets, if you can
you say roughly how many there are? Are they getting smaller as you get further
into it or are there more brackets showing up?
RUBIN: Well, I think the number of disagreements in the texts are shrinking.
That is what we are doing here. As far as a map is concerned, I don't believe a
map of a proposed further redeployment has been presented in any formal way.
That would be the Israelis to decide what territory is transferred.
QUESTION: To change the venue. Turkey issued today a last warning to Syria and
has cancelled all leave for its troops on their border. What is the United
States doing besides monitoring this? Are you involved? Is Albright
considering even making a visit, a phone call or something?
RUBIN: On Turkey and Syria, let me say that we have been in touch with all the
parties through diplomatic channels. We believe that it would be a big mistake
for this tension to spin out of control into the use of force. It poses a great
risk of a wider conflict. We think the right way to resolve this is for the
Turks to make clear to the Syrians that they need to do more to rein in the PKK
in that part of their country, unlike in Iraq where there is no ability to do
that in the northern part of Iraq and therefore it is more understandable for
them to need to go in and resolve the problem. We are concerned about the
prospect of this spinning out of control. We have spoken to all the relevant
parties, and we're certainly encouraged by the work that President Mubarak has
QUESTION: Can you tell me how much a concern, how much of an issue it is for
the United States, the Palestinians' threat to declare a state next May if the
peace process doesn't deliver one? Is it overshadowing the talks? There was
some suggestion that what gave an added momentum to the recent talks in the
United States was Mr. Arafat's threat to use the United Nations forum to
formally declare that he wanted a state. And secondly, sorry to go back to the
issue that so many different people have asked about, just to try another effort
at sort of clarifying, can you say, when you talk about the narrowing of the
gaps between Israel and the Palestinians, that there's a greater closeness in
terms of what they think is possible when it comes to security cooperation?
Because often the Palestinians criticize, security is for Israel the blanket
concept, and an excuse for inaction. So they become very suspicious of it. And
there was a sense before that America thought that the Israelis were asking far
too much of the Palestinians. And I want to know whether there's been any
change in that concept?
RUBIN: On the first point, we do not believe that the progress that has
developed over recent weeks is a function of that threat that you describe. On
the contrary, we believe this progress was developing over the summer prior to
Chairman Arafat's arrival in New York. And so, are we concerned about a
declaration of a Palestinian state by Chairman Arafat? Absolutely. That would
be the kind of unilateral act that we have said would harm the peace process.
With respect to your second question, to answer it in full, other than the
answer I gave to Barry, is to get into some of the details I'm not in a position
to get into. Hopefully, for those of you who will come to Washington, and,
hopefully, when...if this is all agreed to, that question can be answered. And
you can see where the problems were in the security category that we were trying
to work with, when it's over. But in the midst of it, it's just too hard to....
QUESTION: (Inaudible) approached the Israelis (inaudible)?
RUBIN: Yes, when I said there's substantive movement, I meant in all the
relevant categories, including that.
QUESTION: Is there a big gap between what Washington thinks is necessary and
what Israel thinks is necessary?
QUESTION: Assuming you go to Washington, do you want to tell us -- because we
all know some of the issues which you aren't going to solve here, and one of the
big ones you're going to take there -- would you describe, if you will, or
characterize the risks attendant to a Washington Summit in terms of -- we know
what's possible in terms of victory -- but I mean, is it possible that nothing
could come out, that Washington would fail? The summit?
RUBIN: Well, what the Secretary said today I hope answers your question, is
that none of the work the United States can do -- whether it is bringing people
together in Washington for a multi-day period, whether it's traveling out here
again, whether it's her myriad phone calls, whether it's Dennis's sorry
suitcase, whether it's all the efforts that we make -- can substitute for
decisions by the leaders. And if the leaders don't come to Washington prepared
to make the decisions necessary to bring peace to their people, there's nothing
we can do about it.
QUESTION: You've talked a lot about narrowing the issues, but it just occurs to
me to ask, is there any issue that has cropped up in the talks today where
differences are greater than you thought, or going the other way?
RUBIN: No, not that I am aware of. O.k.? One more, o.k., last one.
QUESTION: About Turkish-Syrian tension?
RUBIN: About what?
QUESTION: About Turkish-Syrian conflict, tension, whatever you said. Mrs.
Albright discussed this issue with the leaders today? Do you think this tension
will (some)how affect the peace process?
RUBIN: We do not see it as directly related to the peace process. It certainly
demonstrates that this is a tough neighborhood. As far as whether it came up in
the discussion, it could have come up in the one-on-one, but she didn't mention
that to me. But I'll try to check for you.
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