U.S. Department of State, James P. Rubin, Assistant Secretary, Briefing at Chesapeake College on the Israeli-Palestinian Talks and the Situation in Kosovo, Wye Mills, Maryland, October 17, 1998


MR. RUBIN:  (in progress) the informal atmosphere that is pervading this
meeting here at Wye, I thought I would leave my tie off too.  I hope
that is okay with everybody.

The President along with Secretary Albright and the President's other
advisors including Mr. Berger and Dennis Ross are now meeting with Prime
Minister Netanyahu on the porch, I believe Minister Sharansky is with
him, I don't have any details on who else is there.  That meeting
started roughly 45 minutes or so and has been going on since then.  The
meetings have been continuing along the basic mood that I've described
to you in the past--that is the constructive and pragmatic approach
continues.  They are working hard on the substantive issues.  I
witnessed a lot of walks in the field as opposed to the woods between
key negotiators from our side and the Palestinians this afternoon.  And
I think everyone's mood remains one in which we are determined to keep
the pace of work as intense as possible and continue the combination of
the intensity of the meeting with the informality and constructive
atmosphere we have created.

I've seen a lot of the reporting of various rumors spreading around, and
I would be happy to try to shoot some of them down, but again we are
limited to very anodyne and general statements about the specific
substantive issues.

QUESTION:  Shoot down--which rumors do you want to shoot down?  Tell us
what is false.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I saw one about the President talking about Tuesday,
which is just absolutely false.

QESTION:  Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently had a meeting today--left
the compound--and had a meeting with victims of Arab terror, and I
understand that he wanted to bring some settlers into the compound to
have Sabbath services.  I wondered what (a) you think about this,
whether you think these kinds of meetings with groups that underscore
his particular demands is contributing to felicitous negotiations.

MR. RUBIN:  Certainly the security issue is one the U.S. initiative has
included as part and parcel a parallel process of security measures
along with the redeployment of land from the beginning, so the fact that
that issue is being discussed doesn't trouble us.

With respect to people getting in who wanted to get in, we've gone to
extraordinary lengths here at Wye, the people from the State Department,
others from protocol, and people from the White House, to try to
accommodate all the requests from the different delegations.  One
element though that we tried to insist on is to keep the size of the
delegations as equal as possible.  That has sometimes meant that some
who wanted to get in, couldn't get in.  But in terms of the religious
observance issue, I think being the country that has promoted the
freedom of religion around the world probably more than any other, it
would be inconceivable to me that we hadn't done all that we could to
permit religious observance by the Israeli delegation.

QUESTION:  Jamie, has there been another meeting between Netanyahu and
Arafat since the one yesterday morning?

MR. RUBIN:  No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION:  Did the Prime Minister leave the compound today and yesterday
as well?

MR. RUBIN:  My understanding is, I believe, that he went on a personnel
visit yesterday, and with respect to today, I just don't have any
information on that.

QUESTION:  You say that the story you read about Tuesday is absurd, how
what about Monday?

(Laughter)

MR. RUBIN:  Let me try to shoot down rumors rather than try to create
new ones.  There was a story I saw that the President said we had to
finish by Tuesday and that is just flat wrong.

QUESTION:  Is the hope still to complete....

MR RUBIN:  Our work plan is the same and that is that we have blocked
out Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in order to try to do all the
work that we can do and we don't want to speculate on what would happen
after that, and I don't believe that speculation has occurred even
privately after that because the goal is to try do all we can do between
now and Sunday.

QUESTION:  Is the President going to have dinner with anyone at Wye
tonight.  Has that been decided yet?

MR. RUBIN:  I do believe preparations are being made for dinner.
Exactly who would attend and whether other delegations would join
together in one large dinner, or whether it would be a small dinner, or
whether each of the delegations would eat separately, I don't think has
been determined yet, but my understanding is that there is a strong
possibility that the President would be staying for dinner, with whom I
don't know yet.

QUESTION:  Is there going to be a BBQ tonight?

MR. RUBIN:  I did hear that consistent with the woods, the grass and the
jeans that are being worn that a BBQ is a possibility.

QUESTION:  How are you going to try to finish by Sunday?

MR. RUBIN:  Well our work program is designed to permit us to continue
the work through Sunday, we are continuing to work on that basis.  There
have been a myriad of meetings of different forms and the pattern has
tended to be that the President having met with one leader then gets
together with his advisors for a lengthy discussion of what to do in the
next meeting.  I would expect there to be meetings especially with both
sides after the Sabbath ends and whether that involves the President or
not, or whether it involves the Secretary, or Ambassador Ross, or others
at lower levels from the other delegations or including the Ministers,
is what will be decided following the President's meeting with Prime
Minister Netanyahu.

QUESTION:  You tried to stress the casualness of these meetings, and I'm
still trying to visualize Yassar Arafat's casualness, and I wonder if
you can tell us, he hasn't shed the kefiyyah, I know that, has he shed
the military code, what can you say that integrates Arafat into this
causal atmosphere?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I don't think clothing is the only part of being
casual.  I know that there was a meeting last night between the
Palestinian and the American delegations, I was at that dinner and it
had a fairly informal quality to it, it was in a rustic location, people
were behaving very differently than I've seen at formal occasions.  All
the delegations were meeting, for some of us it was jovial at times, it
wasn't the sort of standard 10-on-10 go through points, in fact very
little formal business was done during the dinner, but rather it was an
opportunity for people to go off on the sides and discuss things, and
talk about various issues.

QUESTION:  In the past you would tell us in the past tense that progress
had been made that some negotiations (inaudible)--a few days have passed
since this particular meeting has gone underway, has progress been made
on any of the substantial issues.

MR. RUBIN:  I understand the question, and even the motivation of the
question, the difficulty here is that each side tends to want to see
progress in its issues of concerns, and so if I were to tell you that
there had been progress I would immediately find one of the other
delegations emphasizing that it was in this area or that area.  What I
would rather do is to flatly reject a characterization that I've seen,
you know that nothing has happened here.  Obviously a lot of work has
gone on, and the work has been constructive.

QUESTION:  Jamie would you care to comment any more than you have in the
past on the fact that George Tenet is reportedly in the meeting that is
going on now?

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I gave you the list of the attendees that I was aware
of with the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  I just don't know
how to be more helpful than to tell you that the experts in all of the
relevant areas are here to do their work and there isn't a lack of
experts.

QUESTION:  Jamie, is the President planning to stay the night, or to go
back to Washington.

MR. RUBIN:  My understanding, and Joe Lockhart will probably have more
to say about this, is that he doesn't expect that for logistical reasons
to be overnighting that it is because of the elaborate logistics that go
with the Presidential overnight that he would go back and forth by
helicopter.

QUESTION:  He is returning tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN:  That is my understanding.

QUESTION:  Well, Joe said that if he felt is would be constructive, but
you think it is a sure thing he will be back.

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I certainly wouldn't want to get crossed-wires with
what Joe was saying, and considering that the atmosphere is
constructive, then perhaps my understanding will be accurate.

QUESTION:  You rejected the characterization that nothing has happened
here.  I'm not sure that that is quite what is been reported....

MR. RUBIN:  Well, I read it in a couple wires.

QUESTION:  What is been reported most widely is that there has been
little if any progress on the serious issues on security and territory.

MR. RUBIN:  Again, I'm trying to be as helpful I can while still not
provoking the kind of back and forth that will make it harder for the
negotiators, the President, the Prime Minister and the Chairman to do
their jobs.  And what I'm saying is that I've seen reports that no
progress has been made--nothing--and I would reject that
characterization.

QUESTION:  Can you step back a bit on the terrorism subject and
describe, if even in academic terms, what the U.S., as a country that
cares about the rule of law, would like to see so far as the way
suspects are dealt with in that area?  I ask  for lots of reasons, one
being after the Palestinians had the authority to go over there,
whatever they had on the West Bank four years ago, there were complaints
from Palestinians that they were being terrorized by their own people,
that they were thrown in jail without charges, beaten and tortured.

But I don't want to just focus on that one set of allegations.  What
does the U.S. think should happen to terrorists?  Should they be
extradited to the country where they committed the crime?  Should they
be tried in their own courts?  Are they entitled to lawyers?  Do you
feel people are arrested to make a political point without real cause?
Can you get into that a little bit?

MR. RUBIN:  That will be hard to get into without breaking the
prohibition that I have received under pain of pain to not get into a
substantive issue that could complicate the work of the negotiators.
Let me say this:  Our initiative, the American initiative, was designed
to deal in parallel with both the question of additional Israeli
withdrawals from territory as well as the comprehensive infrastructure
to fight terrorism, and certainly the issue of getting at those who
commit terror or might have terror has been part and parcel of our
initiative all along.  But exactly how one deals with that question
would be very difficult today in the midst of these very important
meetings we are having on the subject of security and other issues.

QUESTION:  (Inaudible) of a Western justice system, British and American
justice have both stood the test of years.   Would that be a good model
at least for that part of the world, that you have to have a real cause
to arrest somebody.  You have to bring him to trial speedily.  You don't
torture people in jail cells.  In Lockerbie you wanted people tried by
American  courts.  If an  Israeli is killed, doesn't his family have the
right to see the person tried under Israeli law?

MR. RUBIN:  I'd really prefer not to get into the academic legal
positions of the United States.  I can certainly say that as our human
rights reports have, there are certain standards that we want to be met;
and I would try to go back into the press office there and get you a
copy of that report so you can look at those standards.

QUESTION:  Are you or Joe planning to brief after Clinton's meetings and
wrap up the day any more than this?

MR. RUBIN:  I'll have to check with him.  I would expect him to give
some report, probably to the pool.

QUESTION;  Do you think the fact that because today was a more informal
setting because of the Jewish Sabbath that it slowed down any of the
progress that might have been made if the summit had taken place let's
say all on weekdays?

MR. RUBIN:  Certainly it's harder to work on a day the Israeli
delegation can't work.

QUESTION:   (Inaudible)  said before that they were going to be talking,
but they weren't--they were going to be meeting, but they weren't able
to take notes, they weren't able to drive, they weren't able to--but
that the meetings were going to take place.  Do you think that as much
progress was made today as might have been made on any other day?

MR. RUBIN:   Progress is both a function of formal work and decisions,
and decisions can be communicated orally or in writing or through work
or through conversations.  So what is going on right now are discussions
informally between the President and the Prime Minister, so without
knowing what has happened right now, it would be hard to give a complete
answer to your question.   But we think we have scheduled out the four
days in terms of work product in such a way that it was something we
knew was the pattern and the leadup in such a way that it didn't have a
big impact.

QUESTION:  The fact that the Israeli Foreign Minister and Defense
Minister have not been present at these meetings, does that in any way
slow down...

MR. RUBIN:    I guess it depends on what happens when they get here.   We
also knew that they weren't going to be here all the time.  We certainly
at the negotiating level have been working with the Prime Minister and
his aides for some time.  There's a lot of work one can do with them.
But there's certain work that requires others to be present, so we again
tried to schedule the work plan, recognizing both the Sabbath and the
absence of these Ministers.

QUESTION:   How does the American administration view the Israeli
position on the demand that the Palestinians to hand over thirty-odd
suspects, when the Israelis are dilly-dallying in handing over one youth
that fled there after committing a crime in this country?

MR. RUBIN:   I'm sorry, could you try that again?

QUESTION:   An American youth fled to Israel after committing a crime in
this country..

QUESTION:   Sheinbein.

QUESTION:  . . .and the Israelis have been dilly-dallying in handing him
over to the Americans, while at the same time they ask the Palestinians
to hand over thirty-odd--how does the American administration view this
position?

MR. RUBIN:   I don't think every situation is alike, and I certainly
don't think that the question of extradition of an American from Israel
for a crime alleged to be committed here is necessarily related to the
difficulties that the two sides have had in dealing with the arrest and
suspect issues there.  It doesn't strike us as having a particular
analogy.

That doesn't mean that we don't want the result of having him back.

QUESTION:   What's the status if formal talks resume presumably this
evening?  Would you presume that they are going to be talking late into
the evening?  Is it going to be a real late night tonight?

MR. RUBIN:   I would be surprised if talks did not go well into the
night in some form or another tonight.  I expect what the leaders are
going to do today and finish doing while I'm here is developing some
things that need to be done tonight after the end of the Sabbath; and I
hope people slept well last night so that they can deal with tonight.

QUESTION:   Just out of curiosity, let's presume this ends by Sunday;
there's a puff of white smoke or whatever color you like.  What happens
with us?  Do you tell us that Sunday night here?  Do we all rush across
the bridge to the White House?  You must have thought of that too.

MR. RUBIN:   I think we haven't spent as much time on that as you might
assume or as some have written.  That's easy to deal with.  That's a
simple logistical  matter and we will certainly try to deal with it in a
way that minimizes the difficulties for all of you.

QUESTION:   Can I ask a quick question?  From one of your earlier
answers about the bad story, or the allegedly bad story about Tuesday,
and you said there was a schedule, does that mean you still expect this
Wye summit to conclude tomorrow?  Can we draw that inference from what
you said?

MR. RUBIN:      I would make two points, and then you'll have to do
your own inferring.  Point one is that the statement that the President
told them they have to finish and the deadline is Tuesday or else
whatever, is simply incorrect.  Point two is that we have blocked out
Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to work on this.  Those are the
days we blocked out, and at this point on Saturday evening we are not
prepared to speculate on what would happen after Sunday if we get to the
point where an end--I don't think we speculated particularly with any of
the delegations.  But if we get to that point, we'll try to communicate
it to you as quickly as possible.

QUESTION:   Are you briefing here tomorrow?

MR. RUBIN:   I'm going to check with Joe, and we'll probably continue to
do what we've been doing, which is him doing the pool out at Wye and me
trying to do this.

QUESTION:  This would be the logical place to be tomorrow, at least for
a while then?

MR. RUBIN:   I wouldn't want to tell you to go home, but I don't know
what's going to happen.

QUESTION:   Did the Secretary or anybody in the American delegation have
talks with the Israelis today prior to the President arriving?

MR. RUBIN:   I don't believe so.

QUESTION:   Can you give us some feel about how the President and the
Secretary of  State work as a team?  Do they go into these meetings
together, or is one working on one problem while the other is working on
another?

MR. RUBIN:   Well there's been two patterns.  The first pattern was
Thursday, where they had a kind of tag-team approach where one was
meeting with one leader and the other was meeting with the other leader,
then the Secretary and the President consulted and then they switched.
Today, which is the second day that the President's been here, the
meetings have been together.  There was  a meeting with Chairman Arafat
and some informal discussions now going on with Prime Minister
Netanyahu, and the Secretary has been in those meetings.

What tends to happen is that the President convenes his team, led by the
Secretary and Mr. Berger and Dennis Ross and they meet altogether and
decide what the objectives are in a particular discussion, and then
today they have gone into that discussion and then reconvened to meet
prior to the next meeting.

QUESTION:   Can you deal at all with the question of how financial
assistance might play into what's going on?

MR. RUBIN:   We've provided, as you know, for some time financial
assistance to the Israelis, to the tune of some $3 billion.  If my
numbers are correct, I believe it's 1.8 billion in military-type
assistance and 1.2 billion in economic support funds.  With respect to
the Palestinians, if my numbers are correct, it has been about $75
million per year since 1973.

These are done for different reasons and for different objectives, and
you are all familiar with that.  We would love to have to deal with the
question of whether there is any additional or renewed funding that
would be necessary in the aftermath of an agreement that achieves the
objectives of the American initiative.  However, there hasn't been a lot
of discussion about that other than the knowledge that this would be a
problem we would love to try to solve.

QUESTION:   Jamie, if you've blocked out four days, is that a fair chunk
of time, in the view of the Americans, to achieve what you need to
achieve?  And at the end of that period, is it quite possible to
conclude that if no deal was reached,  no deal is possible at this time?

MR. RUBIN:   There are many possibilities of what happens on Sunday
night--whether there's agreement, whether there's mostly agreement,
whether there's no agreement--and I just am not prepared to speculate on
what the decisions will be on Sunday night.

QUESTION:   Since this is Saturday, could we take advantage of your
presence and ask, if you are prepared to get into it, about Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN:   Sure, I am prepared to get into it.  I even have some
paperwork.  Let's see if we can do it as well as we did yesterday.

QUESTION:   A lot of us were here yesterday, and we know how you
described the situation.  Is there more compliance in the last 24 hours?

MR. RUBIN:   Here are the reports that I have.  The situation generally
remains quiet with more civilian traffic on the roads.  There have been
returns to Malisevo, Orahovac and elsewhere.  In villages in central,
south and west Kosovo and in the larger cities visited by the monitors,
including Pec, Prizren and Djakovica, there is more "normalcy" to the
observed activities of residents.

We are concerned, however, about increased skirmishing between the KLA
and Serbian police forces, which KDOM has observed since yesterday.
Each side is blaming the other.  We're not particularly interested in
who shot first, but we are interested in the fact that whoever did so
should not do so.  It is equally unacceptable to us when either the KLA
or the Serbians initiate skirmishes.

With respect to some of the numbers, let me review the bidding and try
to give you the update as best I can from some of the difficult
questions I attempted to field yesterday.  That is that first of all
generally the cease-fire retains, with the exception that I described.
Number two, the air verification system is now up and running.  U2
flights have occurred.  There has been some discussion of these flights
being not helpful because advance notification was to be provided.  This
is missing the point.  In certain cases, flights would not be notified
until half an hour or a short number of hours in advance.

Secondly, the high-flying planes and the unmanned planes don't need to
provide any advance notification. The only advance notification is for
the low-flying manned planes.  So that system is now up and running.
That's very important, because you can get real-time information and fly
directly over the areas of concern.

Thirdly, the headquarters unit has begun to arrive for the ground
verification system, and we have put forward to the OSCE a qualified
American candidate for that post.  We think he would make an excellent
candidate to run the OSCE verification force.  That force is going to
take some time to get up and running, and what we're trying to do is to
get the monitors who are now there to be beefed up as sort of a
precursor force which will then turn into the on-the-ground verification
system.

QUESTION:   Who is he?

MR. RUBIN:   I can't give you his name in this forum.  The next step
obviously is to get the verification system in place and the whole
2,000-person force.  We have received information that many countries
are offering significant, 100-plus contributions, and so we're hopeful,
with a stepped up effort and a jump-started effort that we'll be able to
move this quite quickly.

As far as the refugees and the internally displaced persons are
concerned, in several of the villages visited by the monitors, life
appears to be returning to a normal pattern.  People are there now
maintaining livestock, doing laundry.   For example, in Stimlje and Suva
Reka, monitors reckoned that approximately 75 percent of the population
has returned.  In other small villages, perhaps 25 percent of the normal
population has returned.  In short, it's a mixed bag when it comes to
the issues I've described.

With respect to the military units, General Clark discussed in detail
with President Milosevic and General Perisic our demands for full
compliance and what that would mean in terms of specific force
withdrawal from Kosovo.  That is, MUPP and Yugoslav forces beyond those
stationed in Kosovo prior to the crisis must be removed.

We're not going to be able to get into a daily head count of where
things are, but we do believe that in general terms, things are moving
in the right direction.  As I indicated yesterday, perhaps not as
effectively as I might have, our assessment is that about half of the
Yugoslav army forces that were in Kosovo are no longer deployed in the
field there.  We have also seen signs of police units moving out of
Kosovo as well and, as I indicated yesterday, that the police presence
is diminished.  I can confirm that units that were in Kosovo that
shouldn't be there have left Kosovo.  I can't  be more specific.

QUESTION:   (Inaudible)

MR. RUBIN:   Police and army units that had come into Kosovo after
March--let's just use that term roughly--that were there, that were
participating in the brutal crackdown that we were trying to end, have
left Kosovo.  But as I indicated yesterday, without the on-the-ground
and in-the-air verification system in combination with our own national
systems, it's impossible to give you a complete accounting of where all
the units are and whether every unit that shouldn't be there isn't
there.  But General Clark had laid down a very specific list.  He's
supposed to be receiving some of the Yugoslav order of battle back from
the Serbs tomorrow or the next day, and that'll be what they claim they
have done.  Again, the purpose here is not to accept their claims, but
to verify those claims through this verification system.

QUESTION:   If you can say that some units of police and army that were
in Kosovo have left, you must be able to quantify it in some way.  Are
we talking two troops?  Are we talking ten troops?  Are we talking
hundreds of troops?  There must be some way to at least give us a
parameter.

MR. RUBIN:   Well, an armored brigade, which is a certain size, has
departed from the location where it has been deployed since September.
An armored brigade is a certain size, but I don't want to say exactly
how many because brigades vary in size.  But that's a unit which
military experts can give you a rough estimate of exactly what it would
be.  So that would be one example.

QUESTION:   You say it left its location, but did the brigade actually
leave Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN:   Well, again, I'm trying to do the best I can.  I know you
want a snapshot, but I can't give it to you.  What I can do is give you
the information that we can provide, and what I'm telling you is that
there is a brigade sized unit that was there, that we saw there, that we
know was there, that is now gone.  Where does it end up?  In that case,
they have not provided me information as to whether that ended up in a
certain place.  But I did ask the question as to whether there are units
that have left.  There is a town called Nis where we have observed
units--that's outside of Kosovo, Nis--that were in Kosovo.  So I can
confirm that units that were in Kosovo have left, I can give you an
example of a brigade-size unit that we believe has left, but I can't
tell you where that particular unit has gone because perhaps it is on
the move, perhaps its final location hasn't been determined yet.

QUESTION:   Has General Clark met Milosevic today in Belgrade?

MR. RUBIN:   No.  I believe it was Thursday, and I'm now telling you one
of the specific things that he did was to lay down a list of units that
needed to go.  I would expect that there to be continued contact between
high-level NATO military officials and the Serbs in order to follow up
on the compliance with that specific list.

QUESTION:   What is the United States' reaction to the arrest of
Pinochet?

MR. RUBIN:   I am told that I should keep a low profile, so I'm tempted
to duck down under the microphone.

I guess I've heard reports of this arrest, the exact purpose of which I
understand was related to a Spanish warrant on things he did while in
Chile.  I think, as a good government should, we are waiting to get
more details to find out what the specific decision was of those that
arrested him and why and what the specific cause proposed was before we
issue a formal view.  How was that for a low profile?

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.


Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Kosovo Page

Return to Clinton Administration Page

Return to Israeli-Palestinian Page