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CNN Today

Middle East Peace Summit: Clinton Meeting with Barak, Arafat Separately

Aired July 11, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Patience, creativity, and courage: President Clinton says it will take all of those qualities to reach a Middle East peace agreement. Over the next few days, the president will try to help the Israelis and Palestinians end their long-running conflict.

CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace has the latest from Camp David -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, at this hour, this crucial summit is under way. President Clinton is meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, separately, and also meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. The three leaders, along with their negotiating teams, are all expected to meet this afternoon.

Mr. Clinton taking on perhaps the biggest international policy challenge of his presidency, trying to help the Israelis and the Palestinians put an end to a half-century-old conflict. Now, before Mr. Clinton left for Camp David here up in the Maryland mountains, he spoke to reporters. He said there is no guarantee of success, but he encouraged these leaders to try and settle their differences to seize this moment in history.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course there is no guarantee of success. But not to try is to guarantee failure.

The path ahead builds on the journey already taken from the first Camp David summit, to Madrid, to Oslo; to the first handshake on the lawn between Prime Minister Rabin and chairman Arafat; to the peace between Israel and Jordan, and the agreement at Wye River. The parties have proven that peace is possible when they are determined to make it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak coming to this summit, facing enormous political problems at home. Barely surviving a vote of no-confidence in his government in the Israeli parliament. But he says he comes to Camp David with a mandate from the Israeli people for peace. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat bringing a different set of pressures to the table, because he has said, with or without a peace deal by the parties' self-imposed September 13th deadline, he will unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Clinton taking on the role of mediator, knowing this is enormously -- very difficult challenge ahead of him. The big issues he is going to help the sides resolve, issue such as the fate of more than three million Palestinian refugees. Many of them want to return to the region. Also, the future of Jerusalem, Palestinians would like to have East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state. The Israelis say, in return for making some concessions, they want to have a guarantee that Israel will be secure, they also want a guarantee this conflict will be over.

Now, as for what is happening behind closed doors, we really do not know. The White House is imposing a virtual news blackout. One White House official said, the less that is said, the better. The Clinton administration hoping that any of the options being discussed will stay, quote, "in the room" -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelly, obviously, that's a lot to tackle. I was reading that Palestinians might be seeking more summits. Is that true? and what's the story with that?

WALLACE: Well, that is. Some sources tell CNN that the Palestinians and the Israelis may be entering this Camp David summit with different goals in mind. The Palestinians say that: We don't think that we may be able to iron out an agreement on all these issues at this summit, and that we should take more time, more summits, maybe come back in August, do more work in the days, weeks, months ahead. The Israelis saying, they don't want to talk about a future Camp David summit, they want to try and resolve these issues now.

Interesting to note, the two sides kind of approach this with different pressures. The political pressures back at home may encourage Mr. Barak to try and seek a deal as quickly as possible. Whereas, from the Palestinian perspective, the get closer they get to that September 13 deadline, they may feel they have more bargaining power, and may get more concessions from the Israelis -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelly Wallace, live from Camp David, thank you. And we will continue to follow the story hoping to see some pictures soon of the leaders together there.

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