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Middle East Peace Summit: Clinton Attends to Prior Commitments; Arafat and Barak MeetAired July 13, 2000 - 2:35 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton left the Middle East peace talks at Camp David behind today to focus on other business. But he'll be back tonight.
And CNN's Andrea Koppel joins us now to tell us how the talks are progressing -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, since President Clinton left Camp David earlier this morning, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has taken over as the lead U.S. negotiator. U.S. officials saying that it's expected to be a very full day of every kind of grouping that you can expect, in terms of the Israelis and the Palestinians and U.S. mediators getting together, trying to work through some of the core issues that have been keeping these two sides apart.
U.S. officials saying right now that it's fair to say that some progress is being made, but that they wouldn't go overboard. One advantage to these talks, as opposed to the Israeli-Syrian talks earlier this year is that the two sides really do know one another.
In fact, State Department spokesman said that there really is a certain degree of familiarity.
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RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The parties are comfortable with each other. There is an informal atmosphere in Camp David. These are people who have talked to each other before, in a variety of settings. And they're comfortable with each other.
But at the same time, they're all very, very aware of the seriousness and the issues that face them, of the toughness of the issues, of the fact that these do involve the vital interests of both sides; and trying to understand the interests and reconcile them. It's a very difficult process that we are going through now.
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KOPPEL: Now one of the most important meetings to happen thus far was one last evening between the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak. It took place on their own initiative at Chairman Arafat's cabin. We're hearing from both Palestinian sources, Israeli sources, as well as U.S. officials that they touched on all of the issues, no surprises. They said that they have a lot of disagreements there.
Now the latest arrivals here in Washington were three Palestinian opposition leaders who came, they said, at Chairman Arafat's request. They want to go to Camp David to meet with him this evening. U.S. officials saying, however, they have as yet to have any request for such a meeting, but they wouldn't stand in the way if such a request were made.
President Clinton is scheduled to arrive back here at Camp David later this evening, his aides saying he is prepared to stay through the weekend.
Reporting live, I'm Andrea Koppel, CNN, near Camp David, Maryland.
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