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Middle East Peace Summit: Lockhart Briefs Press on Progress

Aired July 16, 2000 - 5:34 p.m. ET


BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brian Nelson at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart is about to begin a briefing about the Camp David peace talks.

Let's listen in.

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All right, let me answer a couple questions that got asked of me this morning, which I didn't know the answer to. But there has been, as asked, one addition to the Israeli delegation. Mr. Hassoun, who is the...


LOCKHART: I think it's one short, 12? Eleven to 12.


LOCKHART: Last name is spelled H-A-S-S-O-U-N, Hassoun, yes. Yes, deputy director of the general security services.

There was a second question that I didn't know the answer to which I now do, which is the U.S. -- the U.S. team is involved at Emmitsburg. The three teams that have been formed have been meeting in a variety of formats, including directly, one on one, and also in three-way sessions. That continues.

As far as the president's schedule, he had two meetings today with his team here. He had a meeting with senior negotiators from both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. That was one meeting, so that is was the two negotiating teams and the president and the U.S. team together.

As I was leaving, he was about to begin a bilateral meeting with Chairman Arafat, and so I expect there to be more activity this evening. We'll let you know before we send you home for tonight.

Questions -- yes.

QUESTION: There seem to be quite different and conflicting reports coming out of the surrogates for each side, the Israelis saying crisis, the Palestinians some progress is being made. Is it fair to say that the U.S. take on this situation is somewhere in the middle?

LOCKHART: Well, the U.S. view is given there's a news blackout we're not going to comment on any progress or lack of progress. Having looked through some of the stories of the last few days, though, I can say, I think without breaking the ground rules, that a majority of the stories citing sources not at the talks have been wrong. So I would take them as fliers that some of you have to take in order to try to report the story but not having a lot to do with what's going on up there.

QUESTION: So it's your view then that both of those extremes are incorrect descriptions?

LOCKHART: It is my view that I have taken the position -- the U.S. has taken the position that we're not going to provide analysis of the talks. Both of those imply analysis, which I'm not going to either lend credence to or knock down.

QUESTION: Joe, if there is significant progress this week but not an agreement by the time the president has to leave for Japan, any chance the president might delay that trip?

LOCKHART: That's a speculative question. The president's schedule is the president's schedule.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what the president's schedule is?

LOCKHART: What the president's...

QUESTION: When is he scheduled to leave? When will his meetings start in Japan?

LOCKHART: The president -- have we put the schedule out for Japan?

The detailed schedule will go out tomorrow, but he plans to spend the day before the G8 begins in Tokyo for a variety of events, and then he'll be at the G8 for the weekend.

QUESTION: Joe, (OFF-MIKE) success for the summit, do you think?

LOCKHART: An agreement.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) year and any other people in the Middle East (OFF-MIKE), other people, ministers or officials, in the Middle East?

LOCKHART: I assume from what I read that there are contacts back to the region, but, you know, I don't know to what extent since I haven't queried them on it.

QUESTION: As a follow-up -- as a follow-up, having this statement from David Levy about the negotiations here happened reportedly after his contact with Prime Minister Barak. Does it get any credibility in your opinion?

LOCKHART: Well, that's something that I think you'll have to assess.

QUESTION: Did the president call any foreign leaders in the last -- over the weekend?

LOCKHART: Not that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: Joe, do you see enough progress being made to wrap up by Tuesday before the president leaves?

LOCKHART: Ask me Tuesday.

QUESTION: Joe, the majority leader today said that he wouldn't -- that the Senate would not support money for Palestinian settlements. Is it destructive to be talking about that sort of thing while negotiations are in play, or is that something you're not surprised at all to (OFF-MIKE)

LOCKHART: I think we've done extensive consultations with leaders on both sides of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle. We have kept them informed of where the process is all along. I think at this point speculating about what may be done or may not be done is not the most useful pastime for a Sunday morning.

QUESTION: Joe, you mentioned that a lot of these reports are erroneous. There was a very specific AFP report today that said that Barak had phoned home and talked to his ministers and said there were wide gaps. Can you comment at all on the veracity of that?

LOCKHART: I don't know anything about it.


LOCKHART: What was the question, Richard?

QUESTION: What is...

LOCKHART: Should I take it, or should I bounce it back to you?


LOCKHART: Go ahead, sure.

QUESTION: What is the chemistry between Buddy and the members of the delegation?


LOCKHART: Well, as a rule, Buddy generally keeps to himself, but let's just say the -- without getting into the substance of what's happened at the talks, this has been a bonanza for Buddy, because the amenities from a canine point of view of Camp David are far superior to what is offered at the more urban center of the White House.



QUESTION: Never mind.


QUESTION: Has anyone of the Palestinian delegation joined the president at the church today for the Sunday...

LOCKHART: I'm not sure who went to -- the only people I know who went to church -- because I heard the president talking in a small group -- were the president, the secretary of state, and Chelsea. They were having a discussion. I don't know who else went.

QUESTION: Is there going to be any announcement before the president leaves about what has been achieved, an announcement, a kind of announcement?

LOCKHART: I mean, I expect that when the president goes to Japan you all will have an opportunity to get an assessment of what happened at the talks.

QUESTION: Joe, can you verbalize why the president must meet with the senior negotiators, you know, way into this, and work up to this summit -- everybody knows the issues, the president knows the issues, everybody knows the issues. What is -- why is he meeting the senior negotiators? I mean, he's seeing the top -- the two leaders.

LOCKHART: I think we believe that what needs to be done to get to an agreement has to be done at a variety of levels. Ultimately, the difficult decisions need to be done with the leaders, but there is also work that needs to be done with the negotiators.

I think we have found over the last few days that it's a useful mechanism for trying to move things forward, is for the president to talk both in a bilateral way with the leaders, to talk in trilateral sessions with the negotiators. There is a number of different ways to do this, and we'll employ which ever ones we think are effective.

QUESTION: Sounds like he's pitching, not catching. It's a matter of persuasion instead of a matter of learning what the issues are, because you know the issues, right? He knows the issues.

LOCKHART: I am stretching now for a baseball metaphor answer and I'm stuck so we'll do that later.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) ... he's selling. He's not -- it's not -- he's not acquiring information. He's trying to push the agreement along.

LOCKHART: Well, I -- listen, without getting into details, both sides are negotiating and the president is trying to do what he can to help both sides reach an agreement.



QUESTION: Before the president called for this summit, he said that the negotiators have reached an impasse which required to call for a summit. And right now what we are witnessing, the president isn't talking to the leadership.

LOCKHART: Well, I think if you go back over your notes for the last few days, you'll find the president spent an enormous amount of time with the two leaders. This is a process that is not done. On one level, it takes a number of different ways to get it done, and I -- but I will -- I do think that if you go back and look at your notes, you'll find that your question does not reflect accurately what you know.


LOCKHART: Do I look that simple?


LOCKHART: I mean, really, tell me.

I think I'll take a pass on that.

QUESTION: Is it true that President Clinton promised Chairman Arafat to agree and to recognize a Palestinian state if an agreement is reached in the coming week?

LOCKHART: I'm just not going to get into any discussion of what's being discussed up there beyond what I've told you.


QUESTION: Joe, are delegations allowed to trade in a member of their negotiation if they feel there is someone in the outside that might be more useful than someone brought in?

LOCKHART: I think the president made clear that should delegations need experts on specific issues, those requests would be honored. I'm not aware that any request like that has come.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)... aiming at an agreement at the summit. Does that also include a partial agreement, or is there one specific kind of agreement that's aimed at?

LOCKHART: I think I'll stick with an agreement for now, and we'll parse that later.

NELSON: We're going to break away here from this rather sparse briefing by the White House press secretary Joe Lockhart on the sixth day of the Middle East peace summit under way in Camp David. Mr. Lockhart said that President Clinton is doing what he can to bring both sides toward a settlement. He says the president is -- has met with both sides, negotiating teams, and is now about to begin a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Now we'll rejoin "BOTH SIDES WITH JESSE JACKSON," which is in progress.



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