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Special Event

Middle East Peace Summit: Lockhart Says Pace Has Intensified

Aired July 17, 2000 - 4:06 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: We're going to take you to Maryland, near Camp David, where White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart says the pace has intensified at the Mideast peace summit at Camp David.

Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

QUESTION: ... the teams all continue to meet.

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes, both at Emmitsburg and Camp David there's a variety of meetings going on. So short of the leader level, they're still going through the issues.

QUESTION: Can you say how long the Barak meeting was?

LOCKHART: I don't have an exact time. So I know it began shortly after I was up here the last time, but I didn't get a time when it broke.

QUESTION: Did he try to have (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

LOCKHART: I'll let you know what happens.

QUESTION: Do you expect an all-nighter again tonight on the negotiator level?

LOCKHART: If the last -- if the last couple nights are any indication, I do expect them to go late into the evening.

Yes?

QUESTION: Two days ago, you said that they are working in groups by issues.

LOCKHART: They are working in a variety of format, including in groups divided by issue, yes.

QUESTION: Can you say that the delegations are going to continue here after the president leaves?

LOCKHART: I expect that when the president leaves, the parties will have wrapped up their business.

QUESTION: Joe, is there any way that you could expand a little bit on your rather sparse description of the meetings today?

LOCKHART: I can go through what I've gone through over the last couple days, if that's helpful. They're discussing the core issues, the very difficult issues that go to their...

QUESTION: Is there any difference, any change in the atmosphere or the tone or are they exactly the same as...

LOCKHART: I don't think it's exactly the same. I mean, I think as you get -- that the parties understand the schedule here. They understand that they're working toward that. So as I said earlier today, I think the pace and the intensity have both quickened.

QUESTION: Joe, you've talked before about experts that have come in. Have there been any experts coming in today?

LOCKHART: Over the last two days, there have been some experts, but I'm not going to detail, you know, who they are on each side and what they were there for.

QUESTION: OK. So, sort of, getting into that side of it, how about any other color from what's going on in terms of dinner and golf carts, if only...

LOCKHART: Well, without mentioning his name, there is a senior American diplomat who wiped out on his bicycle earlier today. He is fine, but we don't want to embarrass him. But when the cameras are turned off, I'll tell you who he is.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Does he wear glasses?

QUESTION: Joe, when you said, "I expect that when the president leaves, the parties will have wrapped up their business," does that mean that you are now imposing a deadline? The president's departure means the end of the talks?

LOCKHART: No, I said I expect. The plan was they would meet and the president would leave. I don't have anything more than if you'd asked me that question seven days ago.

QUESTION: Joe, have the Palestinians told you that they intend to break to go to a wedding of Abu Baden's (ph) son on Thursday in Ramallah?

LOCKHART: No. I don't think I managed -- my understanding is that I expect that he will attend. And I didn't know it was Thursday, I just knew he had to leave by Wednesday, which is the day the president has to leave.

Yes?

QUESTION: But that's an obstacle is that not, Wednesday? And, correct me if I'm wrong, you said this morning that sometime tomorrow, the president will decide to stick to the schedule about Japan. QUESTION: When tomorrow will he make the final decision about traveling to Japan?

LOCKHART: I'm not -- if I said that, I don't know what I was talking about, which is not new. But the president's schedule is the schedule, and he's not going to make a decision at some point tomorrow whether he sticks to the schedule or not.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LOCKHART: OK.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but you did say this morning that the decision apropos the schedule would be made sometime tomorrow.

LOCKHART: I don't think so. I mean, we'll -- the president -- you'll know that we're following through on his schedule when you see the president walk up to the top of the steps and wave and the door close.

QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

LOCKHART: Yes. Tomorrow morning. I'm sorry, Wednesday morning.

QUESTION: Is it possible he (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything for a day or two if things are going so well and if you keep insisting you're going to wrap up the talks (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: If I was in the business of speculating about all the possibilities in the world I would take that question. I'm not, so I won't.

QUESTION: Is there a possibility for another summit if they don't wrap up?

LOCKHART: I think that falls in the same category as the previous question.

QUESTION: Joe, can you cite a couple or three things about the Okinawa meeting that's of great significance that requires the president...

LOCKHART: Oh, I think that the work that the G-8 does is extraordinarily important to keeping the economic expansion that the world has enjoyed, particularly in this country, going. There's a number of particular things that they -- will be on the agenda this year as far as debt relief, how the world is dealing with the AIDS crisis and infectious diseases as a whole, and a number of well-known issues.

QUESTION: And he's going to see Putin.

LOCKHART: He'll have a number of bilaterals, yes, including the Russian president, the Japanese premier and the... QUESTION: Blair.

LOCKHART: ... the British prime minister.

QUESTION: Joe, there was a rally yesterday in Tel Aviv. Can you tell us how Prime Minister Barak kept apprised of that and what impact, if any, it had on the atmosphere of the talks?

LOCKHART: I -- there's no one who reported to me any change in the atmospherics, and besides being able to read the paper I don't know what other sources of information he has from home.

QUESTION: Are they getting papers up there every morning?

LOCKHART: Yes, I mean there are the...

QUESTION: Are they getting the Israeli press?

LOCKHART: That I don't know. I know that the U.S. papers are widely available at camp.

QUESTION: What about television?

LOCKHART: Television is on and there's 60 to 70 channels available.

QUESTION: Joe, on a different subject, when you talked about the G-8 summit, AIDS is a national security issue -- spoke about this off- camera earlier with Ambassador Boucher, but Ambassador Holbrooke put forward a resolution in the Security Council dealing with AIDS and peacekeeping troops and trying to set it up so the peacekeeping troops will be better educated and informed about AIDS. Where is the administration going in terms of this policy, given that the Republicans criticized...

LOCKHART: I mean, I think that's an important, but only one part of an overall effort. I think there was some skepticism and some partisan comments made when a story was written recently about looking at AIDS as a national security issue. I think the recent AIDS conference and the stories that have been done out of that validate the approach the U.S. is taking.

When you look at African countries and all the work we've done to try to promote stability and democracy on that continent, and you look at the staggering numbers involving their population as a whole, their military in particular, you can't help but understand the destabilizing factors that may come into play.

So this is an important issue, and we have, I think in the last year, doubled our international AIDS budget.

LOCKHART: We need to do more, we're going to do more. And that's one of many important issues that we'll discuss at G-8.

QUESTION: When he goes to the G-8, will he be talking to any of the other nations about funding for Mideast peace? LOCKHART: You know, I think that it will be a good opportunity for the president to talk about the international community's ability and responsibility to help with this process. So, you know, obviously, as we said before this started, having some sort of agreement in place, this is a perfect scheduling coincidence, as far as the president being able to sit with world leaders and make the case for this.

QUESTION: Joe, why is it more important that the president goes to the G-8 than stays on here with the two leaders?

LOCKHART: I don't think we look at this and try to rank things in terms of importance, one versus the other. The president has a number of international responsibilities, many of which are done in the context of G-8. I think we made clear at beginning of this process what the schedule was. We knew that the issues were well- known. It's certainly our hope that the parties come together and work through these difficult issues before the president needs to leave.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia's Cabinet today issued a statement by King Fahd supporting President Arafat's effort in regaining the Arab and Muslim rights in Jerusalem. How do you see that statement helping or hurting the talks? And has President Clinton solicited support from regional leaders?

LOCKHART: I think the president, in the past, has talked extensively with regional leaders about their important role they can play, not only in creating a positive atmosphere, but also in helping to articulate the reasons that a peace agreement is good for everyone in the region. I expect he'll continue to do that in the future.

As far as that statement goes, I don't know that it has any particular impact on the talks, but I think it's important that regional leaders who have a stake in this, you know, work positively to create a positive atmosphere.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) can you give an assessment whether the news blackout has served its purpose in enhancing the prospect of a deal being reached?

LOCKHART: This is my personal assessment, but I think that it has worked and I think it's worked because the leaders -- the delegations have spent the vast majority of their time dealing with the issues in front of them, the core issues that separate them, and not dealing for three or four hours a day with negative stories, or positive stories, or stories they didn't like, or stories they thought were wrong that were in the paper every morning.

There's been very little discussion up there that has to do with how this is being covered, with the vast majority of the discussions focused on the issues. That's what it was designed to do and I think it's worked.

QUESTION: So you're not at all frustrated at the fact that you have to come and get up here twice a day and basically say nothing to us?

(LAUGHTER)

LOCKHART: This isn't nothing.

(LAUGHTER)

There's a lot on this little piece of paper.

QUESTION: You said the other day that most -- a lot of these reports were not well founded. Do they spend 15 minutes a day talking about reports in the press that...

LOCKHART: My assessment of it is that I can't quantify it but there's very little discussion of the -- as compared to some other sessions that I've been involved in, where there's been a lot of discussion about this thing that was in the paper, or what this anonymous official said, or what that anonymous official said. There's -- I can't really quantify it, but it has not in any way functionally or qualitatively impacted the discussions.

QUESTION: On something else, would you be prepared to alter the pre-summit warning that if these talks don't succeed, you know, the area will slip into hostility? And also, given the fact that they have talked the issues out for seven days, do you suppose that will have a beneficial effect, whether or not there is an agreement?

LOCKHART: I think it's hard to say. I think the words that the president used at the beginning of this process, the day before they talked, in the morning, were chosen very carefully and I think still apply.

Yes?

QUESTION: Are you ruling out the possibility of any talk at any level continuing at Camp David when the president...

(CROSSTALK)

LOCKHART: What I'm ruling out is speculating on something that I have no way of knowing. What I know is that the president intends to get on a plane Wednesday morning to go and fulfill his requirements as an important leader in the G-8.

QUESTION: Does the president say that Okinawa summit would make a good justification to suspend the summit without calling it a failure, in case they don't reach an agreement?

LOCKHART: I don't think I'd ever do that.

QUESTION: It's been a week now. How are they holding up physically? I assume -- you described dinner, they're getting enough to eat. Are they getting sleep? Recreation?

LOCKHART: You know, I think -- there are a number of negotiators who've been awake for a long time over the last two or three days. I think it's difficult, you know, coming continually back to the same issues with the same people. That kind of environment is not always, you know, the best, you know, for, you know, the warm and fuzzies.

But I think they all know the work they have to do, and they all understand the opportunity that faces them right here, right now, and the results of not being able to reach an agreement. So I think they understand that and they're all willing to do the work.

Yes?

PHILLIPS: Still a news blackout, still little information to come out of these news conferences with White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart. However, he does say that the pace has intensified at the Mideast peace summit at Camp David. He says there have been two very long nights of negotiations, though still no agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Still divided by issues, the talks continue.

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