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CNN Today

Middle East Peace Summit: Clinton to Leave for Japan at Midnight With or Without Agreement

Aired July 19, 2000 - 1:01 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: Well, we are well into overtime at the Camp David summit, and there's still nothing public to show for it. Still, the White House is holding out hope for a productive day.

So let's turn straight to CNN State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel for a progress report -- Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, this is one of those days when the weather matches the mood here Camp David. We're about two miles away. One senior U.S. official described the talks as intense, saying it's only getting more intense by the hour. However, talks are going on, high-level ones at that. President Clinton, following a meeting this morning with his Middle East advisers, went into a one-on-one meeting with the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Mr. Clinton making the decision late last night to push back his departure for an economic summit in Japan until later this evening, making the decision that one extra day might help break an impasse between the Israelis and the Palestinians, saying that he wouldn't have made the decision to stay, according to his aides, if he didn't feel that he would be able to have a productive day.

The sticking point, according to sources, Jerusalem, the future of Jerusalem. The Palestinians hoping to get a piece of Jerusalem, Arab East Jerusalem, as their future capital. The Israelis, publicly at least, sticking to their long-standing position that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of an Israeli state.

That very issue, according to Israeli sources, forced Prime Minister Barak, early this morning, to throw down the gauntlet, saying that he would leave with his entire negotiating team to return to the Middle East, later this evening, with or without a deal. But that's something the White House says that they were not informed of.

In fact, Joe Lockhart, the spokesman, said that that is no reflection as to what's going on inside.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The White House has not been informed of anyone willing to leave. We have, because a number of -- sorry -- because there were a number of calls based on some interesting reporting out of the region, we checked with the spokesman for Prime Minister Barak who assured us there was neither a written nor an oral official statement issued from Jerusalem this morning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KOPPEL: And so for that reason, the White House, saying that it is their understanding that talks will continue today until President Clinton's new scheduled time of departure; which is supposed to be, Natalie, sometime after or around midnight tonight. The White House saying that that will be the president's final hour of departure and saying there is really no reason to extend the talks beyond that. Because all the parties know the issues. It's a question of just making the hard decisions -- Natalie.

ALLEN: It is a crucial day. Andrea Koppel, covering the talks.

For more now here's Kyra.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: You may recall Mr. Barak didn't exactly get a rousing sendoff from Jerusalem, and nowhere is the Camp David process being watched and analyzed more closely.

Joining us now is CNN Jerusalem bureau chief Mike Hanna.

Mike, what can you tell us?

MIKE HANNA, CNN JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Kyra, as you mentioned, Mr. Barak narrowly averted vote of no confidence shortly before leaving for the United States at the beginning of the Camp David negotiations. And one of the issues that created such great opposition within his Knesset or parliament, was that of Jerusalem, with those opposed to Mr. Barak's peace attempts, and indeed the Camp David negotiations, concerned and fearing that he may make unacceptable concessions in several areas, notably that of Jerusalem.

Well, through the day the Israeli media has been widely reporting, quoting unnamed sources, that Jerusalem has been the impasse, that Jerusalem has been the sticking point. At one stage, a senior Israeli minister told CNN Mr. Barak may leave in frustration over the apparently intractable position of the Palestinians.

But the same cabinet minister told CNN that while Mr. Barak remained, so did a flicker of hope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EPHRAIM SNEH, ISRAELI DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER: The issue is too important and we can't lose hope even in the very last moment. I think maybe and possibly even in this moment, even in this moment, we don't want to lose hope. It's the most important issue in our history. But, again, there is a red line which we can't cross.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNA: The Palestinians, for their part, accuse the Israelis of being inflexible within the negotiations. A spokeswoman for the Palestinians said that Mr. Clinton had not postponed his visit to the United States because an agreement was pending, she said he postponed it in order to formulate an acceptable exit strategy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN SPOKESWOMAN: I think it became quite clear in the last 24 hours that this situation was extremely difficult and that President Clinton could not bring about a convergence of ideas; particularly on Jerusalem. So I think it was a last-ditch effort to try to prevent a breakdown. He may not have been able to bring about the breakthrough, but he certainly is trying prevent a breakdown because he cannot afford politically to come out from the summit saying it had been a failure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNA: Well, after days of speculation, it does appear that the final countdown is in place. And Palestinians and Israelis anxiously watching and waiting to see what happens at Camp David. Anxiously watching and waiting to hear what is the substance of the talks from the mouths of those who have been holding them.

Mike Hanna, CNN, reporting live from Jerusalem.

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