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Special Event

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher Holds News Briefing on Middle East Peace Summit

Aired July 20, 2000 - 12:07 p.m. ET

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

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: We do want to take our viewers over now to Richard Boucher, the State Department spokesman, who, as we said, is beginning his briefing today, as he approaches the podium to tell us what is happening at these Camp David talks, to the extent that he can explain everything. There is still something of a news blackout there, as we told you.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: Good afternoon, everybody. Let me start out by trying to give you a sense of the day that we face today, and then I'll be glad to take your questions.

As you all know, the secretary is now leading the U.S. delegation in the absence of the president. The two leaders and their delegations have remained at Camp David. Discussions will continue, in the president's absence, of the issues here. We expect today a number of informal discussions throughout the day and meetings by the secretary with leaders and with negotiators.

She will continue to try to close the gaps and move forward on the issues so that when the president returns he can assess the status of our efforts.

As I left this morning, she was meeting with the U.S. team, and we expect meetings with delegations and leaders to start fairly soon.

With that update, I'd be glad to take your questions.

QUESTION: Does she expect to have any -- a three-way meeting with any -- with Arafat and Barak at all?

BOUCHER: We'll see -- we'll see how things evolve. At this point, there's not one planned. She was going to begin with individual meetings with the two leaders. But that remains a possibility.

QUESTION: There have been reports that they're going to be working primarily on non-core issues, now moving perhaps to some of the issues that had been discussed in Emmitsburg, like water and economic issues. Is that true?

BOUCHER: I think I mentioned that discussions will continue of the issues. I'd say discussions will continue of the core issues involved in permanent status. QUESTION: Richard, last night both the president and Joe Lockhart acknowledged that the talks continued, not because there was any real progress on any of the core issues, but because all sides just agreed that the price of walking away was too great. So now we've been here, this is day 10, and the success is that they're still talking, not that there's any agreement on any of the core issues. Is there any hope that when the president returns, there'll actually be some agreements in place or is the hope merely that when the president returns everyone will still be here?

BOUCHER: No, I think it's clear that we want to use this period productively. The secretary shares the president's determination to move forward on the issues. She is looking to put together, as much as we can, the positions of the parties, and see how we can move all the issues forward.

So the determination is there, the effort is certainly not slackened in any way. And I think the parties wouldn't be here, we wouldn't be here, if we didn't think there was some potential. But on the other hand, we're not laying claim to anything more than what the president said last night, that we've made some progress.

QUESTION: Do you expect the talks to continue in the same way as they have done, and with the same intensity as they have done in the past 10 days, even in the president's absence?

BOUCHER: Allowing for day-to-day variations, and that some days have been extremely intense, like yesterday evening, including the period after Joe issued his statement before the president came down, allowing for the day-to-day variations, yes, generally the same patterns and intensity will be maintained.

We continue to do things in a variety of formats and settings, meetings among different people, you know, other kinds of meetings are possible. So as she works to move this forward, she will use all the tools at her disposal and continue with the same kind of intensity.

QUESTION: Do you know if Chairman Arafat, especially, but any of the leaders in the camp have made any calls back to the region or to other leaders?

BOUCHER: I don't know. I couldn't give you a list, but I think they have either made or taken some calls. But I would leave it to them -- or well, I don't have a -- no, I wouldn't leave it to them.

(LAUGHTER)

I forgot to say at the beginning, the press blackout continues.

No, we'll check on that and see if we have anything we can report on that to you.

QUESTION: Can you talk with any more specificity than Joe did last night about what actually transpired? I mean, he was very vague on the sequence of events and who actually made these decisions and how that was communicated to the American team. BOUCHER: I can't really go into it in any more detail than Joe did last night, or than the president did last night.

The president had a very intensive series of meetings with the leaders. The idea had been kicking around for sometime that they might want to stay if there was productive work that could continue to be done. And during the series of meetings and discussions that the president had with the leaders, it -- the sense emerged that that was indeed useful. And so that's what they decided to do, at a point very late in the evening.

SESNO: From the Camp David peace summit, you've been listening to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher saying little more than that the discussions there between Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak, with Madeleine Albright now as the main mediator in between, will continue to try to close the gaps, in his words, and move forward on the issues, but no specifics as to where the gaps are, how deep they really are, or in what shapes these talks are at the current time. They are awaiting the president's return and trying to close the gaps in the process.

Now, CNN will, of course, bring you whatever information we can as this process continues. Boucher telling us, once again, that the news blackout that has surrounded these talks throughout does continue, but it is significant, nonetheless, that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority and Israel are still at Camp David, still talking now through Madeleine Albright.

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