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Special Event

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

Aired July 21, 2000 - 11:07 a.m. ET

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

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Quickly, to our viewers, up to Camp David, Richard Boucher, now, before the microphone there.

We'll listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: ... people sat together. Both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Barak came to dinner, and they sat at a table with the secretary, one on one side of the secretary and the other on the other side of the secretary.

After dinner, negotiators began meeting to discuss the issues involved in the settlement in a permanent status, and they met well into the night.

Negotiators are resuming their discussions this morning and will continue throughout the day.

The secretary expects to meet with some of the negotiators to start off, and I expect she'll see the leaders during the course of the day as well.

As far as briefings here go, just take this opportunity to announce that this evening and tomorrow we'll treat Shabbat the way we did last weekend, so we'll do a briefing here this afternoon, in the late afternoon. We'll give you the final update before sundown tonight. And then we won't brief here again until Sunday morning.

With those updates, I'd be glad to take any questions you have.

QUESTION: Glad that religion has crept into the State Department.

The president, there are reports, which seem to be credible, that he's going to come back a few, maybe several hours early. So as we look ahead to Sunday, without a briefing for a while, what's your best advice?

BOUCHER: My best advice is to wait and see.

QUESTION: Will he come back -- will he come back early? He's already canceled one meeting out in Japan. BOUCHER: Yes. I think most of those reports, Barry, are based on the statement that Mr. Lockhart made traveling with the president. I checked with Okinawa about an hour or so ago. They do not have a new schedule yet. But as they said, they are looking to compress the schedule in Japan and see when the president can return here. So we'll look forward to seeing them back.

QUESTION: How are we going to work that out, Richard, if the president -- if there is even -- and based on the guidance Joe is giving, there's some indication that the president may be back before a Sunday morning briefing. So how will we work that?

BOUCHER: If there is such news, obviously, we'll give it to you. And then we'll plan on doing a Sunday morning briefing to tell you what happens when he gets back. I expect that the Okinawa -- the traveling party with the president will put out the word on his exact travel plans.

QUESTION: How would you -- the meeting, the only meeting yesterday between the three people who are now leaders of their delegations, was that dinner, right?

BOUCHER: That was dinner, yes.

QUESTION: And you expect that -- you said that you expect that the secretary will see them again today, but separately, is that the...

BOUCHER: I don't know, probably separately. There's always the possibility of a three-way meeting, but I'm not aware of anything scheduled like that at this point. So I would expect to follow the pattern we followed in recent days.

QUESTION: Can you describe the mood at the top table at dinner?

BOUCHER: The mood at the top table. You know, it wasn't a working dinner. It wasn't a dinner to delve deeply into the issues. They discussed a variety of things, some involving Camp David talks, but also, you might say, the outside world. They talked about other things going on outside the confines as well.

QUESTION: There is something to life more than Camp David?

BOUCHER: Yes.

QUESTION: Without going into substance, is Madam Secretary dealing with negotiators -- dealing with the negotiators on every subject or is there one or two subjects are being put back until the president comes?

BOUCHER: There are discussions of all the core issues going on.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the dinner? Were the two leaders engaging with each other? Were they talking? What was the dynamic between them? BOUCHER: It was a dinner conversation. Sometimes people were talking, you know, the three of them, sometimes to others, sometimes individually to the secretary, sometimes to each other. So it was, you know, it was a normal discussion involving, you know, issues of the world as well as some of the Camp David things as well as everything else.

Not a -- not a working dinner. I don't want to try to claim that the...

QUESTION: Do you agree with Joe's old appraisal of the batting average of reports from outside here as about four out of 10? Four hundred is good enough for the Hall of Fame, but not good enough for journalists.

BOUCHER: Well, I think you're probably still in the Hall of Fame, but I don't think -- I don't think all those reports out there are accurate, and I wouldn't want to lead you in one direction or the other.

QUESTION: Any comment on the report this morning -- it was reported by AP, I guess it came out of Jerusalem, that Barak is ready and willing to allow some kind of self-governance in parts of East Jerusalem?

BOUCHER: I'm not going to get in to any particular position of any particular leader on the issues. I know there's a lot of reports out there. And all I can tell you is some of them may be right and some of them are wrong.

HEMMER: Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman there at Camp David, briefing reporters who have gathered there. Precious little new information that we have learned. Although he does indicate the discussions do continue on, quote, "all of the core issues."

The summit has been tight-lipped regarding news leaks throughout the 11 days there meeting in Camp David, Today is no exception.

There have been reports, though, that President Clinton, now in Okinawa for that G-8 summit, may cut his trip to Japan early and come back to Camp David and continue talks there. But again, according to Richard Boucher anyway, that is on a wait-and-see basis. And we will wait and see.

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