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CNN Today

Middle East Peace Summit: President Clinton Plunges Back into Talks

Aired July 24, 2000 - 2:13 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: President Clinton jumped right back into the nitty-gritty of the Camp David talks today between the Israelis and Palestinians, a little red-eyed, perhaps, after the long flight home from Japan.

CNN's Kelly Wallace reports from Northern Maryland, where the negotiations are in their 14th day.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Clinton plunged back into the Middle East peace talks, meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and then with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators until almost sunrise.

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Those meetings were intensive and substantive.

WALLACE: The president spokesman said Mr. Clinton will do a, quote, "rolling assessment" of the negotiations and will keep them going until he determines an agreement is not possible.

LOCKHART: I think the fact that he was up until 5:00 a.m., working through the issues in a very personal hands on way, and that he was back at again early this morning should lead you to believe that he thinks staying here, for the time being, is worthwhile.

WALLACE: The president left for the talks Sunday evening with fingers crossed for an agreement. Mr. Clinton, anxious to get to work, cut off his morning meeting with advisers to begin another round of talks with negotiators.

LOCKHART: I hesitate to use a phrase like hopeful, because these issues are so difficult, and I don't know that I would be able to back that up with any substance.

There is a prospect for reaching an agreement. But its impossible to predict.

WALLACE: The sticking point, both sides continue to say, remains the question of Jerusalem, in particular who controls East Jerusalem. The Palestinians want a sovereign East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state. The Israeli position has been a Jerusalem united under Israeli sovereignty.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Sources close to the negotiations say Mr. Clinton could take up the thorny issue of Jerusalem at a meeting later Monday with the two Middle East leaders. These sources say the president's talks with negotiators so far have focused on other core issues, such as the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the region and the borders of a future Palestinian state.

As we mentioned, the White House is not imposing any calendar deadline, although senior administration officials have said the 48-72 hours following President Clinton's return to Camp David will be decisive.

Kelly Wallace. CNN, reporting live from near Camp David, Maryland.

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