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Special Event

Israeli PM Ehud Barak Holds News Conference

Aired September 7, 2000 - 12:34 p.m. ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Ehud Barak, Israel's embattled prime minister, is about to hold a news conference at the United Nations Millennium Summit. Here he is going to begin. Let's listen in.

EHUD BARAK, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We are here in unprecedented gathering of world leaders. And I think that first of all we have to commend the secretary- general, Kofi Annan, for his vision and determination that led to this highly important gathering.

We in Israel see this gathering as an opportunity to expand and deepen our relationship with world leaders and with different countries all around the globe. We do feel a major turn around in the situation of Israel. In this kind of international forum, like the UN, where we are now in a -- much better deployed to share our views, to share ideas about how to approach the Middle East conflict, and to expand our bilateral relationship with different countries in the world.

We have made this opportunity -- intended to explain to leaders all around the world both the opportunity that is there to push forward with the peace process in the Middle East, the risks that might be derived from a deadlock if we reach one, and the time limit that we have of basically a few weeks within which either we have a breakthrough or we might face the reality of a deadlock.

We emphasized our commitment to leave no stone unturned on the way to try and to make peace in the Middle East, if it is possible, and our readiness to take calculated risks in order to achieve it without violating the core of our national interests.

We hope to find a partner. Until now, we didn't find a responsive partner on the other side. But the door is open, and we hope that we'll find it in the very near future.

I should admit that leaders all around the world are accepting our position in a very open way. Some may say we feel that there is a fair attitude and approach on behalf of most of the leaders of the world with regard to peace process in the Middle East.

I strongly believe that peace in the Middle East between Israel and its immediate wing of neighbors can serve the wider interests of the free world. It can enable a deployment of moderate regimes vis-a- vis the rogue states in the Middle East. It will help to stabilize these moderate regimes, and it will even help to provide a continual flow of oil from the Middle East to the economies of Europe and Japan, which is an essential need of these economies in order to keep the sustainable growth of their economies.

That concludes my opening remarks, and I'm ready to answer questions if you have.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... Israel looking for from the Palestinians in order for the process to move forward?

BARAK: During Camp David and even afterwards, President Clinton raised several far-reaching ideas in order to solve core issues in regard to the peace process, from Jerusalem through the refugee program and down to the border or settlement issues.

I have told President Clinton that some of the ideas that he had raised are beyond what we believe we can accept, but that if Chairman Arafat is ready to take his -- Clinton's -- ideas as the basis for the negotiation, we will be ready to contemplate it and to enter into such a negotiation.

Until now, we have not seen Arafat ready to take Clinton's ideas as a basis for negotiation. This I interpret as lack of flexibility.

QUESTION: Mr. President, as a follow-up to that question, do you believe that the main reason why Mr. Arafat may not be conducive to those ideas -- some have described the relationship of...

STAFF: Could someone ask the speaker to turn on the mike, please?

QUESTION: ... that support is sort of overbearing or inordinate. Do you have any comments on that, regarding that aspect? Do you think that they see the requirements that Clinton has put forth as too top heavy to reach a balance...

BARAK: I don't think that this is the kind of thing that -- President Clinton proved all along his presidency a kind of evenhandedness, and he enjoyed the trust of the Arab world as a whole and of Chairman Arafat in a way that is unprecedented in the history of this conflict. He is also a good friend of Israel. But I never observed him swaying from this line of being a kind of honest broker of ideas and solutions.

BLITZER: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak promising to do what he can over the next several weeks to try to revive the Israeli- Palestinian peace process, but insisting Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian Authority president, must make some major decisions.

Earlier today, President Clinton said he was confident that there would be a serious effort to work through these things over the next few weeks.

CNN's Jerusalem bureau chief, Mike Hanna, is at the United Nations in New York, standing by with some analysis -- Mike. Unfortunately Mike Hanna is not ready, but we will be covering this story, obviously, throughout the next several days. The Palestinian leader threatening to establish, or at least call for an independent Palestinian state originally by September 13th, although that deadline might slip somewhat.

Yesterday Mr. Arafat met with President Clinton for about an hour and a half. President Clinton met separately with Mr. Barak for about an hour. Today Mr. Barak saying the Israelis are ready to move forward, but the Palestinians must demonstrate some flexibility as well, especially when it comes to the core issue involving the future of Jerusalem.

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