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Clinton Meets with Israeli, Palestinian Negotiators at White HouseAired December 20, 2000 - 2:36 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And the Middle East is back in the news, what with President Clinton's efforts under way today to move the stalled negotiations of Mideast peace forward. Mr. Clinton's meeting with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators is aimed at helping both sides work toward a peace agreement and end the recent cycle of violence.
CNN's State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel is closely following today's developments and joins us now from the State Department with the latest -- Andrea.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Lou. those meetings over at the White House just wrapped up. Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and Palestinian negotiators Saeb Erekat and Yasser Abab Rabo (ph) are now outside talking with reporters at a stakeout position.
This meeting today at the White House has been -- is the first time that President Clinton has met with senior Israeli and Palestinian officials since the summit in Egypt in October. That summit at Sharm El-Sheik was meant to try to come up with some kind of a formula to end, then, weeks of violence in both Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Now, months later, the violence continues. Hundreds of people have died, and as far the peace talks are concerned, that's still on hold. You also have an Israeli prime minister who is up for elections in February, and Mr. Clinton's time in office is running out. His opportunity to close some sort of comprehensive peace deal only has a month left before he leaves office in January.
And so White House officials are hoping that President Clinton, during that meeting that just wrapped up over at the White House, would be able to get the peace talks back on track. He'll be taking an assessment, listening to both sides to hear what their bargaining positions are right now, to see whether or not a peace deal is in -- within hand, within reach.
Just a short time ago, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who was also in that meeting over at the White House, told reporters, essentially, that she is slightly more optimistic.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I think that there is a sense that there are opportunities, clearly, some of the changed calculations by Prime Minister Barak, who decided that he was going to have a different approach to -- he was going to resign and have elections. I think that that, and then a sense that we have gotten, and has been passed on, that basically Chairman Arafat may see this also as an opportune time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KOPPEL: Now whether or not Chairman Arafat and Ehud Barak decide that this is an opportune time, depends much on what came out of today's meeting at the White House. And the talks over at Bolling Air Force Base here in Washington, which actually began yesterday and will continue now throughout the week.
If enough progress is made, presumably then the Israeli prime minister and the Palestinian leader would be called together again by President Clinton for yet another shot at trying to get a comprehensive peace deal. But of course, they have deal with the most sensitive issues of all, Lou. We're talking about the future of Jerusalem, the return of refugees, and what a final Palestinian state would look at. That's a big "if" -- they're able to close those gaps. And time is quickly running out -- Lou.
WATERS: It will be interesting to watch, and we'll be calling upon you from time to time, of course.
Andrea Koppel over at the State Department today.
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