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WHITE HOUSE REPORT Wednesday, October 14, 1998
(Middle East Peace Talks, Kosovo, Cuba)
White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart briefed reporters at early morning and early afternoon sessions.
MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS
President Clinton will meet with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the Oval Office the morning of October 15 to commence the first of the week's meetings between the two leaders centrally involved in the Middle East Peace Talks here, Lockhart announced October 14.
Clinton "made it clear when he spoke earlier this week to the two leaders that he wants to use this weekend to resolve differences that remain, to get an interim settlement and move to Final Status Talks," Lockhart said.
Following the Oval Office meeting, Clinton, accompanied by the two Middle East leaders, will go to the Rose Garden, where the President will make a brief public statement, Lockhart said.
Afterwards, Secretary of State Albright will accompany Netanyahu and Arafat to the Wye Plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where the talks between the two Middle Eastern leaders are to be held.
Clinton will open the plenary session there later in the day, and then meet separately with Netanyahu and with Arafat.
After that the three leaders will have dinner together, that also will include the Secretary of State.
On Friday, October 16, Clinton is planning to go out to the US Midwest on a one-day domestic political trip, but "he has blocked out time to work on" the Middle East Peace Talks "as appropriate over the weekend." Lockhart said he expects he will "remain in close touch as necessary" with the participants and will probably go to Wye at some point over the weekend.
"The United States plays a unique role in a dispute that has gone on for a long time. We can play the role of helping each side understand each other's position. But ultimately it is up to the parties to make a peace," Lockhart said.
"The talks will remain among the parties for the time that they are there, and the press will be notified when it is appropriate," Lockhart added.
NOT A LOT OF MOVEMENT SO FAR BY MILOSEVIC
Asked if "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" President Slobodan Milosevic is honoring the agreements announced October 13 by the White House, Lockhart said "It's hard to say at this point. From what we've seen and heard from the ground there has not been a lot of movement to date. But we, obviously, have time. And what we are looking for -- and I've stated clearly -- is that he makes substantial and real progress towards compliance by the end of this 96 hours."
But Lockhart noted that Milosevic October 13 did make unilateral political statements "about dialogue between his government and the Kosovar Albanians on self-rule. So he has done some things. There are other things that are going to take time and we are watching closely and will make an assessment at the end of the 96 hours."
On October 13 President Clinton announced that "an intrusive on-the-ground and in-the-air verification system" composed of international monitors and NATO aircraft will ensure that Milosevic honors the commitments he has made to the international community regarding Kosovo. Lockhart said he expects the air-and-ground verification agreements to be signed "in the next day or so." The air agreements would be signed between NATO and the Serb authorities and the ground agreement would be between the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Serb authorities.
OSCE, Lockhart pointed out, will provide the civilian monitors from a pool it has on hand. They will be there to monitor compliance, he said, and will have "complete and total access" to all areas.
Asked if there are any contingency plans if any of them are hurt or taken hostage, Lockhart said that "if President Milosevic or anyone believes he can use this verification force to pursue their own political ends, he would be gravely wrong and would suffer the most severe consequences."
REASSESSMENT OF US POLICY TOWARD CUBA?
The White House is aware of a proposal made by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and Lawrence Eagleburger urging Clinton to authorize the creation of a bipartisan commission to carry out an analysis of US policy towards Cuba, Lockhart said.
"We are aware that here is a Kissinger-Eagleburger proposal" and that Republican Senator John Warner (Republican-Virginia) is sending the White House a letter about this, the Press Secretary said.
He noted that the letter had not yet been received and said "I think we'll want to have a chance to look at the letter, study what the ideas (are) that they have in mind before we comment."
Last Updated: Thursday, October 15, 1998.