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TRANSCRIPT: WHITE HOUSE READOUT ON MIDEAST PEACE TALKS(Spokesman notes "constructive" atmosphere of discussions)
October 17, 1998
Queenstown, Maryland -- "We think the environment out here has provided the ability for informal discussions and has provided an atmosphere that's constructive," White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart told the press October 17 in a report on events of the day.
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 17, 1998
READOUT TO THE POOL BY JOE LOCKHART
University of Maryland Agriculture Research Center
3:23 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: The President arrived at the Houghton House, which is where the Palestinian delegation is staying. There is a main house and then a smaller house just to the right of it, and that's where the President went. He had lunch with his team. They gave him an update. The team included the Secretary of State, the President's National Security Advisor, Ambassador Ross -- who am I missing? Bruce Riedel, Aaron Miller.
They had lunch. They had vegetable soup, chicken and pasta. And basically that session, which lasted about 45 minutes, brought the President up to date on what had gone on yesterday afternoon and yesterday evening.
From there the President walked over to the main house, where he was greeted at the door by Chairman Arafat and some of the members of his delegation. They proceeded to go into the library of the main house, and they spoke for about an hour and 20 minutes.
When that meeting broke up, Chairman Arafat walked the President back to the other house. Just to give you a sense of the space, it was no more than -- no more than 20 yards separated the two houses. It was a short walk back and forth.
When the President returned, he went upstairs to the house and had a roughly 10-minute-long phone conversation with President Mubarak. In that call the President -- President Clinton brought President Mubarak up to date on the talks that have been going on here for the last several days.
The President is meeting now with his team in preparation for -- around 4:00 p.m. We expect him to walk the three-tenths of a mile between the Houghton House and the River House, where the Israeli delegation is staying. We expect the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu to talk. I think they will sit in the back yard and talk for some time.
Beyond that, I don't have any more guidance as to how the rest of the day will play out. I hope to either come back here or call in, whether it's 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 p.m., and then give you some sense of whether departure is imminent or whether you should get comfortable and start thinking about your next meal here.
Q: We don't have a TV that's going to get the game, just so you know.
Q: So you know what our priorities are. (Laughter)
MR. LOCKHART: Okay. Talks fail on lack of TV. (Laughter.)
Q: How long did you say the Mubarak talk was?
MR. LOCKHART: It actually was 12 minutes.
Q: Twelve minutes?
MR. LOCKHART: To be exact.
Q: Was there any sense of how things went yesterday? Did the team say that they thought it went well?
MR. LOCKHART: I think, we've said from the outset, we don't plan to give you an update on the substance, but we think the environment out here has provided the ability for informal discussions and has provided an atmosphere that's constructive.
Q: What about these reports that the talks were not progressing at all? Are those inaccurate?
MR. LOCKHART: Any answer to that would violate the principle of not discussing the substance of the talks, so I'm just going to have to leave it where it is.
Q: Was the President brought in to try to bridge some gap that existed, or is he just a natural player in this?
MR. LOCKHART: As we've said, the President, as the leader of the U.S., has a unique role here to help both sides understand each side's position. And I think the President has a strong reservoir of trust between both sides, and his role remains the same as the leader for the U.S. as the U.S. plays their unique role in this process.
Q: Do you have any idea how long we're going to go -- not today, but is this going to go into Monday?
MR. LOCKHART: I have no sense beyond tomorrow, but they will all be here tomorrow.
Q: Do you expect the President is coming back tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect the President will come tomorrow if there is a constructive role he can play.
Q: Thanks, Joe.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.