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PEACE TALKS IN "MOST INTENSIVE PHASE YET," SAYS RUBINSpokesman says parties are down to "hard bargaining"
Wye Mills, Maryland -- In a report to the press the evening of October 20, State Department Spokesman James P. Rubin said "the basic approach is we're down to hard bargaining, the posturing and atmospherics I think are over...."
Rubin said the talks were in the "most intensive phase yet." There had been security discussions ... that have been important and people were working on the airport, the seaport and the safe passage issue, he said.
He also reported that the anti-incitement committee, which is part of the American initiative, has not yet begun its work. "That committee is supposed to deal with this issue because, as you know, each of the parties has different views of what is realistic for the other to do to stop inciteful events," he said.
Asked if there would be an agreement after these Wye talks, Rubin said "it's up to the parties."
Following is the transcript of Rubin's remarks:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Wye Mills, Maryland)
Readout by Telephone to the Press, by James P. Rubin, Spokesman
MR. RUBIN: I don't really have much new to report. We are waiting -- the meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu has not started yet. The President has just been meeting with Secretary Albright. There have been some security discussions for the last couple of hours that have been important. People are working on the airport, the seaport, the safe passage issue. The basic approach is we're down to hard bargaining, the posturing and atmospherics I think are over; but it's anybody's guess as to what the result will be at this point
QUESTION: Is there going to be a three-way meeting? Could you tell us about that?
RUBIN: I mentioned this to some of the others. I'm expecting that as a possibility, but it's not for sure yet.
Q: Are we drafting documents?
RUBIN: How many people are by this phone?
Q: Twenty to thirty.
RUBIN: Well, there are documents that are going to he necessary if there is going to be an agreement, and certainly people know that having things recorded on paper is going to be necessary. We're trying to make sure that we're not going to have a situation in which the leaders reach agreement but the experts haven't done their homework.
Q: Can you tell us in general what the prospects might be for reaching anything this evening or tomorrow? Just in general can you say anything?
RUBIN: It's certainly the most intensive phase yet. Some significant gaps remain across the board. We have overcome some obstacles, but in this area more than any other I have seen an inch is as good as a mile in terms of not closing.
Q: The significant gaps, do they remain in the same places they did early today?
RUBIN: I don't think there has been major movement this afternoon or this evening yet.
Q: The obstacles overcome, were there any more obstacles overcome since early this morning?
RUBIN: I think the characterization that I described for you at 12:30 still holds.
Q: Do you think that you are at a point now in the process where if you have success on those items you are discussing now, you would be in a position to finalize an agreement, or are there other steps beyond that?
RUBIN: There are a lot of linkages that get involved here. Whether we can get some of them delinked or not is certainly one of the open questions.
Q: What difference has King Hussein made today?
RUBIN: We won't know yet until the end of the day.
Q: What is the end of the day?
RUBIN: Nobody knows. The President is expected to be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu shortly, and then they'll decide the next steps.
Q: When is the King leaving, do we know?
RUBIN: I do not know. I think he's still here, though.
Q: Do you expect him to stay overnight at Wye?
RUBIN: I don't have a final answer to that yet. I think everyone's overnight schedule -- that is, the President and the King are still being determined.
Q: The talks are definitely going on into tomorrow?
MR. RUBEN: "Definitely", I didn't say that, Lee. I said that we're taking it one day at a time, one meeting at a time. I certainly consider that a possibility.
Q: You are implying that the President is considering staying overnight tonight?
RUBIN: I didn't mean that. I just meant how long he stays here. The logistics, as I have said before, don't permit that.
Q: Have you set any deadline? The President's California trip, for example?
RUBIN: We're taking it one day at a time.
Q: Has the King ceased his participation for today?
RUBIN: I don't think we have a final answer for that. We'll try to check back in as soon as we know.
Q: Because of the difficulties which you cite, does that mean we are only going to come up with a partial agreement?
RUBIN: I didn't mean to suggest that.
Q: Are you still hoping tonight that Arafat and Netanyahu will meet together?
RUBIN: That's a possibility. It's always a possibility when we're all so close. That's the purpose of being so close. Last night's discussions set the stage for this intensive -- that is, where the Secretary and the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu were all in the same room -- set the stage for the hard bargaining phase.
Q: Can we infer from an earlier answer that this could yet come together, all come together tonight?
RUBIN: I would doubt that that would be possible unless we work very, very late into the night. But it's possible.
Let me rephrase that. "It's possible" can he taken out of context of the -- I doubt that that's possible, so please don't.
Q: Why don't you restate that?
RUBIN: What I'm saying is that people are working really hard. When the tough decisions get made, the issues can be resolved. When that will happen and if it will happen is an open question. But it's already 8:30 so tonight, in theory, ends at 12:00.
Q: Yes, but that's early for Arafat.
RUBIN: It's early for the President, too.
Q: Is there a decent chance that this could happen, an agreement could be reached by tomorrow?
RUBIN: I think you're getting -- we're not nearly that optimistic.
Q: Is there a single decision by each leader that would allow a big deal to fall into place?
RUBIN: A single, I think probably not. There are several areas. It's not only the substance within each area; it's linkages between them that have been the major stumbling blocks for many days now.
Q: Do you want to describe at all the Secretary's mood? We know generally that she's been working, but we haven't really heard much about her. It's been all the President. What can you tell us?
RUBIN: That's appropriate, but let me be more specific.
This morning she met with the Prime Minister, as she tends to meet with the Prime Minister or the Chairman before the President does, gets a flavor of where they're at, finds out where openings are, and then proposes to the President areas where he can try to overcome some of the problems. She met with the King when he first arrived here to give him a briefing on where we were and where we thought he could he most helpful. She did just have a meeting with some of the security folks; that was without the President.
There's a lot of work to be done; there's a lot of fire-power here. What we're trying to do is to farm out the fire-power so that we have the maximum chance of success.
Q: Where did she tell the King that he could be most helpful? In what areas?
RUBIN: I just don't want to get into that level of specificity.
Q: On the King, you won't characterize his role other than the fact he's a presence here, what can you say?
RUBIN: That I think people are very pleased that he's here. They think it's possible that he can make a difference. You know, everyone tries to remain hopeful, but it's day six: and people are -- it's an intense period.
Q: Jamie, have any tough decisions been made? You've been calling for tough decisions, but have they been made yet?
RUBIN: The really tough decisions will require not only decisions on a particular substantive area but also to deal with these linkages that I suggest exist. I think that the tough decisions -- we'll know that they're made, if they're made, when all the pieces fall into place. But we're not there yet.
Q: Jamie, is it accurate to say that the President has been key in getting leaders to make these tough decisions? In other words, does Albright lay the groundwork, say what needs to be done, and then he comes in and sort of gets them to agree?
RUBIN: I think that's fair.
Q: Could you say that? How would you describe it?
RUBIN: I didn't dispute what you just said.
Q: Put it in your words.
RUBIN: I think that certainly the overall pattern of the negotiation for the whole period of the last 12 to 15 months has been one where Secretary Albright has been in the field, been on the phone with all the leaders, spent hundreds of hours on this subject, and in a way has -- if I can use a metaphor I have avoided in the past -- has pitched a game through the eighth inning. Now the President is here and we're hopeful that he can help us to win the game.
Q: Does that baseball allusion suggest you're watching the World Series?
RUBIN: I haven't seen a lot of that go. There're several rooms, and people are trying to get food in between meetings, trying to figure out where everybody -- a lot of this is logistical. Getting all the different diplomatic actors in the right place at the right time is one of the challenges.
Q: I strikes me there's something a little bit bizarre about this whole process. You've got the President of the United States spending the best part of every working day at the moment concentrated on this one issue. You've got the Secretary of State, who's effectively not literally but a hostage to this process as long as it continues. Realistically, how long do you think this kind of effort can continue? Everybody around the world is watching this and wondering when the U.S. Government is going to think about anything else.
RUBIN: First of all, let me be very clear. The United States for a long time has had a unique role in trying to get the peace process back on track or advance it. I don't have to recite all the history to you. On the other hand, we are at an excruciating period where the process has been off track, there has been a serious breakdown in trust and confidence between the parties. We are doing our all, but at the end of the day we can't make peace for the parties -- for the Palestinians, for the Israelis. They have to make peace themselves.
Q: But Jamie, the point is just in terms of this amazing, unprecedented process, realistically, how long can it go on?
RUBIN: It cannot go on indefinitely, but we're taking it one day at a time.
Q: How long do you expect the President to be working tonight? Is he going to be working into the night himself?
RUBIN: I just don't know. What we've tended to do is reassess after each meeting what the next steps will be. I can try to make sure Joe or I call in after the Netanyahu meeting and tell you where we are, but I don't think any final decisions have been made on how long the President will stay. But the Secretary will be here overnight.
Q: Could you be sure to do that, and also let us know if and when a three-way gets under way so we don't wait for a pool report that takes an hour?
Q: Thank you.
Q: You haven't mentioned dinner for the President.
RUBIN: I think the President and some of us just ate dinner on the side between meetings.
Q: What did you have?
RUBIN: There were a lot of vegetables. There was beef, some kind of beef, potatoes. He had a diet coke. People have tended to -- tonight it doesn't look like there will be a dinner, so people ate between briefing sessions or meetings.
Q: How likely do you think it would be that when this finally breaks up here at Wye, you'll come away with an agreement?
RUBIN: It's up to the parties. We can't answer that question.
Q: Has there been any progress on the issue of incitement? Three weeks ago Arafat committed himself to stop incitement and the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Broadcast Corporation, and that hasn't ceased. Has this issue been raised? What about progress?
Q: Has there been any progress on the issue of the list of Palestinian Arabs that has been submitted to the American government who have murdered American citizens -- have been accused of murdering American citizens and taking asylum inside the Palestine Authority?
RUBIN: I was prepared to answer the anti-incitement question because it was something we talked about at the time we were in the Middle East. The issues that you raise are central to the security package, and I don't care to get into the details of that.
Q: Is there any progress on the issue of the Palestine National Council coming together to cancel the covenant?
RUBIN: The same applies for that.
Q: Has there been an agreement, in principle at least, on the issue of phasing the withdrawal? That's been reported in one of the wires.
RUBIN: I think that would he premature.
Q: Who did King Hussein meet today?
RUBIN: He met with both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Q: For how long each?
RUBIN: Each for about 45 minutes.
Q: Will he come back tomorrow?
RUBIN: As I indicated earlier, I don't have a final schedule for the King.
Q: Thank you very much.