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Press Briefing by Joe Lockhart from Camp David (7/16/00 - afternoon)

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The Briefing Room
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                          (Camp David, Maryland)
For Immediate Release                    July 16, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                               JOE LOCKHART

                        Thurmont Elementary School
                                    Thurmont, Maryland

5:30 P.M. EDT

          MR. LOCKHART:  Good afternoon.  Welcome to what I hope will be a
very short briefing.  Let me answer a couple of questions that got asked of
me this morning which I didn't know the answer to, but there has been, as
asked, one addition to the Israeli delegation -- Mr. Hassoun --

          Q    How many total now?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it's one short -- 11 to 12.

          Q    How do you spell his name, Joe?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Last name is Hassoun.  Deputy Director of the
General Security Services.

          There was a second question that I didn't know the answer to
which I now do, which is the U.S. team is involved at Emmitsburg.  The
three teams that have been formed have been meeting in a variety of
formats, including directly one-on-one, and also in three-way sessions.
That continues.

          As far as the President's schedule, he had two meetings today
with his team here.  He had a meeting with senior negotiators from both the
Israeli and Palestinian sides.  That was one meeting, so that it was the
two negotiating teams and the President and the U.S. team together.   As I
was leaving he was about to begin a bilateral meeting with Chairman Arafat.
So I expect there to be more activity this evening.  We'll let you know
before we send you home for tonight.


          Q    The activity is quite different from the conflicting reports
coming out of surrogates for each side here, the Israelis saying -- some
progress is being made.  Os it fair to say that the U.S. take on this
situation is somewhere in the middle?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, the U.S. view is, given there's a news
blackout, we're not going to comment on any progress or lack of progress.
Having looked through some of the stories of the last few days, though, I
can say I think without breaking the ground rules that a majority of the
stories citing sources not at the talks have been wrong.  So I would take
them as flyers that some of you have to take in order to try to report this
story, but not having a lot to do with what's going on up there.

          Q    So it's your view then that both of those extremes are
incorrect --

          MR. LOCKHART:  It is my view that I have taken the position, the
U.S. has taken the position that we're not going to provide analysis of the
talks.  Both of those imply analysis, which I'm not going to either lend
credence to or knock down.

          Q    If there is significant progress this week, but not an
agreement by the time the President has to leave for Japan, any chance the
President might delay that trip?

          MR. LOCKHART:  That's a speculative question.  The President's
schedule is the President's schedule.

          Q    When is the President scheduled to leave?  When does his
meeting start in Japan?

          MR. LOCKHART:  The President -- have we put the schedule out for
Japan?  The detailed schedule will go out tomorrow, but he plans to spend
the day before the G-8 begins in Tokyo for a variety of events.  And then
he'll be at the G-8 for the weekend.

          Q    -- what the summit will --

          MR. LOCKHART:  An agreement.

          Q    -- still offering the view that the delegation here and any
other people in the Middle East, ministers and officials of the Middle East

          MR. LOCKHART:  I assume from what I read that there are contacts
back to the region.  But I don't know to what extent since I haven't
queried them on it.

          Q    -- photo op having this statement from -- about the
negotiations here, happened, reportedly, after his contact with Prime
Minister Barak.  So do they have any credibility in your opinion?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, that's something that I think you'll have to

          Q    Has the President called any foreign leaders in the last --
over the weekend?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Not that I'm aware of.

          Q    Joe, do you see enough progress being made to wrap up by
Tuesday, before the President leaves?

          MR. LOCKHART:  Ask me Tuesday.

          Q    Joe, the Majority Leader said today that the Senate would
not afford money for a Palestinian settlement.  Is it constructive to be
talking about that sort of thing while negotiations are in play, or is that
something that is not a surprise to all of you?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think we've done extensive consultations with
the leaders on both sides of Congress, on both sides of the political
aisle.  We have kept them informed where the process is all along.  I think
at this point speculating about what may be done or may not be done is not
the most useful pastime for a Sunday morning.

          Q    Joe, you mentioned that a lot of these reports are
erroneous.  There was a very specific AFP report that stated that Barak had
phoned home and talked with ministers and said there were wide gaps.  Can
you comment at all on the veracity of that report?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I don't know anything about it.

          Q    The BBC asked Mr. Boucher a question and he referred it back
to you --

          MR. LOCKHART:  What was the question, Richard?  Should I take it
or should I bounce it back to you?  (Laughter.)

          MR. BOUCHER:  If it's the one I'm thinking of --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Okay.

          Q    What activities are between Buddy and the members of the
delegation?  (Laughter.)

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, as a rule, Buddy generally keeps to himself.
(Laughter.)  But let's just say, without getting into the substance of
what's happened at the talks, this has been a bonanza for Buddy because the
amenities from a canine point of view at Camp David are far superior to
what is offered at the more urban center of the White House.  (Laughter.)

          Q    -- (inaudible) --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Nothing gets past this guy.

          Q    Has anyone of the Palestinian delegation joined the
President at the church today for the Sunday --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not sure who went.  The only people I know who
went to church, because I heard the President talking in a small group,
were the President, the Secretary of State and Chelsea.  They were having a
discussion.  I don't know who else went.

          Q    Is there going to be any announcement before the President
leaves --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I mean, I expect that when the President goes to
Japan, you all will have an opportunity to get an assessment of what
happened at the talks.

          Q    Joe, can you verbalize why the President must meet with the
senior negotiators?  To weigh into this -- everybody knows the issues, the
President knows the issues, everybody knows the issues.  Why is he meeting
with the negotiators?  I mean, he's seeing the top, the two leaders.

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think we believe that what needs to be done to
get to an agreement has to be done at a variety of levels.  Ultimately,
difficult decisions need to be done with the leaders, but there's also work
that needs to be done with the negotiators.  And I think we have found over
the last few days that a useful mechanism for trying to move things forward
is for the President to talk both in a bilateral way with the leaders, to
talk in trilateral sessions with the negotiators.  There's a number of
different ways to do this, and we'll employ whichever ones we think are

          Q    It sounds like he's pitching -- as a matter of persuasion
instead of a matter of learning what the issues are.  Because he knows the
issues, right?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I am stretching now for a baseball metaphor answer
and I'm stuck.  So we'll do that later.

          Q    -- he's not acquiring information, he's trying to push the
agreement along.

          MR. LOCKHART:  Well, listen, without getting into details, both
sides are negotiating, and the President is trying to do what he can to
help both sides reach an agreement.

          Q    Before the President called for the summit he said that the
negotiators had reached an impasse -- and right now we are witnessing the
President talking to the negotiators.

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think if you go back over your notes for the
last few days, you'll find the President has spent an enormous amount of
time with the two leaders.  This is a process that is not done on one
level, it takes a number of different ways to get it done.  But I do think
that if you go back and look at your notes you'll find that your question
does not reflect accurately what you know.

          Q    -- discussions to be one of the important -- (inaudible) --
can you tell us which important --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Do I look that simple?  (Laughter.)  I mean,
really, tell me.  I think I'll take a pass on that.

          Q    Joe, is it true that President Clinton promised Chairman
Arafat to agree and to recognize a Palestinian state if an agreement is
reached in the coming weeks?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm just not going to get into any discussion of
what's being discussed up there beyond what I've told you.

          Q    Joe, are delegations allowed to trade in a member of their
negotiation if they feel that someone on the outside might be more useful

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think the President made clear that should
delegations need experts on specific issues, those requests would be
honored.  I'm not aware that any request like that has come.

          Q    -- aiming at an agreement at the summit.  Does that also
include a partial agreement or is there one specific kind of agreement --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think I'll stick with an agreement for now, and
we'll parse that later.

          Q    Joe, you talked about tension -- is that tension only
between the Israelis and the Palestinians, or is some of that tension
between the President and either of the two leaders, the President pressing
one side or the other to move --

          MR. LOCKHART:  I think it is the issues and the intractability
and difficulty of the issues that provides the impetus for the atmosphere
to be tense at time, and I don't think that's solely something that's held
by the parties.  It's certainly our view, though, that it's our role to try
to help the parties work through these things and see areas where we can
find agreement.

          Q    -- information that -- (inaudible) -- is supposed to leave
back to the West Bank to attend his son's wedding.  Would he be able to go?

          MR. LOCKHART:  I'm not aware of that, I hadn't heard that report.

          Q    -- some conversations going on back at the White House about
the possibility of Gore going instead of the President to Japan -- there
are those conversations taking place   -- cause some consternation on the
part of the Japanese.  Is there any concern --

          MR. LOCKHART:  Let me stop your question because it is
speculation and I don't deal in speculation.  But let me say secondly, if
you have it from solid sources and those people are having conversations
with each other, these are people who don't have enough to do because
they're not here and things are quiet at the White House, and you should
take it with a grain of salt.

          Q    Can I just ask you is there any concern should the President
decide for whatever reason, to be at Camp David or whatever, that he needs
to stay in the U.S. and send Vice President Gore to the summit, there may
be consternation on the part of the allies?

          MR. LOCKHART:  That's sort of three levels into hypotheticals and
speculation.  I, unlike some of the people who don't have enough to do, do
have some things to do, so I'll leave you now.  Thank you.

                              END      5:48 P.M. EDT

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