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Office of the Press Secretary

                         BACKGROUND BRIEFING

July 25, 1994

The Briefing Room

3:30 P.M. EDT

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Notwithstanding popular demand, I will refrain from offering context -- unless you want to offer some. (Laughter.)

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think they've had enough. Go ahead. We'll just take some questions.

Q What is the next target in the Middle East? I mean, what do you hope to achieve?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think you ought to look at it from a couple of standpoints. Standpoint one is, how do we follow up on this particular track with what has just happened -- how do we begin to move to implement what is in the Washington Declaration. And the other is, how do we continue to work on and try to ensure that we make headway on the other two bilateral tracks where we have really not been able yet to produce the kind of progress that we've seen on either the Palestinian track or the Jordanian track.

There is no question, as the Secretary was saying, that we feel that the discussions between the Israelis and the Syrians are in a new phase. They're a phase that are characterized much more by detail. We no longer see the kind of vague formulations or general principles that were discussed in the past. And we also don't have the kinds of talks that we had in the past which, at different points, were either too generalist to not be applicable, or so narrow and technical and legal to be very difficult to build from. So what we want to do is take the fact that they are engaging across the board on all the key issues, like peace, like withdrawal, like security arrangements, like timing, and willing to talk about them, at least through us, in a very detailed way and see if we can begin to create more of a basis for convergence.

Q What is the main stumbling block on the Golan Heights question?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There isn't -- it's not so easy to say a main stumbling block. It boils down to the fact that each side is seeking from the other something that the other, at this point, is not prepared to commit to. And each side is also seeking to get the kinds of assurances with regard to what's important to them that makes it possible for them to consider whether or not they can take further steps.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me just make one further point in terms of what's next. Clearly, what happened today is not only very important in terms of the negotiations between Israel and Jordan, but it also helps to add to the momentum for the comprehensive peace that the President made very clear that remains our objective.

As we've seen from the very beginning of this process, progress on one track can help to produce progress on another track. I think it's fair to say that the breakthrough between Israel and the PLO helped to produce the breakthrough that we saw today. And so, too, do we believe that the breakthrough that was achieved today will help to achieve -- help us to achieve a breakthrough on the Syrian track, which remains our objective for this year.

Q Can you go over the things that were thrown in over the course of the last 10 days that Christopher didn't want to -- is it just the specifics that we see in the agreement? Are those the things that were tossed in at the last minute? Can you talk about those at all?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think -- from the time the decision was made to go ahead and have the summit meeting, we began talking with the two of them about something that they, it became very apparent very quickly, also shared which is this should be more than a photo op; that is was important that this be a meeting that combined the important symbol, a very important symbol of being able to cross another threshold in terms of public acceptance and public meetings, but also have substance, and use it as a vehicle to accelerate the process towards a peace treaty, but also use it as a vehicle to build the links between the two of them so we would be in a position to do what increasingly we saw the two of them willing to be able to do, which is build a process of normalization even before you formalize it in a peace treaty.

So all of these element were the kind of things that followed rather naturally from considerations of what were the kinds of substantive things that they would be prepared to do at this point, especially in light of what they themselves had already been discussing in the trilaterals about prospective forms of cooperation.

Q Can you explain why Jordan did not unilaterally lift the boycott?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, if you look at the language here, it says they're going to work on developing their economic cooperation including dealing with the abolition of the boycott. And in fact they've put it in terms, I think, of boycotts. There are a variety of economic issues that are important to the two of them, and I think what you have here is also a Jordanian desire to focus on how a trade relationship with Israel might develop. They have their own sets of equities and concerns, and they see the boycott in both an economic and a political context.

I think what you've got here is a statement by Jordan that they are prepared to deal with the political side of the boycott, which is to say with the end of the state of war, it's time to remove the vestiges of the state of war, the state of belligerency. There's an economic dimension to the boycott as well that they want to discuss and negotiate.

Q What are some of the other economic issues involved here? The King in the past has referred to the boycott as a trade issue, for example. What are some of the other benefits and/or problems that have to be worked out between Israel and Jordan on the economic side?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, on the economic side there's an array of different kinds of possibilities and then there are an array of issues that relate to the terms of trade and how open it might be and products flowing in two directions.

I think on the former, what we've already seen is that there is an enormous potential for cooperation between the two to generate benefits to both in the area of developing and exploiting the minerals in the Dead Sea, in the area of pursuing the development of things like oil shale.

If you look at energy, if you look at transportation, if you look at tourism, what you'll find is, in all of these areas, there is a very ambitious set of possibilities that they are each prepared to look at and work on. And Jordan, I think, sees that there are very significant economic benefits that can be accrued. Some things will take more time than others because it'll take time to invest in a way that allows you to extract the potential minerals and other such things.

Other things like tourism can offer a much quicker return, and a lot quicker inflow of hard currency. So I think that's where you see all sorts of different possibilities. I think the problems are more on the side of exactly what will be the terms of trade.

Q Just in terms of getting an answer for a previous question, the one that Jack tried to get an answer to, can you give us a sense whether or not it was the Israelis or the Jordanians who put forth, say, ideas about water or about sharing of the electricity grid, or was that something where you had someone from the United States who was taking a broader view and saying this is something that at least here you can agree on? How did it go? Give us a little sense of the color of this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First of all, I think in terms of perspective, you have to bear in mind that the Israelis and the Jordanians have been engaged in bilateral negotiations for a long period of time, and a lot of these issues have been discussed by them before. So when it came to a question of actually putting it into a declaration, the groundwork had already been laid.

Going back to the common agenda that they signed on September 14th last year, you will see many of the kind of headings that are represented in terms of substance today are mentioned in that common agenda. So when, as my colleague said, it came to a question of what do we do to give some substance to it, I think the Israelis had some ideas, the Jordanians had some ideas, and we had some ideas that were all pretty similar in terms of both the issues such as ending the state of belligerency and security issues, borders, water. Those are the issues that they've been negotiating.

In terms of normalization and the concrete measures that have been taken, those were ideas that have been generated in the bilateral negotiations, and stem from a Jordanian concept which is different to the concepts pursued by some of the other Arab states in these negotiations, which is that you can deal with issues and reach agreement on them and implement them before the crowning achievement of a peace treaty is arrived at.

And so, again, because of that background, it was possible to get fairly rapid agreement. Bear in mind, this was negotiated over a very short period of time. The decision to set up the meeting came only less than a week ago, I believe -- just slightly more than a week ago. So it was only in this period that we were able to -- the Israelis and the Jordanians, and we, feeding our ideas in, were able to put together this agreement.

Q What, in specific terms, do you mean by expanding the international air corridor? And two, what advanced weapons has Jordan told you it wants? And can the negotiations on the security pact go forward while you're leaning toward a formal peace treaty, or does that have to wait until after the peace treaty?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me take the second one first. The Jordanians have told us that they do have a set of security concerns, but they also are in the midst of a fundamental review of what the size and character of their force structure ought to be. And what they've said to us is that basically before they would come in with any specific requests, they wanted to complete that review and then have a discussion with us once that was done.

Now, that review is not completed yet, and it's probably a month or so away from completion, so there aren't any specific requests that they've come in with. There has been a desire from them to receive excess defense equipment articles, meaning ammo and spare parts, and that's something that we have been moving on. But in terms of anything beyond that, that really will have to wait until that review has been completed.

On the first, it really relates much more to having air carriers be able to overfly the two countries. One of the things that the King made a great point of in the meeting today -- and you saw the echo of it in his public statements -- but one of the points he was making is, we've had an absolutely abnormal situation; it's time to make it normal. He said it's not normal to be in a position where if I fly here, I have to fly all the way out of the way and can't overfly Israel. And he cited that as one of a number of examples of it's not normal -- the situation we're in is not normal, it's not normal to talk to Israelis only through somebody else. It's not normal not to have contacts at every level.

We want to create, in his words, we want to things to be normal on all of these things, and I think in terms of the air corridor, it relates to establishing what would be a normal way to be able to operate airlines.

Q In conjunction with the declaration statement on the role of Jordan vis a vis the Moslem holy shrines of Jerusalem, did the Prime Minister extend an invitation to the King to visit Jerusalem and pray at Al Aqsa?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think that they have probably had discussions on that, and I know that Peres at one point said something public to that effect. I'm not aware that they have any agreement on it.

Q Do you know whether an invitation was extended?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I know only what Peres said publicly on this.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It was not extended in our presence.

Q What did Peres say?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I believe Peres publicly invited the King to visit; and also when he was with Majali, the Prime Minister of Jordan, at the Dead Sea Hotel, he also invited Prime Minister Majali to visit Jerusalem.

I think that there is a longstanding invitation. The Mayor of Jerusalem has also made it clear that the King would be welcome to visit Jerusalem.

Q To follow on that briefly, how does this declaration square with the Arab League's decision that the Palestinians and not the Jordanians are the proper party for East Jerusalem and the West Bank?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think the Secretary was answering that question before. First of all, when you're dealing with the final status of Jerusalem, that's to be -- as called for in the Declaration of Principles, that's to be dealt with in final status.

This is something that takes account of the special role that the Jordanians have had in terms of managing the holy shrines. And I think you have to look at it with that kind of a division, with that kind of a bifurcation.

Q You mentioned the whole motion of momentum. What evidence do you see that this public event has spurred Assad at all? Or is it possible it works the other way, that he's determined not to be, in his view, stampeded by King Hussein?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that President Assad's concern was that this not be an effort to isolate Syria and to block progress on the Syrian track. We have made it clear, and I think it's also being made clear by public statements that Prime Minister Rabin has made, that that is not the intention of the United States, it's not the intention of Israel. And the Secretary has made two recent trips to Damascus, as you're aware, and although, as usual, the progress is slow, inch by inch, and not something that we can detail in public, nevertheless, we are proceeding there. And I think that he is satisfied that the process is going forward. And you can see that in the statement that he made yesterday with President Mubarak in which he reiterated that he was committed to the just and lasting peace which guaranteed the rights and dignity of both sides.

He, as I think we've mentioned before, spoke with the President last week and made clear that Jordan going ahead was not a problem for him. And the President has just completed a phone call with President Assad in which they -- just now -- in which they had further discussions about the negotiations on the Syrian track and the feeling that there was an opportunity now to move ahead, and that it was important to do so and to make progress now on the Syrian track if we were to achieve our common objective -- an objective set by the President, President Assad, and Prime Minister Rabin, of achieving a breakthrough by the end of the year.

Q What was his response?

Q This was Clinton saying those things, predicting there might be a breakthrough by the end of the year?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Clinton has said that his objective is a breakthrough by the end of the year. President Assad has said in Geneva that his objective is that this year be the year of peace. And Prime Minister Rabin has repeated that last March in his summit meeting here with President Clinton, that he sees this year as the year for a breakthrough on the Syrian track.

Q Did the President call Assad just now?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: President Clinton initiated the call, that's right.

Q Today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just now. Just did it at 2:30 p.m.

Q Did he have anything specific to tell him?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. The most important thing having to do with the call, as consistent with the call of last week, was to make it clear what we have said that, on the one hand, we will work to achieve a comprehensive peace and we'll work at the same time to make progress wherever we can, but also the progress that's being made right now is in no way a progress that we see as being inconsistent with making progress on the Syrian track as well. And it's important that the Syrians see at the same time that there is a very active level of American engagement in terms of following up on this track. That's really what is behind the call.

Q What did Assad say?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you pretty much heard what my colleague just said. He made it very clear that he has committed himself to pressing ahead; he made it clear it's important not to lose the opportunity. And he basically reaffirmed his commitment to a just and lasting peace.

Q Was the passage on Jerusalem in substance bounced off either the Saudis or the Palestinians before it was --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: This was something that was negotiated directly by the two parties. And I don't think that they bounced it off of anybody else.

Q And the United States didn't take it upon itself to --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It wouldn't have been appropriate for us.

Q Was the point made to Assad subtlety or otherwise that it's time to get on the train?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. As my colleague just said, we think he's on the train. Now the train has to reach a station. (Laughter.)

Q How is it -- he seems to be late in purchasing the ticket. So how is it that -- how was this point made to him?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's not a -- look, our objective is to focus on how you make headway on that track. And in doing so, obviously, we're engaged in a set of discussions that have each side dealing in much more detail, as I said before, on the substance of the key issues that have divided them. And there's no particular value in doing anything except focus on those kinds of issues.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Anybody got a color question? (Laughter.)

Q What kind of color do you have?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Before we quit I'll do a little more tick-tock -- I'll do a little tick-tock if anybody wants it.

Q Was anything discussed of the murder suspect from New Jersey --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Well, this is something that our ambassador has taken up, the Secretary of State has discussed with His Majesty, as you may know, last week when they appeared together at a press conference in Amman. King Hussein made it clear that he would do what he could. After that, this -- was arrested. There is a legal problem in terms of extradition treaty, but we are discussing that and actively engaged with the Jordanians in trying to resolve this issue as promptly as possible.

Q Do you mean by that there is a possibility he could be extradited, or not?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I can't inform you on that. I don't know what exactly the legal process would be at this point. But we're engage actively in discussions to try to resolve the matter.

Q What was the interplay like between the leaders? And were there toasts at the lunch, and did they say anything?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President noted afterwards that the thing that struck him about today's events both publicly and privately was the comfort level and the warmth in the relationship between the Prime Minister and King Hussein. It was -- sorry?

Q Only the King shows it. (Laughter.) Rabin doesn't show much.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It truly was -- in the trilateral meeting there was a real sense of common purpose, of common interest that the kind of -- a very important threshold had been crossed. And these two who have obviously had a relationship in the past were now, in a sense, out in the daylight and able to engage in a relationship of friendship that was -- I think, all of the Americans in the room were infected by this sense of warmth and friendliness, and certainly the President felt that way about it.

Q You said the President noted this in his remarks?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, he noted it to us afterwards that that was something he was taken by.

Q Anything funny happen, anything anecdotal?

Q Are they like friends now that they've met all these times?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As I said, I think that what it showed was that there is a level of friendship between the two, personal friendship and high regard for each other that really shone through in these events today.

The luncheon was a very relaxed affair where the discussion ranged from O.J. Simpson to the workings of Congress and the Israeli Parliament. And the President came out saying we should have more of these kinds of lunches. I think there was a --

Q What did they have to say about Simpson?


Q Who in the world would have raised that?

Q Who brought it up?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know. We were not in the lunch, we just got a report on it.

Q Oh, gee. (Laughter.)

Q Did Hussein indicate whether he'd watch this even on TV?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No. There was no indication that he'd watch it on TV. He certainly indicated that he was aware of the event.

Q The President mentioned before that the two sides agreed to act to help thwart terrorism, one side against the other. Was there any discussion of intelligence coordination at all between the two? And also, the issue of the third-party transfer of tourism between the two countries -- how close are they to agreeing to let residents of each country travel in the other?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On the former, I'm not aware of any discussion. On the latter, I think that that is actually an issue that they will be following up on. There's nothing concrete at this point, but I think it's an issue clearly that will be discussed.

Q What's the political or legal significance of the President signing the declaration? It seems to be more than he just witnessed the declaration. Is he, in effect, joining in endorsing all these points?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think, first of all, this is the product of trilaterals that got launched way back on October 1st, so we have a role in this. In this case, I think that I wouldn't read a kind of legal responsibility into this. I would say this is a political statement, a political statement that we are endorsing. Does any -- I mean, it's unusual for me to say this, but I'd be willing to do a little tick-tock if anybody wants it.

Q Go ahead.


Q Also, before you start, can you say in the speech tomorrow, will they both be on the platform together at Congress? And do you think they will move this thing forward beyond where we are today?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't think you're going to see it moved, I mean, in that kind of a setting substantively beyond where it is today. But I think, again, one has to realize in a political sense, in a psychological sense, we have crossed a major threshold.

The point that my colleague was making, even about the personal relationship, what you really have is a sense of release, that you had an environment where contacts could not be in the open. And you have to think through, what does it mean that contacts couldn't be in the open? It says there was something about the political realities as a region that made something like that impossible. Well, that's not longer the case.

And it says something about how the psychological map of the region has changed, something about how the landscape of the region has changed, and it isn't surprising that somehow at a personal level the sense of release would come through. And we saw it very much -- we began to see it, frankly, in the Dead Sea at the ministerial that we had where, if you looked at the emotional posture of most of the Israeli delegation, just the mere fact that they could fly across into Jordan and do it in a way that made something that in the past was forbidden possible created a great sense of opening.

And I think that's -- you have to look at this event as being a great sense of opening. And they have now laid out a very precise pathway to follow. They've identified very concrete projects that they're going to follow up on, and I think we're going to see the development, as I said, of normal relations and they'll move fairly quickly.

Now, I'll never get to the tick-tock. (Laughter.)

Q Do it, do it, do it.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Do you want it. All right. I'm not going to answer the question, I'm going to do the tick-tock because people are asking for it. (Laughter.)

Q Could you give us any background about the tensions that seemed inherent in this between the Jordanians and the Palestinians that are set up, both claiming responsibility for Jerusalem, Arafat inviting Hussein to come to Jerusalem -- have the Palestinians been kept informed of what's happening here?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there was a question earlier -- look, you have -- certainly on the Jordanian side, there has been concern for some time that the Palestinians have not coordinated very well with them, and the Jordanians felt that there interests were very much affected by what was in the GazaJericho agreement. And the absence of coordination was something that, I think, probably contributed to their sense that it was time to move with Israel. And I think that's one element in the backdrop to what we have seen.

Now with that as my intro, let me give you a little bit if the tick-tock. I said this already, but if you want to get a sense of where this began, it began on October 1 when you had the trilateral that the President had hosted with the Crown Prince of Jordan and with Shimon Peres. And that was the first open senior meeting, senior-level meeting between the Israelis and Jordanians.

We had a number of trilaterals at a lower level that began to create a certain movement towards cooperation, but it was quite incremental, and it was really quite slow. We were talking earlier when my colleague was talking about putting all this in perspective with regard to the Declaration.

All those preceding discussions at the trilateral and also in the bilaterals helped to create a context in which they pretty much had a good idea of where they would like to begin to shape their initial cooperation. So it wasn't a big lead for them to identify both a political content and an economic content for the Declaration.

But it wasn't until we had trilaterals here in early June that we began to see much more of an impulse, at least on the Jordanian end, to move more rapidly. And those were trilaterals that were held here on June 6th and 7th.

On June 22nd, the President met with the King in the aftermath of the results of those trilaterals, and it wasn't just some of the particular projects that were important, it was that there was an agreement as of June 7th that the next round of discussions of both the bilateral and trilateral nature would take place in Jordan and Israel.

Now, that was already beginning to redefine things because it meant that you'd had negotiations in Jordan and Israel with the Israelis going into June and that already indicated that there was an impulse to move things ahead. With the President's meeting, the President made a push to, in fact, raise the level, that if you're really going to accelerate the process of moving towards peace, then you really need to have a meeting at the highest level an it had to be open. And the King told the President during that meeting that he would consider it and he would get back to him.

Between July 4th and July 6th, we got agreement not simply to hold these trilaterals in Jordan and Israel, but in fact to raise the level so that it would at a ministerial level. And that was actually nailed down with the two sides on July 6th.

Q Back up a little bit. The President's suggestion was that the King be the participant?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President made it clear --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The King had already, if you remember, put it out in public that he was ready to meet.

Q Yes, but that was afterward. That was --

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, it was before. It was before, just immediately before he met with the President, so the President seized on the idea and said, let's do it, it will make a tremendous difference, we need to do these kinds of visible dramatic things.

Q Did the President of the United States suggest to the King that he should be the Jordanian who meets publicly --


Q Right. And the King said, I'll consider it.


? Q And then he came back and said, let's do it, and let's do it in Washington?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, it was a little later. He did not come back with a response right away. The reason I mentioned -- between July 4 and July 6 we had a series, we went back and forth among the three of us, and at that point on July 6 we agreed that the trilaterals that were to be held would be held at the ministerial level. And that meant that Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister, would be going to Jordan.

I say that because I think when the King made that decision, then that -- again, he basically put himself in a position where I think the leap for him to meet with the Prime Minister was not such a big leap.

Q And he said, let's do it in Washington?


SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President said let's do it in Washington.

Q Who said Washington?


Q Okay. So we proposed that it be Hussein, and we proposed that it be Washington?


Q Thank you.

Q Have you explained why -- I've been in and out -- but have you explained why Jordan can't unilaterally end the boycott as what -- as I suppose Egypt has done. Why does Hussein need the -- after all, look what he's done today. Why does he need approval of his colleagues?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think first of all, you have an agreement here between the Israelis and Jordanians that makes a specific reference to the abolition of the boycott. I think that this is an agreement that obviously satisfies the Israelis and also takes account of some of the economic concerns that the Jordanians may have.

Q But it's a matter of U.S. policy that the boycott should come to an end.


Q Jordan has not ended its boycott of Israel, has it?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In a technical sense, that boycott has not ended. But what you have in this Declaration is a clear commitment to abolish it, and they will work on doing it because I said when you were out there that obviously there's a political content to the boycott, and there's an economic side to the boycott. Jordan is making it clear by ending the state of war that it's getting rid of the political side of the boycott. That's done now. The other side of this has to do with working out the economic terms in which they're going to trade. And that's where they say abolish all boycotts.

Q Were there any problems in the last 24 hours? What was the American role over the weekend since both came to Washington?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think the discussions that were held were primarily direct discussions between the two. We were kept informed, and the fact is there was give and take, but there really were not problems.

Q And were there any changes in the declaration over the weekend?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, because it's not surprising that as you -- you go through any kind of draft, I don't care whose draft it is, you're going to make changes as you begin to discuss it. And they did make changes over time.

I think that the fundamental content, they pretty much had in mind, and as my colleague said, each of us seemed to have a concept in mind and they all converged pretty well. And, again, as he said, it's not surprising because there have been so many discussions about what kinds of political and economic content for cooperation you might want to focus on.

THE PRESS: Thank you.

END4:05 P.M. EDT