THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt)
PRESS BRIEFING MIKE MCCURRY AND AMBASSADOR DENNIS ROSS Moevenpick Hotel Courtyard Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt
4:25 P.M. (L)
MR. MCCURRY: Ladies and gentlemen, your colleagues, as they work their way back, will be able to get the transcript of this briefing, but I wanted to let you have an opportunity to pose a few questions to Ambassador Dennis Ross, who is the administration's Special Middle East Coordinator, about the drafting of the Chairman's Statement that the President has just read -- consecutively translated, I guess. And anything else that you'd like to ask about some of the bilateral meetings that the President has had today.
AMBASSADOR ROSS: I'll just take questions, okay?
Q What happens in 30 days --
AMBASSADOR ROSS: The question is what happens in the 30 days. We will convene -- the United States will take the lead in convening a meeting, as the President said, within two weeks. We will look to follow up on what's in this declaration which is, as you'll see, has a number of very specific items in terms of what can be done to counter terrorism. And it really falls in a number of areas.
First is through coordination and cooperation what can be done to actually affect the capabilities of terrorists and terrorist groups and to counteract them. Second is the question of what can be done to deal with the financing of these groups and identifying their sources and acting to cut them off. And third is to look at the kinds of assistant support in the area of equipment or training for those who are taking effective measures or seeking, in fact, to take measures against terrorist groups.
So we will -- that will be the point of departure and we'll be looking to see how we can follow-up to act on those and make them real and be able to report back in 30 days on the progress that we've made.
AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well I think what you'll have here -- this working group that we will establish will be part of an ongoing mechanism. So the 30 days was just to ensure that we could move as quickly as possible to begin to effectuate some steps. And, obviously, this has to be an ongoing effort. It's not the kind of challenge that one can produce an answer to all at once. It's going to have be an ongoing, systematic effort because the nature of this challenge is itself one that is sufficiently complex that it requires a very determined effort on the part of many different countries.
AMBASSADOR ROSS: The question was when Syria informed us that they were not coming, did they communicate anything privately about steps they might be taking against Hamas or other groups.
The answer is when Syria informed us that they were not coming, they told us that they were committed to peace, that they would be making a public statement to that effect, but they didn't go beyond that.
Q Is it fair to assume that -- (inaudible) --
AMBASSADOR ROSS: Clearly, that's the purpose, to create an ongoing mechanism. Now, what the Declaration says is that the working group will be made up from those who are here and is open to all those who are here. Obviously, if you're going to create a working group, you're going to have to make it manageable in terms of size and structure, and that's something that we'll have to work on. We have agreement to go ahead and do this, we will convene it. We clearly have an agenda that is embodied in the Declaration, because it's quite specific in the three areas I identified, and we will be working very quickly to try to follow-up.
Q The thing that's a bit unclear is whether the working group is likely to become the mechanism, or whether the working group will recommend some kind of a --
AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think -- let me put it this way, what we have in mind is an ongoing mechanism. Whether the working group is, in fact, an ongoing mechanism or not is something that we'll be better able to judge after we have organized it and begun deliberations and focused on how we can best follow up on effectuating what's in this declaration.
Q Did -- (inaudible) --
AMBASSADOR ROSS: Yes.
Q Can you tell us more? When?
AMBASSADOR ROSS: The question was, did they shake hands; the answer is yes.
Q At the beginning of -- at the end of it, or --
AMBASSADOR ROSS: Early on -- the way that this was organized the various participants went into one room first, where they were for probably an hour and 15 or 20 minutes, and there was discussions among the various leaders who were there and many of them circulated, and that was the circumstance. So that took place before the formal convening of the summit.
AMBASSADOR ROSS: At that point, actually, I was working on the Declaration and I wasn't in the room at that time, so I couldn't tell you.
Q Do you think it's significant that they shook hands?
AMBASSADOR ROSS: I think what I would focus on more is who came and what they said and the fact that they came here in a circumstance not where they were celebrating or recognizing something that had been achieved, but they came because they recognized there was a danger to the peace process. They recognized that the danger to the peace process was being posed by the enemies of peace through their acts of terror. They came here to express solidarity, not only in terms of condemnation but in terms of making it clear that they would act against the enemies of peace.
What I think is most important is that for the first time in this region you saw a demonstration that Israel's neighbors see peace and security as being indivisible, and that, in fact, if there are threats to security for one of the partners in this negotiating process it affects others, as well. And that really is, I think, a dramatic demonstration of how much the landscape in the region is changing.
MR. MCCURRY: My intent will be to try to provide, again, some one- or two-sentence readouts on some of the President's meetings coming up. I expect that he's having lunch right now with Prime Minister Major. He does expect to see Chairman Arafat and King Hassan before departing. We will plan to do some type of readout this evening at the Renaissance Hotel in Jerusalem to sort of wrap up the President's additional bilaterals and take any other questions you have. So this will be your last shot at us before we get up to Israel.
Q What did you just say, Major --
MR. MCCURRY: King Hassan of Morocco. And the President has also had -- I'm going to get a fuller list from him -- he's had, during the course of moving back and forth, some individual, one-on-one conversations with additional leaders in a pull-aside format.
All right, any other burning questions before we say goodbye to you until our next stop? Okay.
END 4:33 P.M. (L)