THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY MIKE MCCURRY
The Briefing Room
5:50 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: (in progress) -- out through the South Portico and shook hands, left in their respective motorcades. Prime Minister Netanyahu went to Blair House, where he is residing. He is meeting at this moment with Secretary of State Christopher, Ambassador Ross, and Mark Parris. I don't have any information about whether or not we'll be providing any readout. I rather suspect not, because there is more work to be done by the delegation throughout the evening and into tomorrow obviously.
Other than that, there's not much else I can tell you.
Q Mike, can you speak up a little bit? It's hard to hear you back here.
MR. MCCURRY: Some of you have just gotten copies of the picture. We basically gave the folks who were interested a picture of the beginning of the lunch and the end of the lunch. The beginning of the lunch was the four principal participants. The end of the lunch reflects the fact that the Chairman and the Prime Minister met for about 45 minutes together over lunch and then asked that they be joined by two of their advisers, Abu Mazen, who is a senior advisor to Chairman Arafat; and the Israeli, Yitzhak Molkho, who is a private attorney who the Prime Minister has asked to be in liaison with the Palestinian Authority.
Q How do you spell his name?
MR. MCCURRY: Yitzhak Molkho, M-o-l-c-h-o or k-h-o, depending on how you want to transliterate.
Q Could you spell the other name while you're at it?
MR. MCCURRY: Abu Mazen. Our transliteration is A-b-u M-a-z-e-n.
Q Mike, for those of us who are pushing deadlines, is it your sense out of this meeting at least that if you can't tell us where it went, at least that it was cordial and that the spirit of cooperation continues that you thought was present before?
MR. MCCURRY: They clearly had a cordial meeting because they departed in a cordial mood. What they discussed I can't provide you much detail on at this point. We might be able to do more of that tomorrow. But, obviously, they met for three hours, so I presume they had a --
Q Is Christopher meeting with Arafat tonight? MR. MCCURRY: Secretary Christopher are unclear at this
point. There will be some type of discussion with either Chairman Arafat or the Palestinian delegation following the Secretary's meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Q What is the schedule of talks tomorrow? Will they both come back here?
MR. MCCURRY: That is undetermined at this point. One of the things we are doing now in our discussions with both delegations is to inquire of them how they would like to proceed tomorrow. We still anticipate some gathering here tomorrow, but we'll have to give you details later.
Q Did the President get involved again? You made the point he would be at the ready, available. Did he get involved?
MR. MCCURRY: He worked in the Oval Office this afternoon, was on standby, but there was no request for his assistance at this point. He will, of course, get a briefing from the Secretary as soon as that's available.
Q Mike, there is a wire story that the Prime Minister rejected a U.S. suggestion to set some time certain for resuming formal peace talks.
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not going to get into the substance of the dialogue. I've refrained from that all day long.
Q Now that you've got all these guys together and there are cordial talks and substantive talks, is there any thought being given to just keep them here another day instead of ending it tomorrow, if necessary to nail something substantive down?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll inquire of the parties as to their disposition and their own timing. I'm not aware of anything at this point that changes our general scenario for tomorrow, but, as you can see, this is in flux depending on the determination of the parties to address these issues.
Q Will they be meeting well into the night?
MR. MCCURRY: There will be a lot of follow-up work to do by the delegations. I expect that to be done principally at Ambassador Ross's level into the evening, maybe throughout the evening.
Q You mean, till 4:00 a.m. in the morning or something or 3:00 a.m. in the morning, in the tradition of the Middle East?
MR. MCCURRY: In traditional Middle East diplomacy, the negotiators will work all night long and then sleep through the closing ceremonies. (Laughter.) As everyone here -- some of you know is generally the pattern. We've witnessed that on occasion and I have partaken myself of several snoozes.
Q Is Mr. Arafat at Blair House?
Q Where is he?
MR. MCCURRY: No, I -- he is -- his residence is -- he's at a local hotel.
Q Wasn't it the plan all along that Arafat, after this meeting broke up, that Arafat would meet with Secretary Christopher?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't want to rule out that that's what will happen. I just don't have concrete information that that will, in fact, happen. That wouldn't surprise me if that happened, but in one fashion there will be follow-up contact.
Q Will there be later readouts?
MR. MCCURRY: I don't -- we don't anticipate doing it tonight based on what I've heard. There clearly is coming out of the discussion this afternoon, the morning discussions and the discussions this afternoon, more work to be done at the negotiating level. We'll see how that shapes up and probably won't get much more to report till tomorrow.
Q Were King Hussein and Amre Moussa involved at all, Mike?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, we have -- I've encouraged at least one of the parties to do as we have done through their official spokesman, keep their own press corps advised. So you'll have to check with them.
Q Any Egyptian involvement during the day?
MR. MCCURRY: I'll check for you, Barry. Foreign Minister Moussa is available for consultation. I'm sure we'll have contact with him to provide him what we know, and I'm sure he is -- as you know, he has been active himself today and has had some of his own discussions with the parties today.
Q So what is the scenario for tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We don't have a scenario tomorrow.
Q Did the President do debate prep this afternoon? Is that what he was doing?
MR. MCCURRY: That was his intent. I don't know there actually -- he was going to try to spend a little time this afternoon on debate prep.
Q Were the Jordanians involved at all?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they have been involved, but not in the afternoon sessions. But we will be in close contact with the Jordanian delegation.
Q So of the two hour and 45 minute meeting in the library, only 45 minutes was really one on one, and two hours was with --
MR. MCCURRY: Did we ever get a hard start time on --
Q You said about 2:30 p.m., is what you said originally.
MR. MCCURRY: I think that that was when they actually -- I believe that's when the President and the King left, was around 2:30 p.m. So I think they started lunch at closer to 2:15 p.m. or so.
Q From 2:30 p.m. on is the --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, lunch basically was three hours. They were -- the King and the President were there for the first part of it. Then the Prime Minister and the Chairman were alone for a good stretch of time, about 45 minutes. Then asked to be joined by these two advisers who were pictured in the photo I gave you.
Q Who stayed with them for the remaining two hours and 15 minutes?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes, Abu Mazen and Molkho.
Q Is there any thought of the President delaying his trip in the event there is some progress?
MR. MCCURRY: Haven't had any indication that that's necessary at this point.
Q Right now you still expect this thing to end tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: Our original scenario was to have some type of concluding session tomorrow. I'm not aware of any change in that schedule at this point. But as I said, we haven't finalized the schedule for tomorrow.
Q Do you think the principals are going to take part in these late-night sessions tonight?
MR. MCCURRY: Well, they will -- I don't anticipate gatherings of the principals this evening, but I am sure that they're going to be having conversations with their own delegations.
Q There is some talk of Christopher shuttling around between --
MR. MCCURRY: Well, as I said, he is meeting right now with the Prime Minister and in some fashion or another we'll have contact with the Palestinian delegation later on tonight.
Q Any idea when you'll have the schedule together for tomorrow?
MR. MCCURRY: We probably will not have a firm idea on that until after we see Secretary Christopher's recommendations. That's one of the things they're discussing now.
Q Is there any reason to stake out Blair House? Larry is going out there, but -- Christopher is going to be there for a little while, and then that will be it, right?
MR. MCCURRY: Right. He's not likely to say much. Nick Burns may -- we'll be in contact if there is anything further to say.
Q Do you expect the President to meet with any of them tonight, or is it possible?
MR. MCCURRY: No.
Q When are you putting out a lid then?
MR. MCCURRY: We'll wait until we can give you some sense of what the schedule is tomorrow and then we'll do the lid. You know, we've got a lot of bill signing.
Q Netanyahu is at the Blair House now. Is he staying there? Is that where he's staying?
MR. MCCURRY: Yes.
Q And the King, where is he staying?
MR. MCCURRY: I'm not sure where he is. He typically stays at the embassy but I don't know where he is.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 6:00 P.M. EDT