THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AND KING HUSSEIN OF JORDAN IN PHOTO OPPORTUNITY The Oval Office
11:55 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Let me say, it's always an honor to have His Majesty King Hussein back in the White House. I believe this is our 15th meeting since I became President. I want to have the chance to thank him for his continuing devotion to peace, the particularly courageous trip he recently took to Israel. And I want to discuss with him what our next steps are.
I think it's clear that we would not have gotten the agreement in Hebron had it not been for his leadership, and his leadership is essential as we go forward. So this is a difficult time for the peace process, and we have a lot to talk about. We also have a lot to talk about in terms of the relationships between the United States and Jordan, and I'm looking forward to that.
Q Mr. President, I think you would agree that --
Q Mr. President --
THE PRESIDENT: One at a time, one at a time.
Q I think that you would agree that the establishment of the -- or attempt to establish a settlement in East Jerusalem, with soldiers and bulldozers, is the real cause of violence, in contradiction to the Oslo agreements. So what are you going to do to restore that faith, that confidence in the agreements?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that's what we're going to discuss here today, and we'll have a --
Q I mean, this is not -- I think you'd agree it wasn't --
THE PRESIDENT: As you know, I just sent Dennis Ross out to the region. We've just -- we've had two meetings, one yesterday -- an extended meeting yesterday and an extended meeting this morning about it. What I think we have to do is to restore the environment of security and of confidence so we can go forward with the negotiating process. And we've got some ideas about it, but I want to talk to the King about it first.
And you may be sure we're working on it. It's an urgent thing for me and for the whole peace process.
Q Mr. President, there was an incident in Gaza today, and the U.S. line -- I don't mean that in an unfavorable way -- last week was that you needed a clear signal from Yasser Arafat that he disapproves of violence, terrorism as an instrument. Did you get that clear signal? Because there has been no public statement.
THE PRESIDENT: He's made several moves in the last few days which are encouraging in that regard. But let me say that unambiguously a precondition of going forward is a commitment to zero tolerance for terrorism, for making the best effort.
All the parties have acknowledged that no one can promise that there will never be a violent incident, that you could control every last thing that every person does. But there has to be an attitude of zero tolerance, a determination to do all that can reasonably done to maintain the peace so that then negotiated progress can be made. And that's what the United States expects, and that's what we will continue to press for.
Q Do you think the Palestinians have no right to defend their land?
THE PRESIDENT: I think that the subjects that are clearly identified as to be negotiated in the final status should be negotiated in that way. And I've made that clear whether any side likes it or not. But I don't believe there is an excuse for terrorism in any case. I believe terrorism is always wrong.
Q Your Majesty, what more do you think the United States can do to try to get the peace process back on track?
KING HUSSEIN: I think the United States has taken the lead over many years and I've had the privilege of working with the President for the establishment of peace -- not only between Jordan and Israel but a comprehensive peace in the region. And I hope to have the chance to discuss with the President what further steps all of us can take --
Q Would you like to see the Secretary of State go to the region? Do you think that would help at this point?
KING HUSSEIN: I suppose at some point in the future at an appropriate moment that, sure, the Secretary of State should probably visit the area, and she'd most welcome.
Q -- to support Israel as it seeks peace? Is it time to ask Israel to do certain gestures or to support them or to press them to make issues?
Q Are you sending Albright to the Middle East?
THE PRESIDENT: At the right time. I certainly want her to go, but I want it to be part of a clear strategy designed to produce progress. And I will make the decision in consultation with -- obviously with Secretary Albright and my entire team, but also with King Hussein and are other friends in the region. We want it to -- I couldn't say it better than His Majesty did, that we want it to be a trip that will actually be part of a strategy designed to move the process forward.
Q The Jordanian press would like to share with you our wishes for a speedy recovery.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, thank you so much. Well, it's just an unfortunate accident, but I'm making good progress.
Let me make a statement first, if I might. I believe this is my 15th visit with His Majesty King Hussein, and I welcome him back to the White House. I am eager to have this opportunity to discuss the peace process, as well as issues relating to our bilateral relations. And I cannot express how much I continue to admire the role he has played and the courage he has displayed consistently, in very personal terms, including after the unfortunate incident recently along the border and his trip to Israel.
I do not believe we can have a comprehensive peace in the Middle East without the powerful influence of King Hussein. The United States believes that we have more to do now. We've been talking about some other steps we could take, and that's what I want to visit with the King about, so I'm looking forward to it.
Q Mr. President, you just mentioned the role that His Majesty has played, and he has invested all of his personal credibility and prestige to bring the parties together and rescue the peace process. But recently, the U.S. veto of two U.N. resolutions on settlement was seen by many Arab countries as a departure from long-standing policy. What are you, Mr. President, willing to do to change that image and to help His Majesty put the peace process back on track without seeing any more of the violence we've seen in the past few weeks?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me say that the vetoes did not evidence support in the United States for the decision for the building to go forward at Har Homa. And I made that clear at the time. We were very clear about our position on that.
We vetoed the resolutions for two reasons. One is, we don't think that they're very helpful to the peace process. And second is, there were other -- there was language in both resolutions which we believe prejudiced the final status negotiations against the Israelis in the same way that we favor -- we felt that some of the actions prejudiced final status negotiations in their favor. We don't want to do either one.
What we want to do is to see these final status issues, as envisioned by the Oslo agreement, actually and honestly negotiated without prejudice. I think that is the clear thing that I want to drive home here.
And I want to discuss with His Majesty what are the next steps we can do. How can we create a sense of both security and confidence in the Middle East, that is, that the Israelis will believe there is a commitment on the part of the Palestinians to security, and the Palestinians will have confidence that the Israelis will not attempt to prejudge the issues that should be negotiated in good faith between them.
And we have some ideas. We'll be discussing them. And perhaps together we can get this peace process back on track. We'll do our best.
Q Mr. President, how do you envisage -- cooperation and support Jordan in your second term, please?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'd like to do more. I think that Jordan has done as much to keep the Middle East peace process alive and moving forward as any nation, without much -- frankly, without much assistance from the outside for doing it. And I believe that we should do more, and that's another thing I want to discuss with His Majesty, what other steps we can take and how we might go about getting that done.
But I think that's something that ought to be a part of our private discussions until I have more to say on it.
Q Is the Iraqi situation going to be one of the issues discussed with His Majesty? And what can be done to alleviate the Iraqi suffering, of the Iraqi people?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the reason we supported the U.N. Resolution 986 is so that the oil could be sold to alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people. So Saddam Hussein can use that money now to alleviate that suffering. And we certainly hope that he will. That's why we supported the United Nations resolution all along. So I think that's the first time that needs to be said.
However, from my point of view, we still see no evidence that he has changed his fundamental attitude toward his neighbors or his fundamental way of operating. And so I still believe that our position is right on that. But we supported 986 in the hope that the suffering of the Iraqi people, and especially children, could be alleviated by that income coming in for that purpose.
Q Your Majesty, how could Jordan and the United States of America work together to advance the peace process and build confidence again between the Arab partners and Israelis?
KING HUSSEIN: I believe that we are working together. We have worked together as partners and friends totally committed to the cause of peace, and I certainly hope that this will be another opportunity for me to speak with the President and our friends here and to discuss what needs to be done beyond this point.
Q President Mubarak said this morning that the peace process reached its low point -- that the peace process reached its low point in 20 years, is what President Mubarak said this morning.
KING HUSSEIN: -- statement. I would like to say that all the ground we have covered right now shouldn't be considered as nothing. I think we have come a long way, and certainly conditions today are not what they were 20 years ago.
END 12:07 P.M. EST