THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Shepherdstown, West Virginia) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release January 3, 2000
READOUT BY JOE LOCKHART TO THE TRAVELING PRESS Shepherdstown, West Virginia
10:58 P.M. EST
MR LOCKHART: I have very little to tell you. The al-Shara bilat finished. It went about 45 minutes. The President's in now, just doing a debrief of the day with the team, because Secretary Albright and a bunch of the team are staying overnight. So that's all I have.
Q Joe, can I ask you, if all we're talking about is longer than expected meetings with Albright, et cetera, and it's just a scheduling thing, why isn't he planning on coming back tomorrow?
MR. LOCKHART: We'll make a determination tomorrow.
Q So we shouldn't read anything into this?
MR. LOCKHART: No. What I'm trying to do is tell you that I'm not going to help you read things into here. The schedule is fluid, will be -- as those of you have suffered through Wye with us, as I said earlier, it will remain fluid. We'll make judgments throughout the day on what's the best course of action. And I'm just not going to get into what you should or shouldn't read into it.
Q But you certainly don't expect to have a decision on whether he's coming back tomorrow tonight?
MR. LOCKHART: I absolutely don't expect a decision tonight.
Q Could you give us some sort of idea of the tenor of this last bilat with al-Shara, or any kind of atmospherics, whether they were in a small room, a large room, if they were alone?
MR. LOCKHART: They were in a room probably twice the size of my office, which is near the back courtyard. I don't know on this one how many people went in, but they have been small groups throughout the day, so I don't think there was a big --
Q They weren't alone? Were they alone?
MR. LOCKHART: No, there's always at least a note taker.
Q Have you talked to the President since that meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: No. He's in with the team. I'm going to talk to him on the helo, so that's why I have very little.
Q Would you still stick with your view of five or six hours ago that things are off to a good start?
MR. LOCKHART: Sure.
Q Paused for six seconds. (Laughter.)
Q Less than reassuring. (Laughter.)
Q Would you say that this is an unexpected turn of events, this late -- with the cancelled three-way talk, and going home tonight?
MR. LOCKHART: I'd say not to try to expect how these will go forward, just we'll continue to keep you informed of how it's going.
Q In all seriousness, Joe, can you tell us -- I know you can't tell us the real substance of what happened, but why did you pause for so long? I mean, do -- you seem to be wondering whether you could characterize this as a good day of talks. Is there something there?
MR. LOCKHART: Because when I talked to you all four or five hours ago, we were talking about the first meetings. I think once you got past that, you get into the substance, and they're getting into the tough issues that they've got to work through, and any characterization that I made here would provide you some insight into the substance, and I'm just not prepared to do that. So that's why I paused; I was trying to think of a clever way to say that, but failed.
Q Let me ask you something. Can you tell us anything at all about what it was, or at least when a second bilat with the Syrian Foreign Minister was decided upon?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. After we came back here, the Secretary of State met with both parties. After those two meetings, she met with the President and the team, and they made the judgment that the best course of action this evening was to schedule another bilat.
Q The actual team made the judgment, or did the President make that?
MR. LOCKHART: The President makes the --
Q But you can't say like what subject they were on that precipitated this other meeting?
MR. LOCKHART: No.
All right? It's been fun.
Q No, it hasn't.
MR. LOCKHART: Of course it hasn't. (Laughter.)
Q I'm getting a new job after this.
MR. LOCKHART: We've heard that before. (Laughter.)
END 11:03 P.M. EST