THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Camp David, Maryland) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release July 17, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOE LOCKHART Thurmont Elementary School Thurmont, Maryland
4:05 P.M. EDT
MR. LOCKHART: Good afternoon. In lieu of a briefing book, this is what they gave me today, so don't expect much. (Laughter.) All right. Let me bring you up to date since we last spoke, which was just a few short hours ago.
The President completed his bilateral with Prime Minister Barak; met with his team for a short time. As we speak, right now he is meeting with his team in anticipation of a bilateral with Chairman Arafat. The report from Emmitsburg is the meetings continue in a serious and intensive way. Questions.
Q Can I get you a bigger piece of paper? (laughter.)
Q Joe, the teams continue to meet, the teams all continue to meet?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes. Both in Emmitsburg and Camp David, there are a variety of meetings going on, short of the leader level. They're still going through the issues.
Q Can you say how long the Barak meeting was?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't have an exact time. I know it began shortly after I was up here the last time, but I didn't get a time when it broke.
MR. LOCKHART: I'll let you know what happens.
Q Do you expect an all-nighter again tonight on the negotiator level?
MR. LOCKHART: If the last couple nights are any indication, I do expect them to go late into the evening.
Q Two days ago you said that they are working in groups by issues. Still the same thing, groups?
MR. LOCKHART: They're working in a variety of format, including in groups divided by issue, yes.
Q Can you say that delegations are going to continue here after the President leaves?
MR. LOCKHART: I expect that when the President leaves, the parties will have wrapped up their business.
Q Joe, is there any way that you can expand a little bit on your rather sparse description of the meetings today?
MR. LOCKHART: I can go through what I've gone through over the last couple of days, if that's helpful. They're discussing the core issues, the very difficult issues that go to their --
Q Is there anything different? Is there any change in the atmosphere or the tone, or are they exactly the same as --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think it's exactly the same. I mean, I think as you get -- I think that the parties understand the schedule here. They understand that they're working toward that. So as I said earlier today, I think the pace and the intensity have both quickened.
Q Joe, would you talk some more about experts that have come in. Have there been any experts coming in today?
MR. LOCKHART: Over the last few days there have been some experts, but I'm not going to detail who they are on each side, and what they were there for.
Q Okay, so short of getting into that side of it, how about any other color from what's going on in terms of dinners, golf carts, bowling --
MR. LOCKHART: Well, without mentioning his name, there is a senior American diplomat who wiped out on his bicycle earlier today. He is fine. But we don't want to embarrass him. But when the cameras are turned off, I'll tell you who he is. (Laughter.)
Q Does he wear glasses, Joe? (Laughter.)
Q Joe, when you said, I expect when the President leaves the parties will have wrapped up their business, does that mean that you are now imposing a deadline -- the President's departure means end the talks?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I said, I expect. The plan was they would met, and the President would leave. I don't have anything more than if you'd asked me that question seven days ago.
Q Joe, have the Palestinians told you that they intend to break to go to a wedding of Abu Mazen's son, on Thursday in Ramallah?
MR. LOCKHART: No, I don't think -- my understanding is that I expect that he will attend. I didn't know it was Thursday, I just knew he had to leave by Wednesday, which is the day the President has to leave.
Q Can I ask you about Wednesday? You said this morning that sometime tomorrow the President will decide to stick to the schedule on Japan. When tomorrow will he make the final decision about traveling to Japan?
MR. LOCKHART: If I said that, I don't know what I was talking about, which is not new. But the President's schedule is the schedule, and he's not going to make a decision at some point tomorrow whether he sticks to the schedule or not.
Q -- but you did say this morning that the final decision of the schedule will be made sometime tomorrow.
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think so. The President -- you'll know that we're following through on the schedule when you see the President walk up to the top of the steps and wave and the door close.
Q Wednesday morning at 9:45 a.m.?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, tomorrow morning -- oh, sorry, Wednesday morning.
Q -- and if you keep insisting you're going to wrap up the talks -- the possibility --
MR. LOCKHART: If I was in the business of speculating about all the possibilities in the world, I would take that question. I'm not, so I won't.
Q Is there a possibility for another summit, if they don't wrap up?
MR. LOCKHART: I think that falls in the same category as the previous question.
Q Joe, can you cite a couple or three things about the Okinawa meeting that's of great significance that requires the President?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the work the G-8 does is extraordinarily important to keeping the economic expansion that the world has enjoyed, particularly in this country, going. There's a number of particular things that will be on the agenda this year, as far as debt relief, how the world is dealing with AIDS crisis and infectious diseases as a whole, and a number of well-known issues.
Q And he'll see Putin.
MR. LOCKHART: He'll have a number of bilaterals, yes, including the Russian President, the Japanese Premier, and the British Prime Minister.
Q Joe, there was a rally yesterday in Tel Aviv. Can you tell us how Prime Minister Barak kept apprised of that and what impact, if any, it's had on the atmosphere of the talks?
MR. LOCKHART: There's no one who reported to me any change in the atmospherics, and besides being able to read the paper, I don't know what other source of information he has from home.
Q Are they getting papers up there every morning?
MR. LOCKHART: Yes, sure. I mean, there are the --
Q Are they getting the Israeli press --
MR. LOCKHART: That I don't know. I know that the U.S. papers are widely available at Camp.
Q What about television?
MR. LOCKHART: Television is on and there are 60 to 70 channels available.
Q Joe, on a different subject, but one you touched on about the G-8 summit -- AIDS is a national security issue, -- earlier with Ambassador Boucher, but Ambassador Holbrooke -- a resolution in the Security Council -- with AIDS and peacekeeping troops, trying to set it up so that peacekeeping troops would be better educated and informed about AIDS. Where is the administration going in terms of this policy, given that the Republicans have already criticized --
MR. LOCKHART: I think that's an important, but only one part, of an overall effort. I think there was some skepticism and some partisan comments made when a story was written recently about looking at AIDS as a national security issue. I think the recent AIDS conference and the stories that have been done out of that validate the approach the U.S. is taking.
When you look at African countries and all the work we've done to try to promote stability and democracy on that continent, and you look at the staggering numbers involving their population as a whole -- their military, in particular -- you can't help but understand the destabilizing factors that may come into play.
So this is an important issue. And we have, I think in the last year, doubled our international AIDS budget. We need to do more; we're going to do more. And that's one of many important issues that we'll discuss at G-8.
Q When he goes to the G-8, will he be talking to any of the other nations about funding for --
MR. LOCKHART: You know, I think that it will be a good opportunity for the President to talk about the international community's ability and responsibility to help with this process. So, obviously, as we said before this started, having some sort of agreement in place, this is a perfect scheduling coincidence as far as the President being able to sit with world leaders and make the case for this.
Q Why is it more important the President goes to the G-8 than stays on here with the two leaders as they --
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think we look at this and try to rank things in terms of importance, one versus the other. The President has a number of international responsibilities, many of which are done in the context of G-8. I think we made clear at the beginning of this process what the schedule was. We knew that the issues were well-known. It's certainly our hope that the parties can come together and work through these difficult issues before the President needs to leave.
Q Saudi Arabia's -- today issued a statement -- supporting President Arafat's effort in regaining the Arab and Muslim rights in Jerusalem. How do you see that statement helping or hurting the talks, and has President Clinton solicited support from regional leaders?
MR. LOCKHART: I think the President, in the past, has talked extensively with regional leaders about their important role they can play, not only in creating a positive atmosphere, but also in helping to articulate the reasons that a peace agreement is good for everyone in the region. I expect he'll continue to do that in the future.
As far as that statement goes, I don't know that it has any particular impact on the talks, but I think it's important that regional leaders who have a stake in this work positively to create a positive atmosphere.
Q Can you give a statement whether the news blackout has served its purpose in enhancing the prospects of a deal being reached?
MR. LOCKHART: This is my personal assessment, but I think that it has worked, and I think it's worked because the leaders -- the delegations have spent the vast majority of their time dealing with the issues in front of them, the core issues that separate them, and not dealing for three or four hours a day, with negative stories or positive stories, or stories they didn't like, or stories they thought were wrong, that were in the paper every morning. There has been very little discussion up there that has to do with how this is being covered, and with the vast majority of the discussions focused on the issues. That's what is was designed to do, and I think it's worked.
Q So you're not at all frustrated at the fact that you have to come and get up here twice a day and basically say nothing to us? (Laughter.)
MR. LOCKHART: This isn't nothing. There's a lot on this little piece of paper. (Laughter.)
Q You said the other day that most -- a lot of these reports were not well-founded. Do they spend 15 minutes a day talking about reports in the press or --
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, my assessment of it is that -- I can't quantify it, but there's very little discussion of the, as compared to some other sessions that I've been involved in, where there's been a lot of discussion about this thing that was in the paper, or what this anonymous official said, or what that anonymous official said. I can't really quantify it, but it has not in any way functionally or qualitatively impacted the discussions.
Q Would you be prepared to alter the pre-summit warning that if these talks don't succeed, the area will slip into hostility -- given the fact that they have talked the issues out for seven days, do you suppose that will have a beneficial effect, whether or not there's an agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: I think it's hard to say. I think the words that the President used at the beginning of this process, the day before they talked and the morning, were chosen very carefully and I think still apply.
Q Are you ruling out the possibility of any talks at any level continuing at Camp David when the President --
MR. LOCKHART: What I'm ruling out is speculating on something that I have no way of knowing. What I know is that the President intends to get on a plane Wednesday morning to go and fulfill his requirements as an important leader in the G-8.
Q Is it safe to say that the Okinawa summit would make a good justification to suspend the summit without calling it a failure if you don't reach an agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: I don't think I'd ever do that.
Q It's been a week now. How are they holding up physically? I assume they're -- you described their dinner, they're getting enough to eat, obviously. Are they getting enough sleep, recreation, so on?
MR. LOCKHART: I think there are a number of negotiators who have been awake for a long time over the last two or three days. I think it's difficult coming continually back to the same issues with the same people. That kind of environment is not always the best for the warm and fuzzies. But I think they all know the work they have to do and they all understand the opportunity that faces them right here, right now, and the results of not being able to reach an agreement. So I think they understand that and they're all willing to do the work.
Q I know you don't want to talk about hypotheticals, but has there been any discussion among the three leaders about what they will do if Wednesday arrives and there's no agreement?
MR. LOCKHART: I'm not aware of any discussions. The discussions that I'm aware of focus on getting the work done in the time that's allowed to them.
Q How would you describe, wrapping up the business? Is this business framework agreements or interim -- I'd like to know your definition of "the business."
MR. LOCKHART: Listen, I said at the beginning of this they were looking for an agreement. I'm going to stay there, and I'm not going to try to dissect what that word means.
Q Thank you.
MR. LOCKHART: Thank you.
END 4:15 P.M. EDT