THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release October 16, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY P.J. CROWLEY
The Hyatt Hotel Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
3:15 P.M. (L)
MR. CROWLEY: I just thought I would -- I wouldn't consider this a briefing, maybe it's a light briefing or a gaggle --
Q A giggle.
MR. CROWLEY: It could end up a giggle, that would be fine. Just for the benefit of those of you who were not up at the summit site, at the golf course, to maybe go through the morning a little bit and give you a sense of physically what is up there.
The President arrived, as you know, just after 10:00 a.m. He went into a bilateral meeting with the host, President Hosni Mubarak. That lasted about 25 minutes, in the Sinai Suite. The golf course is a two-story, quite lovely club house. And most of the activity has been on the second floor. You come up stairs and there is a large foyer and, actually, a lot of people have been -- members of each team of the respective delegations have been up in that foyer conversing in corners or in combinations. So there has been a lot of dialogue and a lot of intercourse going on there, in and around the various bilateral meetings or the formal plenary and the lunch, those just completed.
Following his meeting with President Mubarak, the President came back to the U.S. suite that we're using, the Noweiba Suite, where he had very quick meetings with Prime Minister Barak, for about five minutes; Chairman Arafat for about five minutes. And then he followed those with bilateral meetings with King Abdullah for about 25 minutes and the Secretary General, Kofi Annan, for about 25 minutes.
At that point, the leaders then congregated in President Mubarak's suite, the Sinai Suite -- they then congregated there and then walked into the plenary room. The plenary room was in the Sharm Suite or Room, whatever, large room, you saw it on Egyptian television. There were there for about a half hour.
Separately, Sandy Berger -- Samuel R. Berger, the National Security Advisor, met with Javiar Solana, from the EU. The Secretary of State has also had her own schedule this morning. She had a bilateral with Foreign Minister Moussa of Egypt. And then together there was a meeting of Foreign Ministers -- collectively, Foreign Ministers during the course of the morning. And, in fact, they are now resuming their meetings after lunch.
The leaders came down from the plenary session -- I should say one thing about the plenary session. You saw the formal aspect of it there in the horseshoe table. But then, before they left, for about 10 minutes or so, the leaders themselves just kind of huddled over in a corner by a window overlooking the golf course, and they had their own kind of private discourse.
And then they adjourned from the plenary session, downstairs, to the main lobby, where they had set up seven tables. All the leaders sat at one table, and again if you -- from left to right, it was Javiar Solana, Prime Minister Barak, King Abdullah, President Mubarak sat at the center, to his right was President Clinton, to his right Chairman Arafat, and to his right, Kofi Annan. And then there are about 40 members of each side's delegation that were also attending the lunch.
So I would describe this morning as basically -- the President had the opportunity to kind of establish a baseline of where we are in his meetings with each of the leaders; and now I think this afternoon, in probably every conceivable combination you can imagine, I expect there will be other meetings both among the leaders, delegations, foreign ministers, et cetera, as we work to get down to some of the specifics about what we believe we can accomplish this afternoon.
Q PJ, can you tell us, in those bilats with Barak and Arafat, what the level of acrimony was regarding the other? What they were basically saying, can you give us any feel for that?
MR. CROWLEY: In the President's meetings with the two leaders? They were very quick, I would describe them as procedural. So they didn't really get into the -- in a five-minute meeting, you're not going to get into a significant discussion of the substance. I think it was just more a case of touching base real quick, a couple of things about how the summit would proceed during the day. And I would expect that you would have follow-up meetings with the President and both leaders this afternoon.
Q Do you have any read-out of the plenary, itself?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not.
Q PJ, can you tell us if the parties have agreed to an agenda, to a common agenda?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that the purpose of this morning was to kind of set a baseline on what we would expect to accomplish this afternoon. I think that work is -- the specifics of how they're going to attack the three areas that we've outlined at issue, working on practical steps to extend the period of calm and end the violence; secondly, to work on the details of this fact-finding mechanism, as the President described it; and, finally, just seeing how we might be able to start to think about moving back towards dialogue and negotiation.
Those, I think, are the broad areas of focus; but specifically how we're going to work through the specific issues related to each of those umbrella areas I think is still a matter that's being discussed.
Q From what you could see -- and I know you're speaking for the U.S. -- but from what you heard or were told, how was Mr. Barak received by the other leaders who spoke with him? All kind of huddling, moving around, meeting in that concourse, I guess?
MR. CROWLEY: I think from personal observation, obviously Prime Minister Barak is approaching this in a very serious way. I would say all of the encounters that we've observed this morning I would describe as business-like. This is a very serious -- it's a very dangerous time and a very serious matter and I think the leaders are approaching it that way.
Q My point is, do they talk to him in the same free way they talk to each other? Or was he -- let's be honest, was he sort of the outcast at this meeting? And did the President have a copy of Mubarak's statement before he made it, because it certainly was prepared in advance and it comes down very, very hard on Israel -- and he's the host.
MR. CROWLEY: I can't speak for President Mubarak --
Q No, I didn't ask you to.
MR. CROWLEY: I'm not aware that the Egyptians shared their statement with us in advance. As for how Prime Minister Barak was received -- obviously, he and the President have a very close working relationship. Other than our meeting, I can't describe others.
Q Can you describe who was sitting where along that horseshoe table? And did you observe any interaction between Barak and Arafat --
MR. CROWLEY: I can say that there has been interaction among all of the delegations during the course of the morning. I can't speak specifically about the Chairman and the Prime Minister. I, personally, did not observe any.
At the plenary, again, in the horseshoe, from left to right, you had Javiar Solana, you had Chairman Arafat -- I'm sorry, let's see. No. Javiar Solana, then Secretary General Annan, Prime Minister Barak, President Clinton, President Mubarak, Chairman Arafat and King Abdullah, from left to right on the horseshoe.
Q P.J., if the President's mood was somber this morning, almost to the point of being dower, is there a sense of pessimism in the American delegation, and is there one issue in particular that the President is extremely worried about?
MR. CROWLEY: I think we're very realistic. We approach this meeting understanding how difficult a time this is, and how deep the wounds are that have resulted of the tragic activities of the last couple of weeks. I think if we have an overriding focus it has to be first and foremost, to stop the violence. You can't expect to make progress in working through a political solution to the issues that confront both sides in an environment of violence. So I think first and foremost, we have to see, and want to achieve practical steps that allow us to extend a period of calm and achieve a kind of disengagement that then allows you to make progress in other areas. So if i had to pick one out of the three, that would be the one.
Q But just to the second part of the question PJ, is there anything in particular that's eating at him today?
MR. CROWLEY: John, I'm not getting your question.
Q Is there anything in particular that's eating at the President today?
MR. CROWLEY: I just think we understand how truly difficult and challenging this is.
Q Can you describe and explain Kofi Annan's role in all this? He has claimed credit for bringing Arafat to the table. Is he presenting American ideas, that if the Americans presented them maybe Arafat wouldn't accept them, but as he --
MR. CROWLEY: I'll defer to his able spokesman to describe specific things that he wishes to accomplish here. I think the Secretary General has played a very constructive role in helping bring about this meeting. We were working with him closely over the weekend, once President Mubarak made the offer to convene the summit. It was Secretary General Annan who worked with both sides, to actually -- you know, along with the President and his engagement -- across several leaders to try to help urge both sides to attend. And it was actually the Secretary General who was very constructive in helping bring this about.
But as for what ideas he brings to this meeting, I'll defer it to his side.
Q Not so much his ideas, but is he replacing the American role as an honest broker in these discussions?
MR. CROWLEY: I think the American role remains unique in the peace process. I don't expect that to change.
Q Can you talk about the security -- top officials present -- in the summit, in the delegations, i.e., the --
MR. CROWLEY: I have had a George Tenet sighting today, yes.
Q The President spoke about confidence-building measures necessary. What are the specific confidence-building measures?
MR. CROWLEY: As to specifics that we may or may not discuss, I'm just not going to get into the substance.
Q One other question.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
Q Why did the President decide to make his opening remarks in public? Was he trying to send a message?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that was by agreement between President Clinton and President Mubarak.
Q Can you explained what happened to the Russians? We saw that apparently Putin, or maybe the Foreign Minister, wanted to come, and heard that the Americans said no to them.
MR. CROWLEY: The attendance here was set by the Egyptians.
Q Is President Mubarak's statement helpful in reaching those goals that you enunciated?
MR. CROWLEY: I have actually not heard President Mubarak's statement, so I'm not able to comment on it.
Q PJ, is this a one-day summit, or is the President going to stay longer if need be?
MR. CROWLEY: Right now, our schedule is driven by two factors. The two goal posts on the one side is that we have about 15 hours of crew rest that requires us to stay here basically through midnight tonight. On the other end, there is a memorial service in Norfolk that the President plans to attend, back in the states, on Wednesday morning. In between that, I think we'll be driven by the substance of the meeting, but right now we're planning to leave at midnight.
Q PJ, is there any progress --
MR. CROWLEY: I would only say that in the middle of the game, let's wait to see what the final score is.
Q PJ, what are the prospects for Arafat and Barak getting together or having the three -- the President and the two -- get together?
MR. CROWLEY: Major, I'll give you the same answer. We're in the middle of the game. I just can't predict what the plays will be.
Q Just to be precise, when is the latest that the President can stay here if he were to make it back for that memorial service?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that he could stay for a number of hours into tomorrow but that, right now, is not our schedule.
Q Might he stay until midnight --
MR. CROWLEY: No. I think he could theoretically stay another 12 hours or so.
Q So until noon?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes. In that vicinity. You know, obviously, there is some flexibility. But right now, we're planning to leave at midnight.
Q Was there any kind of dispute over the agenda that delayed the opening of the plenary? The Israeli reporters --
MR. CROWLEY: I think, understandably, these are extraordinarily difficult issues. This is a very emotional time. I think it is understandable that you want to set expectations on all sides, asking the question of each side, what do you want to accomplish today, what can we accomplish today, how can we do that.
So we've spent the morning working to try to establish where both sides are, how to share ideas with the other participants on how to work through the day so that at the end of the day we can clearly point to progress in the major areas that we think confront both sides.
So given the difficulty of the time, I think it's understandable that it will take some time to work through not only what you want to accomplish, how you want to accomplish, what specifically we can address in the time that's available to the leaders. And that is an ongoing process.
Q So is that a yes? Was that a yes?
MR. CROWLEY: What was the question? (Laughter.)
Q Disagreements over the agenda which delayed the opening of the actual summit.
MR. CROWLEY: There's a process here that takes us from arrival, establishing what we've got to work with. Now I would say we're getting into the meat of the issues. I'm not aware of a specific dispute over the agenda. I am very much aware of how difficult these issues are.
Last question, Andrea.
Q Do we have any independent confirmation that any of these Hamas militants are being rearrested? Do you have any independent confirmation that Hamas militants are being rearrested?
MR. CROWLEY: I'm only aware from news reports that some of them are back in detention. But I don't -- I'm not an expert on that front.
Q We have this security arrangement, this three-way arrangement. Have we been able to --
MR. CROWLEY: I believe that some members of Hamas are back in detention, but I will defer to the Palestinian Authority on precise numbers. Okay?
Q This is a hard question to ask, but let me ask it. Having heard the President's impassioned plea, are you saying that he is prepared to leave here even if he cannot get the two sides to agree to end the violence -- because of other schedule matters?
MR. CROWLEY: Barry, I would only answer it this way. The President has devoted more than seven-and-a-half years to the peace process. I can only imagine that he will work tirelessly during today and he will be prepared to do whatever he can, given the time available, to help move these parties away from confrontation back towards conciliation and negotiation and that's why he's here.
How long he stays and how much progress we make, we'll have to monitor as we go through the day.
END 3:33 P.M. (L)