JOINT STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
Prime Minister's Office
12:00 P.M. (L)
We have had fruitful discussions, where we could continue our talks from the White House in Washington, only two weeks ago. And, of course, we have discussed the Middle East peace process. We think that the ceremonial commemoration tomorrow for the late Prime Minister Rabin and the talks in that framework can stimulate the peace process. And we are both committed to assist the two parties. The main responsibility for a final solution is, of course, upon the two parties.
Norway and the U.S. will seek ways to expand our common efforts in a number
of areas for security, development and for well-being. The President and I have
today agreed on an initiative to follow up the Reykjavik Conference on Women
and Democracy, where the First Lady, Hillary Clinton, participated.
Mr. President, I believe that you want to say a few words before we answer one or two questions. Mr. President.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you. First, Prime Minister, let me say I am delighted to be here; honored by your invitation to come a few weeks ago, and then by the King's invitation to come to Norway. As you perhaps know, I traveled here alone as a young man some 30 years ago -- it was actually 30 years ago this December. And I fell in love with this country. I long wanted to come back. I was amazed to discover that I am the first sitting President ever to visit Norway. I can't imagine what the others were thinking about -- (laughter) -- but I am delighted to be here.
I also would like to thank you for the wonderful reception that my wife and my daughter received when they represented our nation in Lilijammer at the Olympics, and for the support, Prime Minister, you have given to the Women's Conference and the women's issues that Hillary has tried to raise, most recently in Reykjavik with representatives of your country and the other countries in the region.
We have been friends for a long time. We have been allies for 50 years with
NATO. Today, the Prime Minister and I discussed building a Europe that is united,
democratic and free; and I am looking forward to seeing the Prime Minister again
shortly in Turkey, at the meeting of the OSCE. And I'm very grateful that Norway
is now the leader of the OSCE, serving its term as chair.
I also want to thank you, Prime Minister, for Norway's support for our common efforts to end the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. And I want to say a special word of thanks to the Norwegian people, because I believe that when the 800,000-plus Kosovar Albanians were driven from their home, on a per capita basis, Norway took in more of the refugees from Kosovo than any other country in the world. And that is something that you can be very proud of, and something for which your friends must be very grateful. So I want to thank you for that.
And, finally, let me thank you for your continuing interest in the Middle East peace process and for having this wonderful occasion to honor the memory of my friend and partner, former Prime Minister Rabin. I think it will be very successful, indeed. Your country has a lot to be proud of. You have enormous influence for your size, and it is very much earned and deserved. Thank you.
Q Mr. President, do you believe that the Middle East talks here in Oslo can move the peace process substantially forward?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I do. I don't think you should expect some sort of major announced breakthrough here, because, keep in mind, the parties have had -- since, in the last couple of years, they had the Wye peace agreement under Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat. Then when Prime Minister Barak came in, they modified the Wye peace agreement and agreed to an even faster schedule of implementation.
Since then, Israel has released controversial political prisoners, agreed
to establish safe passage between -- and started it, actually, started the safe
passage between the West Bank and Gaza, and agreed to open a port, which was
a source of great tension between them before. Now they have to move into the
final status talks, as conceived almost seven years ago now here in Oslo, with
the Oslo Accords. So the important thing now is that the two leaders know that
they have set themselves an ambitious timetable and that they agreed about how
they're going to meet the timetable. This is the hard part -- I mean the really
hard part. And we all need to support them.
Q Mr. President, they're still combing the wreckage of Egyptair flight 990. Do you know any more about the cause of the tragedy, whether it was a mechanical malfunction or has terrorism been ruled out? And have there been any threats recently against any carriers flying out of the United States?
THE PRESIDENT: We know nothing more than I said to you earlier today -- it
seems like half a lifetime ago -- when I came out of church with Hillary. We
are still searching. We have to find -- as you know, to make a final determination
about the cause of the crash will require the recovery of as much of the airplane
as possible, as well as the equipment, which will give us some -- if the usual
case is present here, give us a pretty definitive idea of what happened.
Q Mr. President, two things. Could you address Mr. Katz's question about whether there had been any threats to U.S. -- to carriers, airline carriers flying out of the United States? And also, do you see any merit to the idea that's been floated about having a Camp David-style negotiation in January to help Israel and the Palestinians meet the rigorous deadlines that they've set for themselves on the toughest issues in the talks?
THE PRESIDENT: First, Terry, on the first question you ask -- and I didn't mean to evade it -- if there have been any such threats, I do not know about them. That is, I am not aware of any specific threats against American airlines or airplanes flying out of American airports with large numbers of American passengers. If there have been any such, I don't know about them.
Now, it is possible that there could have been some that I don't know about, so I don't want to -- I can't tell you the things I don't know about didn't happen. But I can tell you that I'm not aware of any, and as you know, I work on my intelligence information every day.
As to the possibility of a Camp David-style meeting, I think it is premature
to discuss that at this time. What we need now is an understanding of the parameters
of where we're going and how we're going to get there. I wouldn't rule out anything,
but there is, as you know, going all the way back to '93, there is nothing I
would not do if I thought it would genuinely help to build a lasting peace in
the Middle East. There is nothing I would not do. So -- and I'm prepared to
reaffirm that to Prime Minister Barak and to Chairman Arafat.
PRIME MINISTER BONDEVIK: Last question.
Q Yes, Mr. President, what do you regard as a real progress in the discussions with you and the Palestinians and the Israelis concerning the discussions about peace in Palestine and Israel?
THE PRESIDENT: The real problems?
Q The real progress? What will you regard as the real progress.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm sorry. Well, I would feel that real progress has been made if they made agreements about the modalities under which they will proceed -- the procedures, the process, how it's going to operate -- so that we can move into and then through these decisions in a timely fashion.
There's no way in the world they can come here and agree in talks with me
on the big issues. You know what all the big issues are. That's why they're
final status issues. But if we can get everybody sort of focused on what it
would take to get there within the time allotted, the time they have allotted
themselves, then I think that that would be a very good thing, indeed.
We have, of course, also discussed the situation in Chechnya, our relations to Russia. We have found that we have very much in common regarding the priorities in foreign policy, combatting poverty, promoting human rights, preventing conflicts. And I feel that our meeting has served to strengthen the already close ties between our two nations.
Thank you so much.
END 12:20 P.M. (L)
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