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U.S. Hopes to Further "Calm" Situation in the Middle East

U.S. Hopes to Further "Calm" Situation in the Middle East

State Department Regular Briefing on Tenet, Burns Talks in Middle East (Excerpts). U.S. Central Intelligence Director George Tenet has begun meetings with Israeli and Palestinian security officials in an attempt to further "calm" the situation between Israelis and Palestinians, State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said in a press briefing June 7. Source: Washington File (SFF415), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., June 7, 2001.

"We have seen a lower level of violence," Boucher said; "it indicates to us that the parties are capable of cooperating to end the violence."

U.S. officials, however, want "to push and encourage" both sides to continue in that direction, he said.

Tenet, who started his tour with visits to Cairo and Amman, will continue his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials, Boucher reported. He is in constant contact with Ambassador William Burns, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Having met with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat, Tenet's goal is to make sure that the cease-fire continues, Boucher said.

Ambassador Burns is currently in Amman, Jordan, Boucher said, to help "create an environment in which we can discuss a time line for implementation of the Mitchell Committee report in all its aspects."

In addition, the United States is working very closely with the European Union to end the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, Boucher said.

"The policy of the United States and, as we understand it, of the European Union is very close and based on the desire to see the Mitchell committee recommendations carried out by the parties," Boucher said.

Following are excerpts from the State Department transcript of the briefing:

(begin transcript)

State Department Regular Briefing: Briefer: Richard Boucher, Department Spokesman, State Department Briefing Room, Washington D.C. 2:20 P.M. EDT -- Thursday, June 7, 2001.

Q: Could you update us on Tenet's meeting, please? And any reaction to comments like the Israeli Defense Minister said yesterday, there is no ceasefire. It seems they are getting a bit impatient with the smaller conflicts that are still going on.

MR. BOUCHER: I would say, first of all, on Director Tenet's meetings, I think I mentioned that he stopped in Cairo and Jordan, Amman, yesterday. He is now conducting a series of meetings with the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think he has met already with Prime Minister Sharon, he has met with Chairman Arafat, having discussions with other security officials.

The goal, as we have said before, is to have serious discussion at the security level about how to make sure that the ceasefire continues. We have seen a lower level of violence. That is good. But it indicates to us that the parties are capable of cooperating to end the violence, and we want to push and encourage them to continue going in that direction. That is one of the main reasons why Director Tenet is out there.

It is important that we see sustained actions, actions by the Palestinians to calm the violence, to arrest people involved in terrorist activities. And as you know, we have continued to encourage Prime Minister Sharon to exercise restraint. We are looking for what the Mitchell Report said, an unconditional cessation of violence, and we expect the parties to continue taking steps to achieve that and to engage in cooperation to achieve that.

Q: But you have no question that ceasefire is the word that should be used to describe the situation?

MR. BOUCHER: I believe -- I don't -- now you've got me confused. I don't remember whether Mitchell said unconditional ceasefire or unconditional cessation of violence.

Q: Oh, I don't know.

MR. BOUCHER: So I am not going to quibble over words. We want to see the parties to continue to take steps to bring the violence to an end. And that has to be done, and we think that needs to be done both by their own actions and through their cooperation, and that is what we continue to work for.

Q: Richard, what do you make of these reports that say that Director Tenet has, in fact, managed to persuade the two sides to get together for a face-to-face meeting tomorrow, security talks tomorrow?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to say about tomorrow yet.

Q: Okay. And how about Ambassador Burns?

MR. BOUCHER: Ambassador Burns is in Amman, Jordan. He met with the Director of Central Intelligence yesterday. They discussed next steps. I think, as we know, Director Tenet had some meetings in Jordan as well. So we continue to focus on his efforts, on Director Tenet's efforts to calm the situation, to sustain the ceasefire and help create an environment in which we can discuss a timeline for implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects. And that second part, the discussion of the timeline for implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report, is the task that Ambassador Burns has been given.

Q: So you are not prepared to say that -- or to confirm reports that he is going to meet with the Israelis and -- that Ambassador Burns is going to --

MR. BOUCHER: I will use the same answer I used before. I am not going to discuss the future from here right now. We are going to take this one step at a time, and I will report to you on the meetings that have been held and the travel that has been conducted.

Q: How about this one? What do you make of the EU invitation to Nabil Sha'ath and to Foreign Minister Peres to attend the foreign ministers meeting on Monday? Did this come up with Foreign Minister Vedrine in the meeting this morning?

And is the US welcoming these EU efforts? At what point does it become too many cooks?

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked to Robin Cook last weekend about it. We have worked very, very closely with the European Union on these efforts. In the Secretary's discussions, not only has he worked very closely with High Representative Solana and talked to him just about every day -- he talked to him again this morning -- so he is in constant touch with Solana, but also with other members of the European Union. As you know, Foreign Minister Fischer was out in the region, was working with the parties as these steps evolved, and the Secretary was talking to Foreign Minister Fischer sometimes two, three times a day to make sure that we were coordinating very, very closely with him.

We and the Europeans -- and you see this in the discussion this morning with Foreign Minister Vedrine as well -- we have all been very much united on the issue of encouraging the parties, urging the parties, pressing the parties to adopt the Mitchell Report recommendations and to implement them in all their aspects. And that remains the effort that we are making and the effort that they are making as well.

Q: Richard, there were some reports that the US and the EU are working on like a joint -- I don't know if it's a declaration or a document or a policy. Would you say that all these coordinated efforts between the US and the EU are going to culminate in a kind of joint effort or initiative or something?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what we might want to say together. I haven't seen the drafting of communiqués from the (inaudible) meeting or anything like that. But certainly the policy of the United States and, as we understand it of the European Union, is very close and based on the desire to see the Mitchell Committee recommendations carried out by the parties. I don't think that's where the -- the issue is not between the United States and the European Union; the issue is between the Israelis and the Palestinians. They are the ones that need to come together and implement the support in all its aspects.

Q: Has the Secretary spoken with Director Tenet by phone since he has had --

MR. BOUCHER: Since he's been in the region? Let me check on that. I think I didn't check on those kind of phone calls. We are obviously getting reports from our ambassadors in the region of the meetings that have been held and the things that are going on there. We are in quite close touch with them.

Q: Have there been Arafat or Sharon phone calls since yesterday afternoon?

MR. BOUCHER: Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary talked to both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat. As of briefing time today, he had not talked to them today, but anything can happen.

(end transcript)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).