GAZA: U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Martin Indyk, on an introductory tour of various Mideast capitals, said President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright remain committed to moving the stalled Mideast peace process ahead “as quickly as possible so we can achieve an agreement and start final status talks as soon as possible.”

The senior American official made his remarks here after he had “a very good meeting” here December 13 with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Following is the transcript of Indyk’s remarks:

(Begin transcript)


A/S INDYK: I want to thank Chairman Arafat very much. As he said, we had a very good meeting. I came here as part of my introductory tour of the region in my new position, but I also came here to help to prepare the ground for the next meetings that will take place with the Secretary of State and Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I will also be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow evening. As the Secretary said in Geneva, she feels that there is some progress being made; there is still a lot of hard work to be done, but the United States, the President and the Secretary of State, remain committed to moving this process ahead as quickly as possible so we can achieve an agreement and start final status talks as soon as possible. And in that regard we are working with Chairman Arafat and with Prime Minister Netanyahu to move the process ahead. Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.

QUESTION: Mr. Arafat, how do you see the situation in general? Are you still optimistic?

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: I am a pragmatic man! and we have to work very hard to protect the peace process and to push it further.

QUESTION: Mr. Rais [president] an Israeli official said yesterday that without pressure from the American side, nothing will happen in the peace process. Did you call upon Mr. Martin Indyk for pressure on the Israeli government?

CHAIRMAN ARAFAT: There is continuous pressure from the American side. This meeting that took place with Mrs. Albright and Mr. Netanyahu and me was a part of this pressure.

A/S INDYK: Can I just say that ‘pressure’ is not a word that is in the American vocabulary. We are seeking to encourage both sides and to assist them, to play the role as a full partner and the honest broker. The Secretary of State feels after the meetings she’s had with both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu that this process is now moving forward and she will continue to work with both of them. In that way, we can hope that we will achieve good results.

QUESTION: Mr. Indyk, what is the purpose of your mission in the Middle East?

A/S INDYK: As I said before, my new position as Assistant Secretary of State, I have responsibilities for the whole region. I have made a tour of the Gulf States. Now I am here in Gaza. I will be going to Jordan, Syria and Lebanon later on. I will also go to the Mahgreb states to have an opportunity to consult with all of the leaders in the region and to discuss with them our policies and to hear from them, from our friends in the region, like Chairman Arafat, how best we can promote our common interests in peace and stability in this vital part of the world.