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Public Papers - 1991

Exchange With Reporters in Istanbul, Turkey

1991-07-21

The President. You asked a question earlier, John [John Cochran, NBC News], and I've altered our policy because we may not have a chance to say anything else. And with Mr. Demirel's permission, maybe you should ask him something.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Well, I actually wanted to ask, sir, you talked earlier about not wanting to use the word pressure in relation to Israel. But haven't the circumstances of the last few days -- given what the Saudis have done, given what the Syrians have done -- hasn't this created a new situation which requires possibly a new response from the Israelis?

The President. Well, we're asking that there be positive responses from all the parties. And our policy is well-known with Israel on settlements; we haven't changed one bit. So, there's some sticking points there. But I think most people around the world view what has happened as positive -- the Syrian letter, the responses out of Lebanon, the responses out of Egypt, are positive. And I'm confident, I hope it's not misplaced confidence, that when the Secretary gets to Israel he will find that they, like all these other countries, realize that time for peace is at hand.

We've been talking, for example, on Cyprus here. And I haven't yet had the chance to hear from Mr. Demirel's position, but our position has been there ought to be a quadripartite meeting. And the Greeks have not agreed to that yet, and this proposal was made by the Turks, but there's, you know, there's still details to be worked out. But that's our position. We've got it out there on Cyprus and we're discussing it with the Greek Government and the Turkish Government.

Similarly, in the Middle East, we've put out a proposal that now is getting the kinds of support from various parties that I think the world has long awaited. So, we'll just keep trying. We can't dictate on either of these two questions, but we sure can be helpful.

Q. Mr. President, if you did succeed in arranging a Middle East peace conference, would you travel to the region to host the -- --

The President. I think it's premature. I'd go anywhere if it would really, truly be productive to help there or help on any other question. But I think it's way premature to suggest that the presence of the President of the United States at this juncture at some meeting or other could be helpful. But the process is moving; I think that's the key point. I just haven't really even thought about that particular question.

Q. Would the suspension of the settlements, would that help -- stopping where they are right now, just marking time -- would that be a key thing that the Israelis could do now?

The President. Well, I would think so. And that's been our position. I had a one-on-one discussion with Mr. Shamir about this months ago and made clear to him that the United States' policy was that there should be no more settlements. And so, that was -- our position hasn't changed on that. And so, we just leave it right there.

Q. Mr., President, surely Mr. Shamir has made clear to you that Israel -- --

The President. Now, wait a minute. You don't ask in that tone; just ask the question.

Q. It would seem that Mr. Shamir has made clear that he does not accept the U.S. proposal and yet -- --

The President. I'm not so sure of that. You don't know what he's made clear to me and what he hasn't. What I'm saying is I'm hopeful he'll accept it.

Q. But, sir, is a settlement freeze the most important thing the Israelis could do now?

The President. Well, I'm not sure. There's a lot of -- we're talking about a conference that will lead to one-on-one talks. All of these questions are important. But, John, the question of settlements has been important. I think anybody in the Middle East will tell you -- and I hesitate to speak for my guest that I just met -- but I haven't encountered anybody in this part of the world that thinks increasing settlements is a helpful thing. And the U.S. policy has been opposed to it for years. So, this isn't anything new with us. This isn't new at all.

Q. What about the Saudis?

The President. Well, we're hearing positive things out of the Saudis. And all that is good.

Q. Did you talk to Secretary Baker yet?

The President. Not today.

Q. The fact that the Syrians no longer require any PLO presence, is that very important?

The President. I think that the Syrian letter and Baker's follow-on talks with Syria is very, very important. And I just don't want to go into the details of what the Secretary talked about.

And now, having violated my non-Sunday answering questions at photo-op policy, thank you all very much. But note, inasmuch as we're here, our interest in matters relating to -- of interest to the Turkish Government. I mentioned Cyprus because I know it's of concern to everybody. And again, we do want to help. And though there has been no agreement on these meetings, this is the key point: we'd like to think that there will be.

Q. Do you want to talk about the 7 - 10 formula?

The President. Not right now. Won't talk about it but -- --

Q. The rapid deployment force -- did you all get into that?

The President. No, I haven't gotten to that yet, but they know our position on it.

Thank you all very much for your time and attention.

Note: The exchange began at 3:45 p.m. in the Ciragen Palace Hotel, prior to a meeting with Suleyman Demirel, leader of the True Path Party. The President referred to Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

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