Statement by Special Middle East Coordinator Ambassador Dennis Ross on Hebron Agreement; January 15, 1997

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I am very pleased to announce on behalf of the two leaders that they have reached agreement on a protocol on Hebron redeployment and on a Note for the Record on non-Hebron issues. The agreement on the protocol for Hebron is something that grows out of the Interim Agreement, certainly is fully consistent with the Interim Agreement, but is more detailed than the guidelines on Hebron that were provided in the Interim Agreement. That agreement is one, I can say, that reflects the fact that both sides took each other's needs into account. It reflects the fact that it is indeed a fair and balanced approach to dealing with the concerns that each side had. The Note for the Record, which deals with non-Hebron issues, really lays out a road map for the future, and I think taken together, these two documents represent a very important building block in terms of developing the relations between the two sides and in terms of laying out a pathway of greater hope and possibility for peace in the Middle East as a whole.

I want to pay special tribute to the two sides for the effort they have made. This has been a long and difficult negotiation, that has been carried out in a spirit of seriousness and in a spirit of partnership. I also would like to conclude by saying that both the Prime Minister and the Chairman spoke to President Clinton and wanted to express their appreciation to him for all the work and guidance that he had provided. Thank you again for all the work that you have done. I'd like to just add, in the aftermath of the conclusion of the agreement, in addition to speaking to President Clinton, both leaders also spoke to President Mubarak and to King Hussein.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Ross, could you give us some specifics about the agreement that both sides reached tonight?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, the documents that I referred to earlier will be public. The protocol on the Hebron redeployment, and the Note for the record: Both those will be made public. I think I'd rather deal with some of the details at a time when people have had a chance to look at them, and I can answer questions at that time.

QUESTION: Mr. Ross, do you know when there will be the formal signing ceremony?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: I believe each side wants to go through their own internal processes, and so the formal signing will take place only after that has occurred. I would leave it to each side to sort of explain when they will be able to work through what other processes. I would expect it would be a couple of days is all.

QUESTION: What is the nature of the American guarantees in this process? What would you be willing to bring to bear on the process if either side is not seen to be heeding its commitment?

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, first of all, they are not American guarantees as such. There are -- the United States in the role that we play, is prepared to offer assurances, and what the assurances embody -- not only our views, but our readiness to act in accordance with our views, and that's something that we will do throughout the process.

QUESTION: When the act (inaudible).

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, that's something that the Israelis will obviously be reporting on -- I think soon. The time period of redeployment will not be long, but that will be something that I think the Israelis will report on.

QUESTION: The Oslo process has always been marked by delays -- are these dates on a fixed timetable meant to be sacred, or is there a provision to allow for the possibility of delays depending on any particular security situation for example.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Well, I think we're dealing obviously with different kinds of questions here. One is, with regard to Hebron, I think you'll see the redeployment take place very quickly. With regard to issues like further redeployment, I think you'll find that there is a -- at least from our standpoint -- a broad understanding on when the end of the redeployment process will take place, and that was identified as mid-1998.

QUESTION: How do you feel this evening after all these (laughter)...cross-talk.

AMBASSADOR ROSS: Relief is clearly one word. This has been an extremely arduous negotiation, mostly because it became extraordinarily detailed. The fact of the matter is there were concerns on each side, and there was an effort made by both sides to stay within the framework of the interim agreement. But as they sought to work through their respective concerns, especially in the security area -- but not limited to the security area -- we got into a level of detail that became increasingly technical, and also reflected what is frequently true in the negotiations of this type, as you get closer and closer to the end. That is, every time you would conclude an issue and in effect feel that you had resolved it, it would open up more minute questions about the issue and you would get into an even more detailed kind of discussion.

I would be remiss if I didn't call attention to the colleagues who are standing here with me because this was truly a team effort: Martin Indyk, whose home was a site of so many of the discussions played an indispensable role throughout, in a period not only when I was here, with also my other colleagues on the team, but in the periods when we were not here. The same applies to Ed Abington, the two of them together, I think, worked continuously even when we weren't here, and when we were here, they were really instrumental to this effort. I want to express my appreciation to the two of them. But I also want to express my appreciation to the others: Aaron Miller, who is my deputy and whose passion drove him throughout this process, has been my partner throughout and I can honestly say it would be very hard to envision working on this without Aaron. Gamal Hellal is someone who became, I would say, an advisor to all delegations. He is truly instrumental in the process and we all depended on him. Jonathan Schwartz is someone who also became, I think trusted deeply by all delegations and his drafting at times was essential to find ways to overcome difficult problems. Jake Walles, who is Ed's deputy was involved in all parts of what we did. Nick Rasmussen, who is my assistant made it possible for me to figure out where to go and when to go on time. Gina, who has been down here almost all the time also has been very helpful and constructive in everything that we did.

I just want to say that you don't carry out this kind of an effort without an awful lot of help from the people who you work with. This was an extraordinary group of people in terms of their own spirit and their commitment. They sustained a collective effort, and I think we found as a team that we worked with the other teams as well -- both the Israeli and the Palestinian teams. There really was a process of almost communion at times. I won't say it was always easy; I won't say there weren't tense moments because you don't go through something like this without that. But at the end I think the spirit that pervaded this place tonight was really quite striking. You saw it on both sides. There was almost a kind of, not just relief but euphoria. I can tell you that the meeting tonight between the Prime Minister and the Chairman was the best meeting they've had. It was truly an effort to -- on their part -- to recognize that something important had been accomplished, and that they have to find a way to continue this kind of a constructive working relationship.

Thanks very much.

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