U.S., Israel say Mideast peace on track
July 20, 1999
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking Tuesday before a series of meetings with U.S. congressional leaders, said he was confident of continued U.S. support for the Mideast peace process.
Barak was on the final day of a five-day trip to the United States to promote his peace efforts. Earlier Tuesday, he met for breakfast with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who praised Barak's commitment.
"I think it's fair to say that the prime minister's visit has ushered in a new phase in both Israeli-U.S. relations and in Arab-Israeli peace," Albright said. "As the prime minister has said, tough and painful decisions will be required by all parties, but it is equally clear that we are now pointed in the right direction."
Albright also reiterated her plans to travel to the Middle East next month to push the peace process along.
Barak met with Albright and President Bill Clinton in the early part of his U.S. visit late last week, then traveled to New York over the weekend for meetings with American Jewish leaders.
He returned to Washington for a White House dinner Sunday night and further meetings with Clinton, Albright and other administration officials Monday and Tuesday.
On Monday, Barak stressed Israel's commitment to the October 1998 Wye River accord -- suspended by his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu -- and pledged to implement it. He set a 15-month timetable for completing talks on the issue.
"We do not intend to drag our feet for another three years," he said Monday at a news conference with the president.
But Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said Tuesday that a 15-month time frame is too long.
"We don't agree to this. We need to see an immediate implementation to what has been agreed upon ... It is not reasonable to waste more time with the new government," he said.
In Washington, Barak immediately modified his earlier statement.
"I agree with him. It won't take that long," Barak said after a meeting with Vice President Al Gore.
Clinton and Barak pledged Monday to meet regularly until Clinton leaves office in January 2001.
Before meeting with Clinton, Barak met with U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, pledging to phase out U.S. economic aid to Israel over the next 10 years. But military aid will be boosted if Congress approves.
Following his meeting with Albright, the Israeli prime minister was to meet with congressional leaders and attend a luncheon at Gore's residence.
Barak will leave Washington Tuesday and fly to London for a meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Meanwhile, in the Middle East, the peace process moved on several fronts:
Reuters contributed to this report.
Clinton, Barak to meet every four months
Israel's Institutions of Government
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