NEWS CONFERENCE BY THE SYRIAN DELEGATION TO THE MIDDLE EAST PEACE CONFERENCE

Location: Grand Hotel, 2350 M St. NW
August 26, 1992
Time: 2:30 p.m., approx.

BUSHRA KANAFANI (Syrian delegation spokesperson): Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. During today’s and yesterday’s sessions we have had deliberations and discussions on different issues. We exchanged ideas in a way that I would like to essentially describe as exploration of thoughts and ideas.

Today we, our delegation responded with his, our remarks about a paper tha was presented to us during the fifth round of talks by the Israeli delegation. And through our response to these, the ideas contained in that document, we had also a fruitful discussion. I would say that we, our deliberations were conducted in a constructive and positive atmosphere and manner, although there still exists a gap, a big gap maybe, between our respective positions.

But we continue to believe that through open, frank, and serious discussions we might be able to narrow the gap and ultimately come to agreement on certain issues that we can term as progress. This is what we hope we can achieve, we, the Syrian delegation.

Any questions?

Q: (inaudible) Mrs. Kanafani (inaudible) this gap between

KANAFANI: The main issue, really, that we differ upon is the question of the withdrawal from the territory occupied by Israel. But to be constructive, we should not just stress, we have a difference here, things areno, let us work on this difference. Let us try, from our part, to make ourselves clearly understood by the other party, hoping that we can achieve progress.

Q (inaudible) the difference on the withdrawal, the Israelis speakng about partial withdrawal or are they speakig about (inaudible) security arrangements

KANAFANI: Okay, the Israeli delegation did not put forward yt concrete suggestions or ideas about that. We are waiting for them to put forward practical positions and steps. But we conveyed to them during today’s meeting, and yesterday’s meeting, and very clearly, that our position continues, and will continue to be that in order to make peace you have to have complete withdrawal from the territories occupied. Yes, lady?

Q: Mrs. Kanafani, can you describe how you see the relationship between the potential for a solution in Syria and the question of Palestine? Can one happen before the other?

KANAFANI: If you mean progress on certain track and another track, we have said before that progress can take place on one track, and the other track wouldn’t achieve the same progress, the same amount of achievement and progress. This is the nature of things. But the ultimate solution, the final solution, should be a comprehensive peace for all.

Q: I’m a little confused, and maybe it’s because I haven’t covered these peace talks before, but how can you suggest that there is a gap between your position and the Israeli position is they have not come forward with their position? You say they haven’t given you any proposals, so how can you know that the gap exists? They must have said something to lead you to believe that you have

KANAANI: Actually we have been hearing statements by top Israeli officials, even now during these three days of talks, and everybody knows about them. From this I can judge the gap. And the Israeli delegation also represents, represents the leadership there in Israel. So there is a gap concerning the withdrawal and we are supposed to work on it in seriousness and with open minds.

Q: You say you’re hearing statements over three days from Israeli officials. Are you referring to statements from Israelis, not from the officials at the talks but from other Israeli officials from Israel to the media?

KANAFANI: Yeah, that’s what I was talking about.

Q: What will be the impact on the peace conference now? President Bush put an ultimatum on Iraq and mot probably there will be another escalation beween the United States and Iraq. Will there be any impact on the peace conference from your pint of view?

KANAFANI: Well, I woldn’t want to discuss this matter at this point, but let us hope that the peace talks will continue in a constructive way.

Q: Mrs. Kanafani, what is the Syrian attitude to the no-fly zone in southern Iraq?

KANAFANI: I’d like to confine myself at this time to the peace talks please.

Q: Is Syria going to make a proposal on its own or has it already done so?

KANAFANI: We have made our position very clear to our counterparts. They know our positions, but since there is a new Israeli government and we have been told by the delegation and everybody also speaks about a new Israeli policy adopted by the new government, so it’s for the Israelis to pt something concrete about this new policy. And they know where our position stands.

Q: (Inaudible) they are willing to withdraw from any territory in the Golan Heights? In these talks have they said anything as to

KANAFANI: Well, we didn’t go into that details. We are waiting for the Israeli delegation to present us with practical ideas and steps.

Q: Mrs. Kanafani, from the last time you were talking about 242 and these latest statements have dealt with 242, and the Israeli interpretation of 242. It doesn’t sound as if you discussed the Golan specifically but are you to the point where you’re discussing what 242 means and would Israel at some point come aroundto seeing 242 in the way that you see it Has that been discussed in the room and could you share that with us if it has been?

KANAFANI: From our point of view, 242 means that withdrawal from the occupied territories. This is the internationally acknowledged interpretation of 242. What our aim is is to discuss ways and means to implement 242. We have had discussions about the Israeli interpretation of 242 in the previous rounds. Now we have

Q: (Inaudible).

KANAFANI: Well, I would rather not get into the details of the specifics about the talks at this time.

Q: You spoke about gap between the Israeli and the Syrian positions. Is there any gap between what you hear from Jerusalem and what you hear from the Israeli delegation, about the Israeli position?

KANAFANI: I wouldn’t o into giving ideas about this. My understandig is that the Israeli delegation represents the Israeli government.

Q: When you speak about the withdrawal from the Golan, there are some security arrangements to be done. In your demand for a withdrawal, what are you offering the Israeli side in terms of security arrangements?

KANAFANI: We have stated vey clearly before and we state it today and yesterday that the equation land for peace, we insist on this principle. We are enaged in a peace process based on two Security Council resolutions and the principle land for peace. We are ready to implement all the requirements of the second part of the equation.

Q: And that includes

KANAFANI: But in order to get to that, we have to get to agreement on the issue of the land, which unfortunately we didn’t get to yet but let us hope that with the new tone,with the new constructive and serious atmosphere, we can conduct productive and positive delierations and discussions in depth so that we can narrow the gap and get into agreement that satisfies us all.

Q: The (inaudible is broadcasting since this morning that Syria proposed to Israel to end the state of belligerencies in exchange of a statement of principle on the withdrawal. Can you confirm or deny this?

KANAFANI: Would you repeat this?

Q: Syria proposed to the Israeli delegation the hand of the state of belligerency in exchange of statement of the principle of withdrawal from the Golan.

KANAFANI: We did not put any proposal yet. I met you yesterday, I remember, and after this meeting we did not put forward proposals on the table. We are waiting for the Israelis to put their own position because there is a new policy, and let’s discuss the new policy. We hear statements from outside, from Israeli officials, yes, but at the end, what is to be put on the table is what is to be discussed.

Q: Is Syria ready to negotiate about an interim agreement or a partial agreement?

KANAFANI: No. My answer is definitely no. The Golan is a very narrow area. Don’t make comparison with Sinai. You can’t have these interim arrangements. And partial, no, because we have to decide on the future of the whole Golan. It’s peace we are talking aout, not arrangements, temporary arrangements.

Q: If the Israelis ask you what do you want, you answer we want land. And if the Israelis ask you, do you want peace and also land, or do you want land and a little bit peace, what’s your answer then?

KANAFANI: We wantI said before, we want the land and we want security and peace for all. And we are serious about that. We are serious about that. We are ready to answer to the reqirements, the full requirements of the equation land for peace embodied in Resolution 242.

Q: So with Syria putting their proposals on the table and Israel putting their proposals on the table, what was the focus of today’s discussion?

KANAFANI: As I told you in the beginning, our discussions today focused on different points, points of this ad that, I’m not going into specifics. That’s wy I termed our discussions as exploration of thoughts and ideas, and I can say that these exchanges were useful, because we have to understand each other’s thinking and ideas and worries, and we made ourselves very clear concerning the matters that are of great concern o us.

Q: On the issue of interim steps, are you ruling out interim steps even if both sides agree that in the end, it would be complete withdrawal?

KANAFANI: At this time, my answer s no, because you see, we haven’t even got to any agreement yet, and interim steps might be something very vague, somethingso our position is no interim steps.

Q: The previous Israeli government, as you know, rejected the concept of withdrawal, and precisely sking, this current government also rejects publicly the concept of withdrawal from all the territories. Therefore, could you please delineate what is that you’re hearing from this government that leads to the very different reaction you’re expressing to this government, as opposed to the last government, since both do publicly reject withdrawal?

KANAFANI: I’m not going to discuss our position towards the previous government in Israel. What we have now, we are talking in the negotiating room. We touchedwe saw there is seriousness that we didn’t see before. And there is frankness and positivity (sic), and we responded in kind because that’s what we wanted from the beginning, but we couldn’t have from the Israeli delegation at that time.

This government, yes, if you talkI mentioned the statements about the Golan and about the rest of the occupied Arab territories we know, but that’s why we are talking. If we are in full agreement with the positions conveyed to us through the Israeli delegation about his government position, then we would have agreed and finihed the problem.

That’s why we are talking, and we will resume our talks in the hope that exchanging ideas, making ourselves very clear, listening carefully to what they will have to say, and they would listen carefully to what we would have to say, the gap can be narrowed, and the deliberations might, we hopethis is our hopegenerate progress and changing in the position of the Israeli government. We are sincere about security and peace, as much as we are sincere about regaining what is ours.

Q: Mrs. Kanafani, you sound very moderate and reasonable, but basically what you are saying is our position is all or nothing. Is that right?

KANAFANI: Let me tell you something. Why do you have to say it is all or nothing? The Golan Heights, I’m talking about the yrian occupied territory, is Syrian territory in the eyes of the international community, international law. When I come, want to make peace. I have to eliminate all the reasons for hostlities, and the continued occupation of part of the occupied territory does not create the atmosphere for the peace tat we all want, I hope that we all want.

Now, some in Israel say that we need to keep part of the Golan for our own security. Well, I am a Syrian, I am proud to be a Syrian, this is my land, the other party wants to keep it, to use it for his own security against mine. That’s not right; that is not even logical. We want security for all, all parties deserve and need to have equal rights, in security, sovereignty, territorial integrity. Then you can bridge, make the bridge that leads you to the "paradise," let’s call it, of peace. But if security is not mutual, it’s not reciprocal. If the solution is not fair, if it is not in conformity with international legitimacy, then peace is impossible to obtain.

You start with peace, not only what you write on papers, in the minds, and this is what we told our Israeli counterpart today. What you think and what you feel about things, how can we have peace while part of our internationally acknowledged Syrian territory, the ownership of the Syrian people is still under occupation, because the oter party wants to use it against my security for his.

I’d like to add something. In 1974, Syria, while there were these contacts about the convening of a conference in Geneva, we said that we are ready at that time, since ’74, to have the front line of the heights of the Golan as a demilitarized zone. This is 1974. In 1992, we’d like to see more positive and reasonable position by the Israelis concerning the question of security. Security of one state cannot take place if it is not in conformity with international legitimacy and if it is on the expense of the other party. What we all want, I hope that we all want, is peace. It isit must be based on understanding the security needs for all, not for myself only, and also for the other party.

Q: Madam Kanafani, if the Israelis withdraw from the Golan Heigts, what is your position on the (inaudible) settlements (inaudible)?

KANAFANI: We haven’t discussed this yet. We haven’t come to this, these matters will be discussed onc we bridge, once we step forward from square one, two, three. I cannot give you a position at this moment but it will be discussed.

Q: Madam Kanafani, you said before, you mentioned for the time-being interim solution, partial solution is out of the question; but you saidfor the time-being and I didn’t understand

KANAFANI: No, no, I rejected. I said no for interim arrangements and partial olution. Let us be clear.

Q: So when the Israelis ask you what the hell are you offering us

KANAFANI: They did not ask us anyway; they did not put forward anything of the sort. There is some rumors and speculations in the press here and there about this. Actually they did not put this on the table; they did not propose anything of the sort.

Q: In your philosophical exploration, when the Israelis ask, to know each other better, if the Israelis ask you what really do you ofer us

KANAFANI: They did not ask us yet. We offer peace, and security in exchange of regaining what’s ours. In the framework of a comprehensive settlement for the hole region.

Q: Mrs. Kanafani, your optimism about bidging the gap then is based on your feeling that you can persuade the Isralis not to go for an interim solution but for a total withdrawal, is that correct? And if that is correct why do you have that feeling?

KANAFANI: My feeling comes from this: we have a good case, we have a good case supported by international law, and the reason of things, and we have a counterpart who is for the first time since 10 months talking in a serious way. So this is a very good beginning and we have been responding in the same positiveness and the same constructive way and let’s hope for the best. Thank you very much.

END SYRIAN DELEGATION NEWS CONFERENCE