Informal Exchange With Reporters on Diplomatic Talks With the Palestine Liberation Organization

 

December 15, 1988

 

Q. Mr. President, assuming that the PLO lives up to its word on the resolutions and on renouncing terrorism, is it possible, really, to begin negotiations if Israel remains steadfastly opposed to dealing with the PLO?

 

The President. No, of course, because the ultimate solution does not depend on outsiders or us. Peace must be brought about by the involved nations meeting with each other and settling their differences.

 

Q. If the PLO doesn't live up to its word, what do we do?

 

The President. Well, we certainly break off communications.

 

Q. Have the talks started?

 

The President. Pardon?

 

Q. Have the talks already started?

 

The President. No, but we've named our channel, and they have expressed their intention to immediately contact him.

 

Q. Do we have a timetable for this?

 

The President. No.

 

Q. Mr. President, why will the U.S. talk with the Palestinians but not recognize the Palestinian state?

 

The President. Well, because there is no such thing as of now. There isn't a Palestinian state. If you recognize someone it would be -- as that, it would be us declaring who is in charge there.

 

Q. Could we ask the Prime Minister how he feels about this decision?

 

Prime Minister De Mita. I share this view expressed by the President. The importance of this decision is the fact of having found someone who represents the Palestinians. This helps to work towards the solution of a delicate problem because to make peace you have to know who to make peace with and who is your counterpart. And now talks will help us understand whether conditions are there for negotiation. The decision of the American Government is very important because it has solved this problem of finding the counterpart.

 

Note: The exchange began at 11:50 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House, prior to a meeting with Prime Minister Ciriaco De Mita of Italy.