THURMONT, MD (Sep. 12)
Presidential Press Secretary Jody Powell said today that “there has been flexibility shown by both sides” at the Camp David summit conference now in its second week and acknowledged that some of the meetings have gone “well” and others “not so well.” But he cautioned reporters to avoid such words as “stalemate” or “crucial” in characterizing the various sessions. He denied press reports that King Hussein of Jordan was coming to Camp David to join the conferees. But he disclosed that President Anwar Sadat of Egypt has spoken to Hussein by telephone from Camp David. In the course of his daily press briefing this afternoon, Powell indicated that Israel has made proposals that have been conveyed to Egypt directly or through the U.S. But he dismissed reports that Israel has “reformulated” its position.
In reply to a question by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Powell said “There have been presentations of thoughts and ideas and consideration has been given to them from the outset. I cannot productively report plans. That simply is not in the nature of these discussions. “Powell also said “There is simply not a good basis for predicting or guessing how the conference will conclude” and that “no one can predict with exactness for how long the conference will proceed.”
Powell spoke of “flexibility by both sides” twice under questioning by reporters. His first reference was in response to a question about a news agency report today that despite “gigantic efforts,” President Carter has been unable to obtain “major concessions” from Premier Menachem Begin of Israel. “There has been flexibility shown by both sides,” he said, and “it is correct that President Carter has made gigantic efforts.”
He repeated that there was “flexibility on both sides” when asked what new proposals were made by Israel. He said he did not know how to define what is “publicly new or privately new.”
THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE TALKS
Powell was asked several times about media reports that the summit meeting was at a crucial stage. Referring to “this crucial date business,” he observed that the summit as a whole “is a sort of crucial meeting.” But, he added, it would be “a superficial and unsophisticated way of assessing the situation.” Similarly, when asked if the circumstances indicated a “stalemate,” the White House spokesman said “that is inappropriate, that is wrong.” He said he stood by his statement of last Saturday that “progress seems to have been made in some areas but substantial differences remain in some areas.”
Pressed to say how the summit conference is going, Powell replied, “I can’t do so. There is no basis at this point in doing so. “He observed that it was “inevitable” in this conference that “one meeting goes well and another not so well. That is why it is not productive, not good for us and less for you, to get into speculation. Just watching attitudes might give you a totally erroneous position.”
Asked why there has been no formal meeting since last Thursday between Carter, Begin and Sadat–although the three principals spent four hours together on their trip to Gettysburg on Sunday–Powell replied: “There is no need for one at this juncture. That fact is not relevant to predicting the ultimate success or failure of the conference.”
Powell acknowledged that there have been some “leaks” from Camp David but “not informed leaks and some are intentionally misinformed leaks.” He did not elaborate. Meanwhile, it was learned that none of the principals will leave Camp David tonight to attend the opening concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Begin had invited the President and Mrs. Rosalynn Carter and Sadat to the performance.