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Remarks on the Agreement With Lebanon, Israel, and Syria and an Exchange With Reporters

April 26, 1996

The President. Good afternoon. As you all know, just a short time ago Secretary Christopher concluded an agreement with the leaders of Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, to end the current crisis in southern Lebanon and northern Israel and to prevent it from starting again. I spoke with the Secretary this morning, shortly after 7 o'clock, and I have just spoken with the Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who joins me in welcoming this achievement.

The agreement will stop Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel and protect both Lebanese and Israeli citizens. It sets up a mechanism to which Israel and Lebanon can refer complaints, composed of those two countries, the United States, France, and Syria. Because it is in writing, this agreement will be less likely to break down than the informal understandings that had been in place since 1993.

I want to congratulate Secretary Christopher and his team for their tireless efforts over the past week. Now the civilians on both sides of the border can return to their homes and resume their normal lives with greater confidence and greater security than in the past. I also want to commend Prime Minister Peres, President Asad, Prime Minister Hariri, and the representatives of other interested governments, including France, for providing leadership which was very much needed to end this crisis.

Now, this agreement will only last if all those who worked with us to bring it about now work to make sure it succeeds. We must not and we will not tolerate new attempts to disrupt the calm which has been reestablished at such a terrible cost.

I know I speak for all Americans in saying that our thoughts and prayers are with the innocent civilians and their families in Lebanon and in Israel who have suffered so much during the last 2 weeks. Now we must turn again to the hard work of building a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Thank you very much.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, doesn't this really accept the status quo, and will—the real crux of the problem is Israeli occupation of Lebanon, and the President of Lebanon told you that he could restore order on the border if the Israeli troops got out. Why don't you work on that?

The President. Well, first of all, that will be worked on in the context of resolving—making peace in the Middle East. That is a part of a comprehensive resolution to the Middle East peace process. That has always been our position. But first we had to restore the peace and stop the suffering of the innocent civilians.

1996 Olympics

Q. Mr. President, there are reports that there have been arrests in Georgia in connection, perhaps, with a militia group making some threats against the Olympics. I know you're planning on attending the Olympic games. Can you, first of all, tell us what exactly is going on?

The President. Let me say—as you know, I have to leave—but the Justice Department will make whatever statements are appropriate there. I think it's inappropriate for me at this moment to say more.

Thank you.

Q. Are you concerned, though, about your security going to Atlanta?

The President. No.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:50 p.m. in the Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Hafiz al-Asad of Syria and Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri of Lebanon. A reporter referred to President Ilyas Harawi of Lebanon.

William J. Clinton, Remarks on the Agreement With Lebanon, Israel, and Syria and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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