Press Briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley

WASHINGTON , May 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following in a transcript of a press briefing by the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley : Continental Garden Reef Resort Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt 11:30 A.M. (Local...

MR. HADLEY: Well, I guess what I would say, and what we said when we went into this trip and I was asked this question, we said very clearly we are seeing progress, but we are not at the point where the President is going to have a meeting with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert to try to declare a vision. There was some talk about a meeting with those three leaders -- maybe later then with other Arab leaders. And we had said very clearly, progress is being made, but we are not at a point so that would be appropriate, would advance the process.

And as we said, the purpose of this meeting was, one, to go to Israel and join in celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary and make clear America's commitment publicly to the Israeli people, to the future of Israel . We think that was a very important thing to do, a very important accomplishment. Secondly, the President wanted again to return to the region and to show his continued support for the effort to negotiate a Palestinian peace. A number of people were writing and saying that the President had abandoned that commitment, that he was -- no longer thought it could be achieved by the end of the year; that we had stepped back from that effort. And one of the things the President wanted to do on this trip in the region, to the people engaged in that effort, is to say, it has my full support, and I still it can and should be done by the end of this year. The President thought that was an important thing to do, and coming here was the best place to do it.

And finally, he wanted to participate in this conference -- he will this afternoon -- and sketch out again in the region, to the people of the region, that there is a vision for a better future in the Middle East . You have all been writing that there's a sense of pessimism in the region and low expectations. And the President wanted to both come and articulate what the challenge facing to the -- facing the region is, and also to give some hope, and a vision of what the Middle East could be.

And finally, he wanted an opportunity, face to face with the key Arab leaders in the region, to share with them and hear from their views of the challenge the region is facing. He found, I think, a surprising level of agreement, and he wanted then to urge them to do more to meet that challenge at the same time he pledged to do more on behalf of the United States .

So it's not the -- I think that's what we set out to achieve, it's what I talked about in the briefing before the trip, and I think that's what we have achieved.

Q Haven't you, in fact, moved the goal posts from a peace agreement by the end of the President's term in office to what we understand now to be a desire for a paper which lays out the agreement of a Palestinian territory?

MR. HADLEY: The President never said it would be implemented on his -- during his term -- quite the contrary. The President -- the President and all the parties agreed that implementation of the peace agreement and the standing up of the Palestinian state would be subject to the road map; that the road map obligations would have to be formed before the Palestinian state would come into existence.

That is something the President has said. That was something that was in the understandings at the time of Annapolis. And what was also said at that time by Israelis, Palestinians and Americans was, that would be a process that would take years. So what we wanted to do, and what is the President's -- still his objective is an agreement for a Palestinian state that is the core of a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians that would ultimately end the conflict.

Q You talked of tangible progress on hard issues -- what progress, which issues?

MR. HADLEY: I didn't say hard issues. I'm not sure I used the word "tangible progress." I was asked what concrete accomplishments we've had and I tried to give the answer to those concrete accomplishments.

Q -- and you said there has been tangible progress in dealing with the hard issues.

MR. HADLEY: And I've also said that it is important for the success of those negotiations that the details be kept confidential. That's what the parties want -- that it is going to be harder to negotiate if where the negotiations are is out in the media. The issues that the parties have said they want to make progress on, and we believe they are making progress on, are pretty well known to you -- issues of territory, issue of refugees, issues of security, issues of Jerusalem .