Colin Powell with Egyptian Foreign Minister
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release
June 21, 2001 REMARKS
Remarks By Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell And Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher El-Sayed After Their Meeting
June 21, 2001 C Street Entrance Washington, D.C.
SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to host the Foreign Minister of Egypt, who is an old and very, very good friend. We have been through many adventures together over the years.
In today's meeting, I had a chance to greet him as the Foreign Minister now and to exchange views on a number of issues of mutual interest. We discussed the Middle East and my upcoming trip, and I expressed my appreciation to the Minister and, through him, to President Mubarak, for the very, very important and strong role that Egypt has been playing in this situation.
We also had a chance to discuss our bilateral relationship, which is strong and has been strong for many, many years, and we are examining new ways to improve upon that relationship, especially with respect to military-to-military cooperation.
So it is a great pleasure to welcome the Minister, and I invite him to say a word or two if he wishes to.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I think this was a very constructive and helpful meeting. I have known the Secretary for a long time in our previous incarnations, but this was our first meeting in our positions.
We had the opportunity to discuss the bilateral relations between Egypt and the United States and to note that they are excellent relations and reaffirm our determination to continue working for even closer relations.
We also discussed, of course, the problem of the Middle East, the situation there, the progress that has been achieved in the implementation of certain parts of the Mitchell Report, and the urgency and the necessity to move forward as quickly as possible in implementing the whole Mitchell Report as a package, because we consider that the two aspects -- the security aspect and the political aspects -- are linked; they have to be implemented as quickly as possible in order to achieve the goal that we are all pursuing, which is to bring the parties again to the negotiating table in order to find a solution to this question that has been with us for a long time.
I must say that I was encouraged by what I heard from the Secretary, and we are very encouraged of the fact that he is going to the region next week because his personal involvement and the involvement of the United States Government is extremely important in helping see this process through. So we welcome his visit. I had the pleasure of conveying to him the greetings of President Mubarak, who is eager to see him to continue the excellent cooperation existing between our two countries in solving the problem of the Middle East in a way that ensures justice, peace and security for all the parties.
Q: Mr. Secretary, at the moment a new documentary showing Mr. Sharon indictable as a war criminal. How will this affect your meeting with him and his upcoming meeting with the President?
SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen the documentary. It won't affect the meeting. He will be received as the elected Prime Minister of Israel, and that is the capacity in which I speak to him almost every day.
Q: Secretary Powell, you said a few weeks ago that there is a limit as to how much you can drop in if the two sides are not ready to have a serious engagement. What indications are you seeing that they are going to have a serious engagement on the matter?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, my trip next week will be a little over a month after we announced our support of the Mitchell Committee Report and presented it to the world, and about two weeks after Mr. Tenet left the region, putting in place the Tenet work plan. And I have seen some improvement in the situation with respect to security coordination. The security coordination meetings that have been held recently have been of a more positive and productive nature. There has been some dropping in the level of violence, although it is nowhere near the level that we hope for.
And so it seemed an appropriate time for me to go over, take a look on the ground, speak to the leaders in the region, and make an assessment of where we are with respect to the work plan from George Tenet and at what point might we be able to get started on the formal beginning of the Mitchell Report unfolding, the recommendations unfolding, beginning with a cooling-off period. So it seemed like an appropriate time to do it. I speak to the leaders in the region every day, but it seemed like an appropriate time since I haven't been there since the end of February to go in and take a look and keep the process moving forward.
Q: Secretary Powell, if I may follow up, you also said a couple of weeks ago that you didn't want to go over there unless you could bring something concrete to the table to solve the problem. What do you bring?
SECRETARY POWELL: I hope that my presence and the concrete pieces that are out there now waiting to be connected -- the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell Report -- there are things to work with. And I hope to use those elements to keep the process moving forward. And a lot will depend, of course, as to what happens over the next several days, and hopefully the security coordination will improve even more and hopefully the violence levels will continue to go down. And so pieces are starting to come together and it seemed appropriate to make a trip.
Q: Secretary Powell, do you agree with the Foreign Minister that the political and security aspects need to be linked in order for this to move forward?
SECRETARY POWELL: The Mitchell Committee Report links them all. It begins with a cooling-off period; the cooling-off period then flows into confidence-building measures, and then back into negotiations at an appropriate time. We'll have to work out what that timeline is, but it has always been inherent in the Mitchell Committee Report and inherent in our discussions and our understanding of the situation that wherever you start, you must end up at a political process so that these very difficult issues can be dealt with. And the Egyptian Government and the Jordanian Government have also been helpful in this regard with ideas and proposals that they have tabled as well.
Q: Mr. Secretary, are you going to make sure before you arrive in the area there is a concrete time schedule for the implementation of the Mitchell Report, and how are you going to ensure that this time table is going to be carried out?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the issue of time tables, we haven't dealt with. I don't know that that is a necessary condition for my trip. At some point, a time table will be necessary; otherwise, you won't have a road map to follow, but it is not a condition of my trip and it is not something that I find I have to have in place before I make the trip or before I arrive.
Q: Mr. Secretary, when is the United States planning to invite President Arafat, and why didn't it do so until now? And we know as it is now preparing to host Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel.
SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Sharon happened to be in the United States next week, plans to be in the United States next week, and it is appropriate for him to drop by and see the President. And no plans have yet been announced for a visit of Mr. Arafat, but I will be seeing Mr. Arafat. We have excellent relations, and I speak to him on an almost daily basis. And so I look forward to using my trip as a way of staying completely engaged with Chairman Arafat and with the aspirations that he has for the Palestinian people and the needs that he has for his people and to show our involvement and our connection with him. And I hope that purpose of my visit will be obvious and will be seen as such when I get there.
Thank you very much.