Powell with Foreign Minister Maher of Egypt
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release
November 29, 2001
Remarks By Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell and His Excellency Ahmed Maher Al-Sayeed, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt, After Their Meeting
November 29, 2001 C Street Entrance Washington, D.C.
9:55 a.m. EST
SECRETARY POWELL: It's always a pleasure to welcome my good friend and colleague, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Foreign Minister Maher, and as we always do, we had an excellent exchange of views. We talked about the situation in the Middle East, and we talked about the speech that I gave a few days ago, and President Bush's statements at the United Nations General Assembly with respect to the Middle East. And we are both encouraged that there may be some new momentum now with General Zinni on the ground. We talked about General Zinni's visits with the Israeli leaders and with the Palestinian leaders.
We also exchanged views about Afghanistan, and I took the opportunity to again thank the Foreign Minister and through him his government and people, and especially President Mubarak, for the strong support they have given us in this campaign against terrorism.
We also talked about bilateral issues that exist between our two countries. Our relationship remains strong, and the Foreign Minister and I do everything we can in our regular meetings and in our very, very regular phone calls to build on that relationship. And I think it is going very, very well and to the satisfaction of both sides.
So Mr. Foreign Minister, once again, it's a pleasure to have you here.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I wish to concur with everything the Secretary said. It's always an honor and a pleasure to be in Washington and to visit with the Secretary.
As usual, we had a very important conversation that regarded all the matters of common concern and common interest between our two countries, particularly the Middle East peace process. And we expressed our deep satisfaction with the renewed efforts by the United States to renew the search for peace, based on the excellent speech made by the Secretary. And I told him how much we are willing to cooperate with him in making this a success, and finally reaching a final agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis that ensures that both peoples live in peace and security, each in his sovereign state.
We also discussed the fight against terrorism and the cooperation between our two countries in this regard, and our hope that Afghanistan will finally find security and stability. We also touched on the bilateral relations, which are excellent, and we discussed ways and means to making them even more excellent. There is a strong cooperation in political, economic and military fields, and we expressed our desire to see these bonds strengthened.
I think that I was grateful for the time of the Secretary. I was grateful for the sentiments he expressed towards the role President Mubarak and Egypt are playing in ensuring the stability and security of our region.
It's always a pleasure to see the Secretary. It's always a pleasure to talk to him. It's very instructive, it's very rewarding, and I will divulge a secret -- it's not such a secret -- by saying that I extended to the Secretary an invitation to come soon to visit us in Cairo.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, while the reaction for your speech on the Middle East was very positive and generally positive, but many commentators asked for a time schedule and a mechanism for implementation. What's your take on that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm pleased at the reaction we received from around the world on the speech. I think it's right to characterize it as positive. I know that some commentators wanted to see a timetable, but I think that will come in due course. Now that General Zinni is on the ground talking to both sides, as they proceed with their work, obviously they will come up with a timetable as to how they will go forward.
And so the fact that it wasn't in the speech doesn't mean it isn't important. That's the kind of work that has to be done on the ground between the two sides, deciding what that timetable should be, and not the United States imposing a timetable.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, because of September 11th, Egypt has a very severe economic and financial problem. Are you ready yet to help Egypt in that matter?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Would you just explain to us?
SECRETARY POWELL: We talked about this. It's a bilateral matter between the two sides. We are aware that Egypt is having some financial and economic difficulty now, with the drop in tourism, and we are looking at ways that we can accelerate some of our economic cooperation and other programs. And the Minister will be meeting with members of my staff and others in the Administration to see how this can be brought about as quickly as possible. We want to be as responsive as we can.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how do you reconcile, sir, your position on Iraq with the position of your closest allies, like Egypt, who think that the United Nations resolutions do not allow for the use of force to force the implementation of the resolution, and the German Chancellor's position, which was very clear? How do you reconcile your position in Iraq with your closest allies?
And my question to you, Foreign Minister, is in the absence of any assurance from the American administration on Iraq that they will not use force, what makes you feel so confident that they will not attack Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: There is no difficulty in reconciling our two positions; they are the same. Both the United States and Egypt support the United Nations resolutions that require Iraq to give up weapons of mass destruction and to allow inspectors in. Both of us have a common understanding of the nature of that regime and what a danger that regime presents to the region and to the world. And we all want to keep Iraq contained.
But at the moment, there is nothing for us to disagree about, in my humble judgment. We will stay in close touch in consultations with our Egyptian friends and our other friends in the region as we go forward.
As the President said the other day, we keep a close eye on Iraq. I was pleased that we were able to get the sanctions rolled over again for another six months. But this time, in a way that will improve the goods review list of what can be sold to Iraq in a way that the Iraqi people will benefit but the regime will not benefit.
And so we understand the cautions that some of our friends have given us with respect to possible future actions, and we will stay in close touch and consultation with our friends.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister --
SECRETARY POWELL: Give the Minister his chance.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: May I answer the question?
I think we have made our position very clear. Among friends, we had frank discussions about this matter. As the Secretary said, friends and allies of the United States are advising caution, and I think he has heard us, we have been heard. And this has been under discussion and we will continue to discuss this matter.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there is a report this morning that the Northern Alliance has agreed to accept a multinational force. Can you confirm this and do you have a comment on it?
SECRETARY POWELL: I have not yet heard that particular report. But there are a lot of reports that will be coming out of Bonn over the next several days, and I think it's best that we not respond to every single report that comes out, and wait for the parties that are in Bonn working this all out to finish their work and then come forward with a single comprehensive statement as to the nature of the provisional government that they hopefully will have formed, and how that provisional government will work with the United Nations and with the other members of the coalition and what support that government may want in the way of peacekeepers, in the way of financial aid, and the other things that a brand new provisional government will require in order for it to be able to do its work.
I am sure they will also wish to talk to the international community about humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts as well. So I think it's best that we wait until they finish their work, and for me not to comment on every report that might come out from moment to moment.
QUESTION: The detainees, the Egyptian detainees and the Arab detainees in the American -- with the American authorities, I understand that the Egyptian Government has been asking for the names of those detained and maybe also Saudi Arabia. And the US Government has been very supportive of good relations between the two peoples, the American and the Arab people. So have you discussed that? Did you give the names of Egyptian detainees?
SECRETARY POWELL: We did discuss it and the Minister expressed his concerns to me. And I know there is concern and anxiety over this issue, and I assured the Minister that I would look into it. There are some legal constraints and problems and there are some obligations under various international accords that we have, and we will look into all of that.
And I hope that in the very near future, as these investigations continue and as questions are answered and clarified, we will be able to get this list of detainees down. But we want to be as forthcoming as we can. But we do have some legal constraints we have to work our way through.
QUESTION: As you know, Mr. Secretary, the Russians have sent in so- called humanitarian workers into Kabul. They have also reopened their embassy there and made their intentions very clear about who they support in a future Afghan government.
How concerned are you that the Russians are trying to tilt the balance? You spoke earlier this week with the Russian Foreign Minister.
SECRETARY POWELL: I am not concerned. The Russian Foreign Minister and I spoke and the Defense Minister and Secretary Rumsfeld spoke. We have been in close touch as to what they are doing. They sent in humanitarian workers, they sent in construction people to prepare a building to be opened as their new diplomatic presence in Kabul. They have also set up a humanitarian aid center in Kabul. All these, I think, are positive developments.
We are in close touch with the Russians and I think they have the same view that we do, that you need a government in Kabul that represents all of the Afghan people and not just one single element. The troops that they have sent in are, for the most part, medical troops, humanitarian troops -- and the word "troops" isn't even all that accurate. Many of them are the equivalent of our FEMA, our Federal Emergency Management Agency, who are desiring to provide this kind of humanitarian support, and construction people. So I have no concerns at the moment over Russian activities in the area.
Thank you very much.
10:05 a.m. EST