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Remarks with Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Maher

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
April 9, 2002

PRESS AVAILABILITY

Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell And Foreign Minister of Egypt Ahmed Maher

April 9, 2002 Cairo, Egypt

(10:20 a.m. EDT)

FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: It's always a pleasure to receive Secretary Powell in Egypt. We always have very open, profound, and useful and productive discussions. This is no exception. The president was happy to receive Secretary Powell. They had a very thorough exchange of view and review of the serious situation in Palestine as a result of the invasion of Israel to -- of the territories of Palestine.

And they discussed the ways and means to ensure that the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Palestinian territories, the establishment of a ceasefire, the starting of implementation of the Tenet paper and the Mitchell report recommendations, which should open the way towards a serious political negotiation on the basis of all the principles that are agreed upon.

We already have many documents to work on for the political negotiations. We have Security Council resolutions, from 242 to the latest resolutions. We have the Arab peace initiative, agreed unanimously in the Beirut summit. We have the speech by President Bush in the General Assembly. We have the speech of the Secretary in Louisville. So we have elements that allow us to work for a political solution, a just and lasting and comprehensive political solution.

We have agreed that it is important for all the parties to cooperate in this regard, and we impressed upon the Secretary the importance of his meetings next week in Israel and Palestine. We believe that the only way to ensure security is to link the security talks with the political talks, meaning that they should go together, because security cannot be achieved through force, through the use of force, but through the creation of an environment that is helpful to create confidence between the parties.

We had the opportunity to reaffirm Egypt's position concerning the refusal of any challenge to the leadership, to the legitimate leadership of President Arafat, who is the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people. This is the address where all negotiations should be conducted.

And I think that we have agreed that working together with all the countries that are willing to cooperate with us in building a true peace will finally make the cause of peace prevail, so that the peoples of the Middle East can live together in peace and security, and enjoy the benefits of a peaceful era.

Mr. Secretary, it's a pleasure to have been able to meet with you and to talk with you. Talking to you is always very instructive and very helpful, and I wish you luck and success in the rest of your mission in our part of the world.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, and thank you for the warm welcome that you extended to me and my delegation once again. And I also appreciated the opportunity to share views with President Mubarak, an old friend. And we have always had the habit of speaking candidly and directly to one another.

I come here at a difficult time, a time when we see violence in the Middle East. We see violence where young men and women, children, are dying on both sides. I come with a commitment on the part of President Bush, the American people, and the international community, to try to do everything in our power to bring this violence to an end, so we can, as my colleague said, move to a political track.

All of us know that we must get to a political track. We must get to political discussions which will lead to the creation of a Palestinian state called Palestine, living side by side in peace with Israel. These two peoples must live together in peace for there to be a future for their children, and their children's children.

President Bush gave a very important speech last Thursday where he once again communicated his vision. He made the case that terrorism must not be allowed to work. He made the case that it is important for both sides to recognize they have obligations, they have responsibilities, and both will have to make hard choices in the presence of violence, in the presence of danger, in the presence of instability and uncertainty.

And in his speech, he asked for the Israeli government to end its incursions, and to do it as soon as possible. He reiterated that call last Saturday, and asked that it be done now. I'm pleased that in the last 24 hours, the Israeli government has started to pull back from some of the cities that it had gone into, although there are still a lot of movements taking place, and we have seen some rather fierce fighting in Jenin, and the situation is unsettled in a few of the other areas, as you all know.

Nevertheless, the President hopes that Prime Minister Sharon will end this operation quickly and start to remove the forces now, and we hope that yesterday's beginning steps were the beginning of the end. At the same time, we know it is difficult to disengage that quickly when people are locked in contact -- is the way we see it in Jenin this morning. But that's even more reason why time is of the essence, and we must expedite the end of this operation and the withdrawal.

Prime Minister Sharon has reaffirmed to me yet again this morning in my conversation with him his commitment to bring this to an end as quick as he can, and his commitment to moving forward with not only security discussions, but with a political process that will find a way forward.

My trip in the Middle East this week is for the purpose of consulting with our friends in the region. President Bush wanted me to spend time in the region talking to our friends -- the Egyptians, the Moroccans. We also had good conversations last evening with the Saudis. And I will go on to meet with European colleagues, Russian colleagues, and Secretary General Annan tomorrow in Madrid, and then back to meet with King Abdallah of Jordan, and then into Jerusalem, where I'm looking forward to conversations with the Prime Minister, and I intend to meet with Chairman Arafat.

These are difficult times, but I think that if we all continue to have a common vision of the future of where we want to see this all end, and if we recognize that we have to link security and a political process together so people can see not just a ceasefire, as important as that is, but something beyond a ceasefire: a political settlement that will move us in the right direction, to the creation of a Palestinian state, a state that will have borders that everyone will recognize, borders that will come into being as a result of negotiations that lay ahead; settling all of the outstanding issues in due course; and with that vision of a state -- hopefully, hopefully -- the Palestinian people will realize it is in their interest now to do everything they can to control their passions, to control the violence, to bring it down, so that we can get a political process moving.

We almost had one two weeks ago when we had the successful Arab summit. With Egypt's contribution to that summit, we came out with a powerful declaration. The UN has issued powerful resolutions. The President of the United States has spoken of his vision. Other world leaders have. But that dream was deferred at that time by violent terrorist action, the kind of action that we must call on all sides to do everything in the power of all of the players and parties to bring to an end so that we can get into a ceasefire and we begin the discussions towards peace and a new state.

QUESTION: There is the public perception -- excuse me. There is public perception in the Arab world that you kept Jerusalem till last, giving Sharon ample time to wipe out Palestinians. So, what's your interpretation, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: My answer is very direct. President Bush made his statement last Thursday, calling for the Israeli authorities to stop, and then he reinforced that on Saturday, saying now. He did again yesterday, saying now. I have conveyed that same message to Prime Minister Sharon in a number of phone calls.

So my presence in Jerusalem is not necessary for them to understand that message, and I can assure you that I am -- what I am doing this week in these other meetings is putting together a consensus among all of the nations that have an interest in this, all the members of the international community, so that I can go to Jerusalem with a powerful message, both for Prime Minister Sharon, and a message also for Chairman Arafat.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you ask anything specifically of President Mubarak? And the suicide bombings seem to have faded away. Does that say something about Chairman Arafat giving a message, or does it say something about Sharon's operation having some -- at least interim -- measure of success? What does it mean to you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, with respect to President Mubarak, we had a good discussion and he offered his full support to my mission. And he said he would be as helpful as he could in talking to Palestinian leaders, conveying to Chairman Arafat and his assistants -- and as you may have noted in the reporting this morning, a number of Chairman Arafat's closest associates will be joining him tomorrow, prior to my arrival in the region for conversations -- and hopefully that will empower them to speak with General Zinni and be ready to talk to me.

With respect to the absence of suicide bombers, I can't answer directly. But certainly, certainly the overwhelming presence of the Israeli Defense Force in the area is having a deterrent effect. The intentions on the part of those who launch such bombers, I can't divine.

The one thing I do know is that this operation will come to an end. Whether it comes to an end right away, as President Bush has requested, or not, I do know that when it is all over, it does not mean the end of suicide bombers. It does not mean the end of those who would use terrorism, or would use violent means, as a way of destroying the promise for peace.

Our concern, and the reason we are acting so aggressively now with respect to ending the incursion, is we believe that the effect of the incursion, throughout the Arab world and throughout the rest of the world, is very negative with respect to Israel's long-term interest, and in terms of Israel's relations with its neighbors, and in terms of the United States' long-term interests in the region, and frankly the world's interest in the region.

QUESTION: Sir, do you recognize that the United States still recognizes President Arafat as the sole representative of the Palestinian Authority? Or do you share the thoughts of Mr. Sharon, of substituting him by another leadership?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States recognizes that the Palestinian people view Chairman Arafat as their leader. I have said this repeatedly. It is up to the Palestinian people to decide who their leader will be, whether elected or otherwise. He has been given that mantle of leadership by the Palestinian people, and I recognize that as such.

And as a leader of the Palestinian people, he has many obligations, and I hope to have the opportunity to talk to him and his associates later this week with respect to what we would like to see them do in order to bring this current situation to an end, and to get back into conversations and discussions that will lead to security, a ceasefire, and immediately into political discussions.

QUESTION: Do you think that Yasser Arafat, Mr. Secretary, has done enough to call for an end to the suicide bombings? Or would you like to see more, even before a complete Israeli withdrawal -- contrary to what many of the Arab leaders are saying, which is that the Israeli withdrawal has to come first?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think this is the time for all of us to recognize that this kind of activity -- suicide bombing, killing of people, the response that comes in return -- all of this has to be brought to an end. And it is not helpful to try and sequence it, because we'll never get it sequenced properly.

And so I would ask all parties now to speak out against this kind of activity. I would ask all leaders of Arab nations, all Palestinian leaders, to say to their people, and to say to people throughout the world, this is the time to stop this kind of activity, because there is a process waiting for us that will get us what we want -- which is a state, which is peace, living side by side with Israel. To the extent that there are people who do not want peace, who do not want Israel to exist, they have to be told that that is wrong, they have to be fought, that sentiment has to be fought.

Israel must be allowed to have peace; The Palestinian people must be allowed to have peace in their own state called Palestine. It is a vision that President Bush has spoken to directly. He is the first American President to stand before the United Nations, as he did last fall, and in front of the international community speak of this vision, and the first United States President in such a forum to say that we must have peace that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state called Palestine living side by side with Israel.

That must be the dream and the vision of all of us, and we must all dedicate ourselves to that end -- all leaders. And that means getting the violence down now, or else future generations will never forgive us.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Secretary Powell has said about the sequencing, that Arab leaders have to speak out more forcefully?

FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: Yes, I first want to say that Egypt has always been against violence, and against civilian victims on both sides.

What we see these days perpetrated by Israel in the Palestinian territories is extreme violence, and we have seen how many civilians have been killed, how many civilians have been maimed, how many houses have been destroyed, and how people have not been allowed to get medical help that they needed, and bodies have not been allowed to be buried. This is the sort of violence that has to stop.

We believe that it is important for the Israelis to stop, as the Secretary said, their incursion -- or invasion, as I would call it -- withdraw from the territories. And I think there should be some sort of observer corps to see that what happened is not repeated. This is very important, and I think this is a point that we have made to the Secretary. And I think the Secretary agrees with the necessity to have observers on the ground.

SECRETARY POWELL: Just to add a p.s. -- just to add an additional comment to what the Minister said: once we get into a ceasefire based on the Tenet proposal -- which is instantly linked to the Mitchell process, which is instantly linked to political discussions -- the United States has previously said -- President Bush said at the G-8 Summit meeting last year -- that the United States is prepared to put observers -- US observers, monitors -- on the ground that would help with the confidence-building, the restoring of trust between these two sides, get us back to where we were a few years ago. And we are prepared to do that, and we discussed this earlier with the President.

(10:35 a.m. EDT)

###


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