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Richard L. Armitage Interview on Egypt TV

Interview on Egypt TV

Richard L. Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State

Washington, DC
September 10, 2004

(9:40 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary, for this opportunity again; and let's start with the war against terrorism -- this international war against terrorism -- three years after September 11th. Where are you now in this war?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I think it's not just the United States. The international community has seen over 50 million people freed from terror of authoritarian rule both in Iraq and Afghanistan. We stand on the verge of a momentous election October 9th in Afghanistan. Many, many cells of al-Qaida have been disrupted, though clearly, we see al-Qaida and their subsidiaries still active as we saw in Indonesia. So we're in the middle of this war and we're going to continue to prosecute it to the end.

QUESTION: As you know, Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared again with a new tape, claiming they are the winning, the United States is losing and bleeding to death in Afghanistan and Iraq. Your response?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, saying something doesn't make it so. And Dr. al-Zawahiri's appearance was interesting. He clearly is uninformed about what's going on in Afghanistan.

As I said, almost 10 million people have registered to vote in Afghanistan, 41 percent of them women, far exceeding the expectations of anyone in the international community. It sounds to me like the people of Afghanistan are ready, and not al-Zawahiri or Usama bin Laden.

QUESTION: Okay, but many people say that this war in Iraq was a distraction in the war against terrorism. What's your take on that?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Our President was not willing to wait for a storm to gather. Having suffered on 9/11, along with citizens of many other nations; we weren't going to wait until trouble, again, appeared at our doorstep. And we --

QUESTION: But Iraq had no connections.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I know. I didn't claim that Iraq did, but Iraq had a connection to terror more generally, and has employed weapons of mass destruction, and, more importantly, has threatened her neighbors, lied to all the leaders of the Middle East, historically, including President Mubarak, I might add. I remember very well discussions with him on the eve of the first Gulf War. This was a man who was going to be trouble for the neighborhood and for the neighbors, and now he's gone.

QUESTION: But now that 1,000 American soldiers in all were killed, dozens of thousands of Iraqis were killed, including civilians; people would wonder -- was it worth it that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, had no connection with al-Qaida, for there is no proven evidence that there was such a connection.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, you're absolutely right that over 1,000, now, American servicemen and women have given their lives. And it will only be worth it if there is a successful conclusion to the problem of Iraq.

I would note that when people talk about Iraq today, they seem to forget the more than a million Iraqis who died at the hands of Saddam Hussein and how many citizens of Kuwait were raped and killed, murdered by Saddam Hussein. So I think you have to compare things.

We are in a much better situation now. One thing we know for sure, Saddam Hussein will never again invade his neighbors. Saddam Hussein will never again have a program of weapons of mass destruction. And Saddam Hussein will never again kill his own citizens.

QUESTION: Talking about violence in Iraq, the Secretary General, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned that this could lead to a delay in the elections in Iraq. Do you think this would be that, that the reality there, that you have to delay the elections there?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No. Prime Minister Allawi has been very clear on this, along with the other ministers of his government. They're going to have elections in January of '05. Now, will they be trouble free? Will they be easy to hold? No, they won't. It will take a lot of hard work by coalition, by the United Nations and by the citizens in Iraq, but we're holding elections in January.

QUESTION: This is for sure?



DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: And when Prime Minister Allawi comes to New York for the UN General Assembly, you might ask him. And I'm sure you'll see he's much more credible on this issue than I am.

QUESTION: And do you think it's doable regardless of this violence?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It's doable. It will not be a perfect election because of security, but it's absolutely doable.

QUESTION: Okay. Where are you in your efforts? Because people talk about $20 billion were allocated to rebuild Iraq, but you were not able to spend most of that because of the security situation there.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Now, we have disbursed, that is, put actual money, into Iraq of about a billion, a billion and a half dollars; we've obligated towards Iraq around seven or eight billion, and we have about 10 billion more to obligate. Because of the security situation, we've had some difficulties.

Since Ambassador Negroponte and his team arrived in Baghdad, we've doubled our efforts, right alongside the Iraqi ministers and Iraqi ministries, and the money is flowing out much faster now than was the case previously.

QUESTION: Okay, wonderful.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: By the way, that's just the U.S. contribution, to which you referred. There is an international contribution I think you should calculate. There is also Iraqi national budgets. They are exporting oil to the tune of 2.4 million barrels a day, which gives the Iraqi Government a certain amount of income, which they also apply towards reconstruction in Iraq.

QUESTION: Okay. Yesterday, Israel's Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was quoted as saying that Yasser Arafat is a terrorist and his expulsion is closer than ever.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We have spoken to the Israelis in the past about this. I didn't see Foreign Minister Shalom's statement. The views of the Israeli Government towards Mr. Arafat are very well known and run along the lines that you just mentioned. The fact of the matter is that he, Arafat, is a factor in life for Palestinians, and we have to take that into account.

It's equally true that Yasser Arafat hasn't used any of his influence to try to bring about a better Palestinian Authority, one that's less quarrelsome internally and more designed to be able to really be a negotiating partner with the Israelis.

QUESTION: So you don't think his expulsion is closer than ever?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I have no reason to think so.

QUESTION: And if the Israelis believe -- did the Israelis discuss it with you?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: They haven't discussed this with me, to my knowledge -- with us, to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Okay. And if they do?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: If they do, we'll consult with others in the region and find out. I would think they'd also want to talk to Egypt. You've had some close relationships, and you've been so supportive of the Palestinians in a very positive way. I think it's unlikely.

QUESTION: But you don't have a red light on this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We have spoken publicly about it. We don't think that's a good idea, and we have made it very clear.

QUESTION: Okay. Javier Solana and Jack Straw came out recently to talk about Israeli settlements, that it will be actually -- it will lead to a settlement of Jerusalem, and it will make it possible to have a viable Palestinian state. Even Solana called on the United States to put pressure on Israel to stop these settlements. What do you think on this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The President has been very clear. He laid out his vision for a two-state solution in June 24th, 2002. He called upon the necessity of all settlement activity stopping. And it is our policy. And that is our view. We have had differences of opinion with the Government of Israel on this, but these are differences of opinion. We'll discuss with them privately, which we think is more productive than publicly, which might lead some people to feel the need to know actual progress on the problem.

QUESTION: But we don't see this actual progress with these private discussions.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: You know, it's pretty tough to have progress when you don't have a -- you only have one part here to negotiate. You have -- the Israelis are ready to move forward on Gaza withdrawal, et cetera, and have no Palestinian Authority with whom they can negotiate. You see right now the Prime Minister is threatening to resign again. That leads, I think, to confusion within the Palestinian Authority ranks, hence, there is no partner. So you're looking for progress in the absence of having two negotiating partners being able to sit down and it doesn't seem reasonable.

QUESTION: So are you against what the Israelis call natural growth in settlements?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It depends on what the definition of natural growth is. There are some questions that will be raised when settlements are settled to the tune of 30 percent to 35 percent. It doesn't seem reasonable to have those -- that expand. But there has to be a definition of natural growth before I can answer your question.

QUESTION: So you are not really unequivocal on this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I'm being equivocal because I'd like to see the definition to which all people can agree of natural growth, and then I can answer your question. But since I haven't seen that, I can't answer your question.

QUESTION: But Israel, actually, is using this to expand settlements in the area.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Now, we have spoken to our Israeli friends about this, and our view is, as the President put forth, all settlement activity must stop.

QUESTION: Okay. But when you say "all," this should include natural growth.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, I say, what is the definition of natural growth? If you have settlements that already exist and you put more people into them but don't expand the physical, sort of, the area -- that might be one thing. But if the physical area expands and encroaches, and it takes more of Palestinian land, well, this is another. So to say that it depends on the definition of natural growth.

QUESTION: With regard to Israel -- to the Israeli wall, even with all of the modifications, after all the discussions, it looks like 1500 acres of the Palestinian land will be incorporated inside this wall. Is this acceptable?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We think, and we have been very clear on this, that anything that encroaches further on Palestinian lands, lands which should be the subject of negotiation, is unacceptable. It's making a fact on the ground, which would prejudice the new future of the outcome.

Having said that, there is no question that the ability of terrorists to get through and harm Israeli citizens has been severely thwarted. And this is what anyone in Israel will tell you. So there are two sides to this story.

QUESTION: The President once called this wall a problem. Is it still a problem?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, it's been a problem to the extent that it tries to change facts on the ground, or it tries to prejudice the outcome of an eventual negotiation. But when it confiscates Palestinian lands, this is a problem. This is what the President means. We've had many discussions with the Israelis. There have been changes in the direction of the wall as the Israelis move forward. But I must call your attention to the fact that it appears that the bombings, et cetera, are down. So the Israelis will point to that and say, "Our first right and our first duty is to protect our citizens." That is what this wall does.

QUESTION: After the recent suicide attacks in Israel, in Beersheba, Israel had threatened Syria, that Syria should be held accountable for this.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Why not? Syria holds and houses Hamas. Syria is a conduit of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah. It seems to me that Syria does bear some responsibility.

QUESTION: And it should be -- I mean, Israel could attack Syria?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: That I didn't say. You asked me should they be held accountable, and I said they bore some responsibility.

QUESTION: What kind of accountability?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: It seems to me that President Assad should take a careful look at what his nation is doing and what his government is doing in supporting territory -- in supporting violence in the territories and decide whether this is in the long-term interest of Syria. I don't believe it is. It seems to me that you can't pick and choose among terrorist groups; that is, you might want to kick al-Qaida out of Damascus, but it's okay to have Hamas or PFLP-GC remain. It doesn't work like that. If you oppose terrorism, you oppose all terrorism.

QUESTION: Well, President Assad has called for negotiations with Israel. Do you support this idea?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Sure, they were in a process before, Syria and Israel. This would be fine.

QUESTION: He asked the United States to sponsor negotiations and guarantee to have results of the negotiations.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: He hasn't called on us to sponsor --

QUESTION: Or at least to guarantee some results.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, why would we guarantee results? The results have to be determined by the parties on the ground. It's not our business to guarantee the results.

QUESTION: But you are not willing to sponsor such negotiation?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, I didn't say that. I don't think that he has asked us to sponsor such a negotiation. President Assad knows very well how to communicate with the Government of Israel, and vice versa, and they're perfectly able to do it. And if both of them came to us and asked for something (inaudible), we would listen carefully and perhaps agree, but we've had diplomats visiting Damascus from time to time and I haven't seen this call from President Assad.

QUESTION: Moving to the Sudanese issue, the Secretary Powell called what's going on in Darfur genocide. What are the political and maybe legal implications?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, if I may, the reason the President last night called this genocide, and Secretary Powell did, as well, at his hearing, was that we've conducted interviews with 1,136 citizens of Darfur and the documentary evidence is overwhelming that genocide has occurred. And genocide is defined in the Treaty on Genocide, so there's no question what has gone on.

The legal implications are that member-states to the Treaty on Genocide, of the Convention on Genocide, can then refer to the United Nations Security Council when genocide occurs, and this is what Secretary Powell has done. This is what our resolution at the United Nations is designed to do.

There is no specific call in the treaty for a specific action from any of the member-states to the Convention.

QUESTION: Are you going to push for sanctions at the Security Council?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, we noted in the last Security Council resolution that went through -- it talked about sanctions, the possibility of sanctions, and this does as well. What clearly is necessary is that the Government of Sudan must rein in the Jingaweit militias, and it has to control them and bring about stability to the region. If the Government of Sudan does that, then there will be no need for any sort of sanctions. But I must say, there's no question that in Europe and in the United States, cries for sanctions are growing as we see people dying.

QUESTION: Another one -- this is my last question.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: We have plenty of time.

QUESTION: Okay. She is giving me -- getting my attention here.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: No, no. You have plenty of time.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. The Egyptians are saying now that they can't go ahead with their plans to train the Palestinian security forces in Gaza, given the situation there and the Israeli attacks, and this recent attack, which resulted in killing 15 Palestinians. What are your plans for this to at least help the Palestinians train the security forces and what is the situation?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, first of all, the United States, each year, had been providing at least $75 million to the Palestinians, so we have been providing assistance. The original desire and plan was that our Egyptian friends would be training security forces to be able to take over in the case of Gaza withdrawals and to provide for the government the security and safety provided by Palestinian forces.

I think you blame Israel. I can understand that, but equally, I think, you have to point a finger at the fact that the Palestinian Authority is in such great disarray. I've been seeing some of the media from the Palestinian's side recently and there's an awful lot of discussion, conversation, if you will, about the inability of the Palestinian Authority to organize themselves to do anything. Until they can organize themselves, I think it would be unreasonable for our Egyptian friends to be able to effect much security training and cooperation.

QUESTION: Did you talk to Egypt about this?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, we talk to Egypt all the time. Assistant Secretary Burns will be in Cairo in the next few days to continue these discussions with President Mubarak and the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister and, of course, the General Secretary.

QUESTION: When it comes to Sudan, you go to Security Council. Iran, now you are pushing for sanctions at the Security Council. Iraq, of course, was the Security Council. Syria, even, and Lebanon, the Security Council. And people wonder, is it a double standard for you because when it comes to Israel, no, this is not the right forum?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: I think we have to make decisions about what is going to be accomplished and how much can be accomplished in a forum such as the UN Security Council. And so we make our decisions on those things. There have been times when we've actually agreed with Security Council resolutions. There have been other times we've abstained. And there have been, of course, many times when we have blocked, or vetoed, if you will.

But we make those decisions based on whether things are going to actually improve conditions for the subject area or if it's just something that makes people feel good and allows them to beat their chests. We are more concerned with actually doing something that matters.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.





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