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Joint Egyptian-American Press Roundtable

Joint Egyptian-American Press Roundtable

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
Sherman Hall, U.S. Embassy
Cairo, Egypt
July 14, 2005

Deputy Secretary Zoellick: This is the last stop on a trip I made to Darfur, then Khartoum, then Jordan, where I met with His Majesty and some of the Jordanian officials. I also had a session with approximately ten ministerial level people from Iraq for the Joint Commission on Reconstruction and Economic Development. I had a little bit over a day in Iraq, where I had meetings in both Baghdad and in a province, Hillah, about sixty miles south, I guess, near Babylon, and then here in Egypt for two days.

I was pleased that I could stop in Egypt, because obviously it's a very important country for us in a vital region. It plays a great influential role all throughout the region and, as you know, Secretary Rice was here not long before. David Welch, the Assistant Secretary for the region, will be coming this weekend for some consultations after the G-8 meeting about some of our work with the Palestinians. Secretary [Liz] Cheney has been here a number of times working on some of the democracy issues.

If I try to give you an overview of what I've been doing, I guess I'd describe it as some of the ongoing legwork of diplomacy. I spend part of my time just trying to listen to get an idea from people in different areas, who have in some areas some ideas or suggestions to offer. It also helps to expand the personal network of one's ties for future contacts either in the United States or phone calls or others.

I also wanted to thank some people, including our embassy. It's doing a lot of good work.

On the foreign policy side, we covered a range of issues: Iraq; Sudan, where we've had some close interests and I want to try to strengthen our cooperation with Egypt, given its history and knowledge and ties with Sudan, what I think is a key point; Middle East Peace process, more generally; and Lebanon. Also, we had some discussion on the economic reform process and then the democratic reform process, including the elections both presidential and parliament.

I met President Mubarak; Prime Minister Nazif, who I've had a chance to work with on a number of the economic issues and I was pleased had a very good visit to Washington recently; Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit; Trade Minister Rachid, who I worked with again in my old post; and General Suleiman. And I've also on this trip visited a number of political party leaders from the NDP, from the Wafd, and the al-Ghad parties. Yesterday I had a chance to meet some civil society activists and reformers, and also had a chance to meet with our embassy staff and thank them.

A point that I've tried to start my sessions with government figures is one of shared sympathy for the brutal murder of Ambassador Al-Sherif. It's particularly on my mind since I just came from Iraq, and I discussed with Prime Minister Jaafari who is deeply troubled by it and, when he learned that I was coming here, asked me to convey his deep condolences to all the individuals, but, particularly, to President Mubarak.

If you want to just get a real brief set of examples, in the case of Iraq, obviously, Egypt can play an influential role as a leader in the region. This is clearly Jaafari's interest in trying to strengthen ties here to reach out to the Sunni community in the case of Iraq, since I was just there and I've been there three times in the past about twelve weeks. There was also an interest on their part on sort of my observations.

Sudan, where I would like to strengthen our cooperation, and I think there's not a generally recognized sense as much in the United States of the role that Egypt is playing. It has troops as part of the UN peacekeeping force in the south, which is part of the Comprehensive Peace Accord. In addition, they provided some humanitarian support in Darfur and some observers.

The role on the political side is also very important. As you may know, there are a number of conflicts in various states of reconciliation in Sudan. The North-South Accord, which was the end of the 21-year old civil war that's what the peacekeeping force is. Darfur, where there was just a start of the political process with the agreement on the Declaration of Principles in Abuja. Egypt played a helpful role in that.

As probably many of you know, there's also a group in the north of Sudan, the NDP, that Egypt has helped work with John Garang here to have a reconciliation. There's still some dangerous conflicts in the east and we talked about that and the role that both of us can work with Eritrea.

On the economic reform side, I was interested in catching up about the implementation of the legislation, which I've been trying to follow; the QIZs, which I was here in December to help launch; and the sense of how they are working in terms of not only trade on the economic side, but also building jobs in support for the reform process.

And then on the political side, when Secretary Rice was here she set forth an overall strategy and framework of our policy with the speech. So, what I was trying to do was to get a better understanding of the steps ahead, as far talking to diverse groups, the items to watch, and also conveyed from the U.S. perspective the important emphasis that we place on the democratic reform process and some of the items that I thought would be watched from the U.S. side.

That gives you a quick overview. I'll be happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright, Reuters: So, on the political point of view

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: - from the U.S. side or some I picked up from the Egyptian side?

QUESTION: From your side.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I tried to underscore a number of the items that were in Secretary Rice's speech, which would include, first, that it's important for us for both the presidential and the parliamentary elections. This was an item that I tried to engage in greater depth with some of the party and civil society members, because clearly with the requirement after this election of a need to have a five percent position in the legislature to be able to run a presidential candidate, a party has a chance this election and a subsequent parliamentary election to be able to hit that target.

I was partly trying to learn a little bit about some of the organization of their parties not only here in Cairo but nationally, and how they might try to tackle that challenge. I also made the point that while many people focus on the presidential and our country, too, as the executive is the leader that the legislatures are often very important in the process of change. That's one point.

Second is the processes themselves. People talk about fair and free processes, but what does that mean? The Secretary talked about access to media, talked about freedom to make one's position in assembly, to organize, and obviously not to be intimidated or harassed along the way. Then we also talked about the importance of transparency, because I was trying to get a sense from different perspectives of the new elections law and some of the legal amendments that were made. This is not a surprise to any of you, but there are ambiguities. For example, with the electoral commission, it's more independent than the past, but some people will say, how independent is it? The proof will be in the testing over the course of the next month.

I emphasized that I think one of the best things that can be done is to open the process to observers, not only an active press here, but in an international context and there are different ways that people can do that.

So, those were some of the elements that we identified. And then in some conversations particularly, with opposition parties and the civil society groups I was trying to get their sense of how the U.S. can engage most constructively in this process and we're not surprised there's a difference of view in that. But I come away with a sense that, whether opposition parties or the NDP, people respect the role of the United States in advancing democracy, while we and they, of course, recognize that each circumstances are unique and Egypt will determine its own sovereign path.

QUESTION: Sophie Claudet, AFP: Well


QUESTION: Sophie Claudet, AFP: I'm sorry?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You're from AFP, aren't you? Happy Bastille Day.

QUESTION: Sophie Claudet, AFP: Thank you. Could you clarify one of the points you made about opening the process to observers not only here but internationally? Do you mean observers for the elections? And have you made that point again with the Egyptian government? And after you made that point again with the Egyptians, what was the reaction? When Prime Nazif was in Washington it wasn't well received.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I don't think they've decided yet, so the answer to your first question is, Yes. I mentioned it, but what I was also trying to do is because I feel sometimes it's helpful to get a sense of how these points are made I was trying to explain why I thought it was useful.

It's clear one is in a process for transition here. And it's clear that President Mubarak took a major step by having multi-party direct elections. But it's also clear that people will watch closely the competitiveness of this election process for both president and parliament.

I used the independent electoral commission as one example, but there are others, as you know, from this legislation that people will examine. In any election process it's true in our country, it's true in others there will be things that people may fall short or they'll criticize in others. With the government and party officials that I met, I come away with a sense that people are serious about this transformational process. They may have different approaches to it.

So, I suggested that by having observers in that, frankly, it's the idea of how you make transparency real. And that it's inevitable people will criticize or suggest differently. But the best way is to be open in the process.

I made the point, but obviously there's many highly knowledgeable people about this here, that there are many ways you can do this. There's different organizations one can draw on. I think that the government is examining that question, but hasn't made a determination yet.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: Can I just pick up on that point? Apart from the presidential initiative [inaudible] is there any evidence at all that the government is serious about [inaudible] and what happens?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: If you look at the legislation that is already passed, for example for this independent electoral commission, it's clearly going to be different than it was in the past. Now, people raise questions about whether these members will be independent. And look, it's your job and others to raise those questions. Fine. But I think the test will be, what role do they play? And that's where again, if you combine it with international observers in the process, it moves in that direction.

What other elements are the test? Well, I also had a sense from some of the more reform-minded NDP leaders that they see the presidential election as also an important step in outlining the policies they want Egypt to take. Having taken part in a number of elections myself, I think that is a good thing when people try to set forth a general direction. Frankly, it was one of the things that characterized Governor Bush and then President Bush about the direction he wants to go, because it strengthens your hand when you then want to govern.

I have particular interest in this, because I think that some of the steps that people are taking on the economic side are significant steps. They are not all going to popular, and it's important to try to build a base of public support in one's party and in the electorate as a whole.

You'll be able to make your judgment as time goes on. You could look at issues like turnout. You would have to look at issues about how the opposition party engages that's one reason I wanted to meet some of the opposition leaders.

You've got generational change here in a number of different dimensions, including in the opposition parties. Egypt has gone from a one party system to a multi-party system with a dominant party, and now it's going to a more competitive party system. There are different ways in which countries can move to a democratic process. But I feel that the government officials that I talked to are serious about that. And I can certainly say that the NDP reformers officials are serious about it, too.

QUESTION: Heba Saleh, Financial Times: When you speak about observers, I take it you mean both elections. Do you have any idea [inaudible] about the set-up of the observers how many? [inaudible]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I didn't get into specifics. There may have been other conversations that other U.S. officials have had. When you are in a process of reform and change like this, it's very important to get the right balance between encouragement and support from the outside in making sure that the roots are planted in local soil. These are decisions that Egyptians need to make. What I tried to do, particularly by talking to diverse groups, is to suggest ideas.

One of the benefits of my current position and the one I had has Trade Representative is that I bring a global perspective. I cover all regions. And I've seen other places do this. I saw Indonesia, which is another Muslim country, go to the first direct election of the president and the process. I've seen, frankly, in my professional career East Asia go from when I taught in Hong Kong in 1980, where my Chinese students said there's only democracy in Japan and I look and I see what's going on now in South Korea and Taiwan, obviously in Japan and Thailand, and Indonesia, in the Philippines.

So, this is a process of change. Each country has to find its own way. But there are ways they can draw from other comparative experiences and there's ways we can support.

QUESTION: Heba Saleh: Elections will be here in a few weeks [inaudible]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: All I can tell you is that I was told that it's a topic that hasn't been decided, but is being discussed and that people have looked at different models

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: [inaudible]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You know, to be honest, you can make your own judgment and you can be as cynical as you want. I've actually been doing this for 25 years myself. I've seen processes and I won't presume exactly what's going to happen. But I feel there's a process of change here both politically and economically. I feel there's a process of change politically and economically in the region. You may have a lot of experience from covering this.

I was surprised over the past few years in this region to see the election process in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Lebanon, in the Palestinian territories. So, let history judge.

QUESTION: Anthony Shadid, Washington Post: When we look at what has been done, is it your judgment that the government has gone far enough to make possible a free and fair election? And the second question How do you see the role of the [Muslim] Brotherhood?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: On your first question, one of the reasons that Secretary Rice gave the speech that she did and did it here in Egypt was to set out some of the ideas that we thought were important. One of the reasons that I was here was to try to get a sense of how they've been thinking about these and to press on some of them, as they are moving forward, and as I explained in the answer to Sophie's question is that why I think it's in their own interest to these things. Again, and I am trying to give you a little bit of a background of how somebody in one of these jobs does it. You can try to punch people or you can try to explain the logic to people or try to persuade why it's in peoples' interest. I generally find if people have a shared interest, they're more likely to move in that direction.

Egypt has a pride about its leadership role, whether it be in foreign policy or in other areas. I think, as part of that leadership role, people recognize that people will be asking questions about these things. So, it makes the suggestion about how one can get greater recognition for what one has accomplished.

They are also connected to their own economic reform. I had a chance to meet a lot of the ministers on the economic team. They know that the economic opening is going to be connected to a political opening. It's one of the reasons why they're concerned about job creation, because they know that they want to make sure that they can appeal to a broader public.

Now your second part of it was?

QUESTION: Anthony Shadid: The role of

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The Brotherhood. Yes. This is a topic that I've tried to get a better sense of in a number of Muslim countries. As you know now, there are members of the Muslim Brother that are elected but as independents, not as a formal party.

I think the key view from some of the reform side of the NDP, where I've had a little bit more chance to get in-depth discussion this came up with non-NDP members too was on the one hand a belief that it's important to draw members of Islamic society into the political process and that a failure to do that will leave them and they will play a role one way or the other.

However, the question is how do you draw them in? And do you allow Islamic parties? And if the nature of the Islamic party is one that doesn't fundamentally accept the notion of a non-Islamic state, then do you urge them, instead, to join through other party structures?

And those are the set of questions that people are debating here. There were some and again, it's a select set, I don't want to generalize from both the civil society and the NDP. I got a sense that people felt there needed to be steps to inclusion, but they were wary of the Muslim Brotherhood as a party.

QUESTION: Anthony Shadid: Is it your sense that the government has gone far enough to make it possible to have a free and fair election?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: That is one that I think time will have to judge. That's one reason why Secretary gave the speech. That's why we're emphasizing these points.

I also would say that this won't be just one election. This will be a process. So, it's premature, but I suspect that over the course of both the presidential and the parliamentary elections there will be questions raised, challenges, some reasonable, some not. But that's the way a democratic process moves forward.

I'll just add this point: if I compare the attitude on these issues with even five years ago at the start of President Bush's term or certainly twelve years ago when I was last in the State Department there's clearly a whole different process afloat. There's clearly a different momentum about the importance of these issues. You can see how it feeds on another in different countries.

I will share with you anecdote about when King Abdullah was in Washington for a lunch that I attended with the President a couple of months ago. I was struck that he seemed very intent on explaining to President Bush how the reform process in Jordan was going to move forward and how it hadn't fallen behind others. I just compared this from my own experience with 12 years ago with his father King Hussein. That would not have been the nature of the lunch conversation.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: But

Deputy Spokesman Adam Ereli: Let's let somebody else ask a question.

QUESTION: Heba Al-Qudsy, Al-Alam Al-Youm: You had mentioned about Gamal Mubarak, have you met with him or not? [inaudible] Second, I want to ask you will you back him if he runs? [inaudible] And is there a third choice?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: On the second question, we don't express preferences in elections, that's for the Egyptian people to decide.

On your first question, I did meet Gamal Mubarak. I met him on a prior visit here. He's playing a significant role on the policy side, which you probably know, in the NDP policy formation. I wanted to try to get his sense of the election process and the NDP's approach to it.

Your third part is there another choice you say?

QUESTION: Heba Al-Qudsy: Yes, actually some people are thinking about whether President Mubarak is going to run for the election? or Gamal Mubarak? I'm asking how you see the election this year is it President Mubarak or Mr. Gamal Mubarak or Ayman Nour or any other leader?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: My understanding of the legal procedures is that no candidate has officially declared as of yet.

QUESTION: Heba Al-Qudsy: Yes, but there are only two months until the election.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Yes, but that's the procedure. In Britain there is about six weeks before the parliamentary elections. Same in Australia and Canada.

I don't know who's going to run. I think we all have our assumptions about who at least are the likely candidates. As for the choices, I really can't say I know more than probably you reported or similar from what the embassy has reported about some of the contending forces that are lining up.

QUESTION: Sonia Dabous, Akhbar Al-Youm: I would like to change the topic a little bit. How do you see the situation, after all the problems and the bombs in Israel? And how do you see the role of Egypt in the peace process in the Middle East?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: On your first question, it's obviously a human tragedy. But it is also a negative for the process of secure disengagement to have the terrorists attacks.

In its relation to the peace process, where President Bush is focused on now, we are trying to emphasize the key sides for both the Israelis and Palestinians on Gaza withdrawal to try to make that a successful process. We hope that coming out of the process it will strengthen Abu Mazen in his relatively recent role and also Prime Minister Sharon, because as President Bush has said this is a step and it should lead to other steps along the roadmap.

There are both security and economic aspects in that. That is one reason why General Ward has been in the region trying to work on the security aspects and why James Wolfensohn, formerly of the World Bank, has been trying to focus on the economic, with an idea towards making sure that Gaza also has some economic hope and opportunity.

This goes to very practical steps like crossings, as well as the ability to use ports and other things. This is why the G-8 made the comments that they made also about a potentially larger assistance package to give people a sense of vision. That's what David Welch is coming to talk about here with his Egyptian colleagues and that goes to your second part.

Egypt has been a very helpful partner and, also, I think provided good counsel in a series of peace processes. Obviously, dating back to President Sadat, Egypt has been a leader in terms of the process of peace. But I think there is also a lot of good counsel about the other players. There is a very respectful relationship between President Mubarak and Prime Minister Sharon. There are particular issues that are being discussed related to the possible role of the Egyptian military and the border that people are still trying to work out. We talked a little bit about some of the obstacles to that.

There is a role that Egypt has tried to play in terms of training the Palestinian security forces, which Secretary Rice, again, emphasized in some statements made in the past day or two. It is absolutely vital that, if one is going to have this disengagement be one that leads to a constructive result and a foundation for the future, it be done so in a way that the Palestinians demonstrate that they can take on the terrorists in their midst.

So, Egypt will be and has been a very strong partner in terms of actions but also in terms of counseling.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: Let's go back to the Brotherhood, because this is an important question. Earlier in the year people in the administration were saying they wanted to see free and fair elections. I don't think we've actually heard that expression from you today

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I think I did use that expression.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: You did? Does the administration believe that it is possible to have fair elections in Egypt without the participation of the Brotherhood, as the Brotherhood or in an organized manner when by many accounts they represent, say, 30 percent of the public?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I believe Secretary Rice spoke to this on her last visit.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: No, she didn't. What she said was

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Do you want to debate or do you want to let me answer the question?

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: Yes, no.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: That's not the role of our two bodies. I am happy to accept the role of the press, and you do what you want for others. I get to answer the question. You get to ask a question and I get to answer. Is that acceptable to you or do you want to do something different, Jonathan?

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: Let me say it another way.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Can I answer your question? You asked a question.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: You didn't answer the question. Let's face it. Go ahead.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I've dealt with a lot of reporters over a lot of years. And this is kind of an usual performance, I have to say.

QUESTION: Jonathan Wright: Go ahead. Go ahead.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: What the Secretary said was that under Egyptian law and she was respecting Egyptian law the role of the Muslim Brotherhood would not be able to participate.

I tried to give you a sense from the discussions with the Egyptians of why they had determined that to be a case. So, do we respect that? Yes, we respect that.

Do I also think there is a logic to that in terms of democratic processes? Do I see it in terms of other countries, in terms of the role of Islam, in the role of religious parties? Yes, I also think there is a logic to that.

Now, I think it was Anthony who asked about sort of the role of Islamists and others. What I was trying to also emphasize is that people here are trying to figure out how to draw them into the process. So, whether I was outlining the views that some people have about Islamists should engage whether they be individuals, whether they be groups these are issues that countries are going to have to come to terms with in their own form. That's how I would answer your question.

QUESTION: Mohamed Abdel Hadi, Al-Ahram: Regarding the corruption in the government in Iraq, how do you deal with these terrorists, these issues?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Let me divide it into pieces. One, I don't think that terrorism is caused by corruption. I think terrorism is driven by other forces. But I do think corruption is always an important issue. One of the things that I discussed with a number of the ministers and the Prime Minister was as they are setting up the new system, and it's important that they try to take steps to have a more transparent system.

We talked about that related, for example, to the need to integrate a financial and development budget and be clear about it, because this is where the good governance policies for budget management overlap with the transparency policy. With the interim Iraqi government, some of the contracts that were left were not channeled through the Finance Ministry. It doesn't mean there was something wrong with them, but it didn't have a point of control.

One of the things that I discussed with Finance Minister Allawi and Planning Minister Barhim Saleh was to be able to get support from the donor community, to meet the IMF standards, and to get World Bank support. It will be important to try to integrate their financing budget and their development budget the current expenses, as well as the capital. That will also allow you to do this in a transparent fashion which also helps deal with the corruption topic.

I also discussed with some of the other officials about their contracting process what are rules for the contracting? This is something that we have to do in the United States, too. Sometimes it slows down processes. But we do think it's important in terms of trying to build a governance in Iraq.

QUESTION: Heba Saleh: I'd like to go back to the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood. [inaudible] At the same time that they stand as independents, the government regularly arrests them and accuses them of belonging to an illegal organization. [inaudible] Is this something that was raised at all?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: What I raised was the general point that it was an important part of the political process not to intimidate or harass.

QUESTION: Anthony Shadid: I think a lot of people in the country were shocked at the beating of the women outside the journalist syndicate. How would you rate the government in the run-up to the election? [inaudible]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, Secretary Rice said and I would re-emphasize beating up people in demonstrations is not the right step.

QUESTION: Lee Keath, Associated Press: This is related to the Muslim Brotherhood. [inaudible] It seems the administration has brought up some specific points with the Egyptian government about the elections equal media time, election observers, free and fair campaigning. Do you intend to be as specific in deeper, structural issues, such as the law on political parties?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I have asked about the political party law. I have asked to try and learn more about it, in addition to the reporting we get from our people. The one I focused on in these conversations was the electoral commission. I have seen a change from the past, but recognizing that some people have raised questions about whether that will operate and how it will operate.

At least my sense is that it is timely to raise those issues about the laws. We don't have the experience yet to say how they will operate. I think this is going to be the case in not only this election, but in other elections as well. I think there is going to be an ongoing process of adjustment.

I talked to some of the people with the NDP who clearly emphasized that they believed that this election would also raise questions about the future evolution of democracy. In other words, some of the topics that would be debated, would be what other legal changes might be appropriate. They also suggested that after this election there might be other processes of change.

Again, we are trying to emphasize a direction. We are trying to emphasize points of process that are important, which are the ones the Secretary mentioned in her speech and I tried to re-emphasize in discussions. One needs to take a certain care on some of the particulars until one sees the development, recognizing it's a sovereign country and people are going to have to develop this in their own way. Obviously, that doesn't mean the ability to beat people up. So, that's the process of a democratic transformation as we see it.

I'll share another perspective with you. I talked with some of the opposition leaders and some of the civil society groups. They were asking about the role of America with democracy. I said, "Look, it would be inevitable, if the United States presses for democratic reform, that some people will be skeptical, some people will be cynical, some people might say that the United States is hypocritical." That is the price you have to pay if you're trying to advance this agenda.

We believe that over time this is a very important goal. We believe that the United States standing for these issues becomes important and I got some positive feedback on that.

But at the same time we also have to try to do this in a way to make sure that the roots are sunken in each country's soil and that it also not lead to negative steps which it can, because you're talking about political processes and change in countries.

This will be a process that no one will agree with all the time. But what I've also emphasized and what Secretary Rice emphasized is that one thing people have learned about President Bush over the past five years is that he's a man who means what he says. And he said some things in the Inaugural and he said some things afterwards about the process of democracy. And I can say this from my own experience that's different than it was in the past.

Will there be different views if it's fast enough? slow enough? whether we should comment in more detail about this item or that item? Sure, there will be and that's fair; that's what an open process is all about.

QUESTION: Mohamed Abdel Baqi, Nahdet Masr: [Question regarding Deputy Secretary's comment on trying "Darfur criminals in a criminal court" in Sudan.]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The first and most important point is we believe there needs to be accountability for the actions which we consider to be genocidal and the UN determines are crimes against humanity. The United States abstained on the resolution. But under our own domestic law we can and will be supportive of the efforts of the prosecutors on the ICC.

At the same time, the government of Sudan has started actions to also take criminal action against perpetrators of violence in Darfur. This, in our view, should be a complement, not a substitute. But it's an important complement. I've been particularly emphasizing the violence against in women that has taken place in Darfur, as well as the other crimes. I've been trying to press the government to help support things, including the African Union on that. That is a good step, but it doesn't supplant the resolutions. I also had a conversation with the UN representative Jan Pronk and we both share that view.

QUESTION: Heba Al-Qudsy: I'd like to also about the free trade zone. What's the market situation now? [inaudible]

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: First, the Prime Minister had a good visit in Washington. One of the items he talked about including with the President was the interest in moving ahead on a Free Trade Agreement.

Second, when I was here in December we launched the Qualified Industrial Zones, the QIZ. I just emphasize that, because, as you may know, while many people focus on the textile and apparel market, the QIZ is available for other goods as well. Right now, I think I heard from Minister Rachid that there are about 500 companies that have applied and 50 are starting to export to the United States.

Third, to prepare for a Free Trade Agreement the agency that I used to supervise the U.S. Trade Representative has been meeting with the Ministry of Trade and Industry Mr. Rachid's ministry to take apart the components of our Free Trade Agreement and have small groups focus on the preparation.

When countries do Free Trade Agreements, it's a term that often covers very diverse types of agreements. The United States has very comprehensive types of agreements. It covers intellectual properties, services, agriculture, transparency, anti-corruption, environment, and labor a whole host of provisions. It's very important before one gets to the negotiation that you really know what one is getting into. And while people can see them on our website, it's useful to get into the details early. That work is going on. A number of the subcommittees have met and others are scheduled to meet.

It's our hope that the preparatory process, combined with the real work the QIZs on the ground will enable us to move forward. Now, as for the precise timeframe, I can't tell you, in part because I'm no longer the Trade Representative. I will say this, I think one of the points that President Bush emphasized when he met the Prime Minster is that we appreciate that the reform team here sees the Free Trade Agreement in part as trying to reinforce the overall process of reform and that some of the things that one does in a Free Trade Agreement with the United States are the same as the domestic reform agenda.

One of the ministers from El Salvador told me that through our Central American Free Trade Agreement they got more reforms through than they would have gotten through in three different terms. If you think about the QIZs, the QIZs already give pretty good market access. Clearly the government sees the Free Trade Agreement as a way of trying to encourage the structural reform process and, frankly, help strengthen Egypt's position in international markets.

Another item we talked about as to how this competes globally. We want to try to support that process. I think that it's proceeding well, if you take the QIZs and the preparatory process.

The other thing you may have mentioned in this question or in a part that I forgot in another one is that there were business issues that we needed to resolve, some problems, and the government is doing a good a job of resolving some of those questions with individual businesses by creating a better investment climate.

That all helps, because to do these agreements you eventually need support from both countries. So, we need American businesses that say that Egypt is a good place to do business. I talked to the Prime Minister about Microsoft's investments and some of the educational processes this year and some of their development.

We're trying to create the components both technical and political to support the overall FTA process. As I've said, I think that will also support the process of political openness over time.

Thank you. 2005/707

Released on July 18, 2005


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