Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. I am delighted, once again, to welcome the foreign minister and his distinguished delegation, including General Sulayman back to Washington. The foreign minister and I have developed a close and productive working relationship, and I always look forward to our discussions.
The partnership between the United States and Egypt is a cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East and beyond, and we look to Egypt for regional and global leadership on a wide range of issues. This is a relationship rooted in mutual respect and common interests and a history of cooperation and a shared vision for the future.
At the top of our list is a shared commitment to the goal of a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. I greatly appreciate Egypt’s leadership in this effort, and in particular, I wish to commend the personal commitment of President Mubarak. We spoke about this issue at length, and I had the opportunity earlier today to speak with Prime Minister Fayyad when I announced an additional contribution of $150 million to the Palestinian Authority. So let me again thank Egypt for your many efforts toward peace and your constant support and advice.
We also discussed our shared hope that Iraqis will soon form an inclusive government that reflects the interests and the needs of the entire Iraqi population and shares power fairly and legitimately. Both the United States and Egypt are committed to the future of the Iraqi people and their efforts to build a stable, sovereign and self-reliant nation. We will continue working closely together to achieve that goal.
The foreign minister and I also agreed on the importance of a peaceful outcome for Sudan, a peaceful outcome between the North and the South, the need for the parties to make progress in their talks on outstanding issues, especially agreeing on a way forward for the Abyei region.
And on Lebanon, we reconfirmed our support for the work of the special tribunal and our shared commitment to strong, independent and stable Lebanon. And I want to emphasize that the foreign minister and I are absolutely clear that we are critical of and condemning of any efforts to discredit, hinder, or delay the tribunal’s work. That cannot be tolerated. The people of Lebanon, indeed the world, expect and deserve the highest standards of judicial independence and integrity, and I am pleased that the United States recently pledged additional funding to support the tribunal’s work.
The minister and I discussed many issues, and we have a very good and open basis for our conversation. It is important that we do everything we can at a particularly sensitive time in the region, to try to redouble our efforts to achieve a two-state solution, to help stabilize the situation in Sudan, and to work to ensure that the people of Lebanon can have accountability in the search for justice.
So Foreign Minister, I thank you for your partnership and look forward to continuing to work together.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: Thank you. Thank you very much, Secretary. I feel that you didn’t leave me anything to say --
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s a first. (Laughter.)
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: -- after you covered everything. But I wish to say that President Mubarak asked General Sulayman and myself to come to Washington, and we maintain that kind of frequent visits coming to the American capital, as well as American officials, they keep coming to Egypt for that process – strategic process of consultations between Egypt and the United States, because both countries are working for the stability and the prevalent of peace in that part of – in that tormented part of the world, because I have to admit it is a tormented part of the world.
Today we engaged in a discussion on the American effort to bring both parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, to come back to negotiations and we feel a certain satisfaction of – on the effort that America is doing and conducting. We gave them our point of view and we discussed with them at length the way we look at things, and I think they listened and they listened attentively.
At the same time, we discussed a range of other issues. We discussed Lebanon, the need for the stability of Lebanon, the need for the tribunal to continue its legal work. The tribunal has been established by the Security Council of the United Nations. Then it is a body that no one can disband or disregard. We also discussed the situation in Sudan, the Egyptian ideas, the American ideas, how to ensure that Sudan reaches the point of conducting a proper transparent referendum without violence and that there should not be violence after the results of the referendum has been revealed or established.
We also had our discussions on Iraq and the need to see, hopefully soon, an Iraqi Government whereby all Iraqi factions and all Iraqi (inaudible) would be participants to such a government in order to ensure stability and peace in that brotherly country. I think it was amongst the best discussions we had over a long period of time. And I think such discussions would reveal a prosperous future soon hopefully.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
MR. CROWLEY: We’ll begin with Mark Landler of The New York Times.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. A question for you: Israel’s announcement on new housing in East Jerusalem prompted the Palestinians to declare again that they may contemplate the idea of declaring statehood unilaterally. Are you concerned that with this continuing impasse on the issue of settlements that there is a danger that that could indeed happen? And what message would you give them in light of the lack of progress on the talks?
And if I could just tack one on on Iran, the Iranians have talked about a meeting in Turkey to discuss a number of issues. Given the U.S.’s declared preference for the P-5+1 structure, how would you react to the prospect of a meeting in Turkey that could include the Turks and perhaps even the Brazilians as participants?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Mark, as to the first question, we have always said and I continue to say that negotiations between the parties is the only means by which all of the outstanding claims arising out of the conflict can be resolved. There is no doubt in my mind that in order to conclude an agreement, the parties must discuss the final status issues. And we would urge both parties to commence, once again, such a discussion. Each party has a very strong set of opinions about the way forward. There can be no progress until they actually come together and explore where areas of agreement are and how to narrow areas of disagreement. So we do not support unilateral steps by either party that could prejudge the outcome of such negotiations.
It remains my belief, and I said it again this morning, that both Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas want to see a conclusion of negotiations that leads to a two-state solution, Israel living in security, the Palestinians living within their own state. The only way to get there is to have these negotiations, and the United States stands ready to do everything we can to support that.
With respect to Iran, I spoke yesterday with the European Union High Representative Cathy Ashton. She is the person who will determine on behalf of the P-5+1 when and where we would meet with the Iranians. And that is the first meeting that must occur. It is a P-5+1 meeting with the Iranians. And the location has been discussed, and I believe that High Representative Ashton will be responding to the Iranians about where that should be and on what date. But at this moment, the offer of discussions with the Iranians is in that forum and that is the appropriate venue for any discussion on any issue to occur.
MR. CROWLEY: Ezzat Ibrahim from Al-Ahram
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, what about the policy shift of the United States toward the case of Abyei region in Sudan, that in the last couple of days we are witnessing a lot of changes in the U.S. position.
And my question to Minister Aboul Gheit about the – what did you raise today about the Egyptian ideas concerning the relaunching of negotiation between Israel and Palestinians? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will start. And the United States has not changed our position about the fundamental core issue, which is that the North and South have to make an agreement to move forward. And not only do they have to make an agreement about how they will proceed in what form they will move into the future, but all the issues that have to be resolved going forward. So I know that there is an upcoming referendum. No matter what happens in that referendum, it is our view that the parties still have a lot of issues to work out together.
And what we have been trying to do, what the Egyptians have been trying to do, what the African Union has been trying to do, and so many others, is to bring the parties together to carefully think through all of the issues that they have to work out together. I think the best description is that either they’re going to stay married and get along better or they’re going to get divorced and it needs to be a peaceful, civil divorce. And in any event, there has to be a lot of careful thought about how they’re going to live together, because just – it’s simple to say the land is not going to break apart. They’re going to still be connected, and they have to work out all of the issues between the two of them.
And as to Abyei, what we have said is we want to see the issues resolved. And perhaps the issues can be resolved before the referendum, because if they have a referendum then they’re going to have to resolve the issues after the referendum. So there’s an enormous amount of work going on and a lot of pressure from all the neighbors and many others who are trying to bring the two parties to sit down and negotiate through all the various issues that they must decide in order to have a peaceful outcome.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: Yes, you do not expect me to reveal to you what we brought to the United States in discussions with the Americans on the peace effort, or else we would be advising them or consulting with them in public and that should not be the case. However, yes, I cannot reveal to you what we discussed. However, I have to tell you that we are concerned. We are concerned because we feel that Israel is not doing what is required on the Israeli side to do. That is one aspect.
Second, we feel that the Americans are doing a real effort, and that effort should be enhanced and buttressed by countries like Egypt.
Then, thirdly, we discussed with them the issue of the Arab League and the future activities of the Arab Peace Committee and when to meet and how to handle the situation.
Fourth, and that is most important, what are the possibilities for renewing negotiations and how would we ensure that such negotiations, when resumed, they do not be interrupted the way they have been interrupted three weeks after the meetings in Washington on the 2nd of September.
That is, in general, what we discussed.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: Thank you very much.