President Bush It's my honor to welcome President Mubarak to the White House again. The United States has got a close and meaningful relationship with Egypt. The relationship is a cornerstone for our policy in the Middle East. I value my friendship with President Mubarak. I always appreciate our candid conversations. Our nations are united by ties of friendship and a shared commitment to regional stability, economic prosperity, and peace.
Today, the strategic partnership between our countries is more important than ever, as we confront the threat of global terror. And I want to thank the President for his steadfast support in our war against terror. Egypt has been a good friend, and I'm grateful.
We also meet at a moment when the people of both our countries are gravely concerned about escalating violence in the Middle East. Each day brings fresh reports of more lives lost and more Palestinian and Israeli families shattered by those losses. Both our countries view this situation with great alarm. We both feel deep sympathy for the people in the region who are trying to live their lives in peace, and we're both determined to redouble our efforts to work for peace.
We talked extensively today about our efforts. President Mubarak has a long history of advancing peace and stability in the Middle East. My country has set forth a goal, which I stated last November at the United Nations: We're committed to two states, Israel and Palestine, living peacefully together within secure and recognized borders, as called for by the Security Council resolutions of the United Nations.
The United States also believes that this goal is only possible if there is a maximum effort to end violence throughout the region, starting with the Palestinian efforts to stop attacks against Israelis.
We want to work with the parties to implement the Tenet security plan and then the Mitchell recommendations. We stand ready to return General Zinni to the region when appropriate. The Israeli-Palestinian situation will be an important topic of Vice President Cheney's upcoming visit to the region. And we're willing to work with all our friends in the region to see how we can build on the vision for peace recently advanced by Crown Prince Abdullah.
President Mubarak and I also spoke about the full range of interests that our nations share. We welcomed the decision yesterday by Secretary Powell and the Foreign Minister of Egypt to initiate a U.S.-Egyptian strategic dialog to provide regular coordination on political, economic, and military issues.
We also discussed how important it is to expand economic opportunities in the Middle East and help more young people acquire the education and technical expertise they need to embrace opportunities as they arise. I've asked Secretary Powellto launch a new initiative aimed at increasing both economic and educational opportunities throughout the region.
Egypt was the first Arab state to stretch out its hand for peace in the Middle East, and it has worked hard to preserve its peace with Israel, even during difficult times. I know that Egypt will continue to be a vital partner as we seek to help the parties move forward in the months to come toward a broader Middle Eastern peace.
I want to thank President Mubarak for coming back to Washington, and now it's my honor to welcome him to the podium.
President Mubarak. Thank you. Thank you, sir.
Good evening. Before commenting on my discussions with President Bush, I want to reiterate my personal condolences and those of the Egyptian people to you, Mr. President, and to the American people and all those who suffered in the tragic events of September 11th. Let me seize this occasion to reaffirm that Egypt has always been on the forefront of fighting terrorists and will continue to play an instrumental role in this regard.
Once again, I met with my friend President Bush and exchanged views with him on several issues of common concern. As usual, our discussions were very friendly. As President Bush just said, we have built a solid partnership that is serving our bilateral interests and the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East. The partnership has matured over the years and endured the test of time. A general sense of continued cooperation and friendship has evolved.
As you know, Egypt took many pioneering steps toward peace in the Middle East. Today, we remain committed to that goal. Our partnership has an indispensable role to play in helping the parties directly involved in the conflict find a just and comprehensive solution.
In this vein, the U.S. has contributed greatly to this cause for the past 25 years. I welcome that the administration will spare no effort in order to help achieve a comprehensive peace. In this context, we look forward to welcoming Vice President Cheney to the area soon and appreciate that the peace process will be one of the issues to be given the merit it deserves.
We must bring about an end to the cycle of violence and other hostile actions and ensure the early resumption of peace negotiations. Nothing can be achieved through violence or resolved through force.
As the Palestinians are being asked to exert more effort to bring down the level of violence, the Israeli Government should understand that the use of military power and unilateral measures against the Palestinian population, the closure of roads, the siege of towns and villages, the demolition of houses, the collective punishment that make progress more difficult, should stop.
The only way out is to put a decisive end to all this suffering, to resume full-fledged peace negotiations immediately, including the implementation of the Tenet plan and the Mitchell recommendations. Peace will only be achieved through ending the Israeli occupation of all territories occupied since June 1967, implementing the relevant U.N. resolutions, establishing of a viable Palestinian state, and guaranteeing the security of all parts in peaceful coexistence.
For decades, Egypt has been at the forefront of peacemaking and development in our region. Our partnership with the U.S. has played a crucial role in this process. Our comprehensive reform program is now entering a new phase, one that seeks to complete Egypt's integration into the world economy.
At the core of this vision is our quest to deepen our trade ties with all partners, especially the United States. In this context, we have discussed our bilateral relations with a view to intensifying our cooperation in various fields. We agreed to take concrete steps in that direction.
Q. Mr. President, what——
President Bush. Hold up a second. Please, please, please. I'm going to call on two U.S. reporters; the President will call on two Egyptian reporters. We'll be glad to answer four questions.
I will start by asking AP writer Barry Schweid.
Middle East Peace Initiatives
Q. Thank you. Mr. President, you spoke today, as Secretary Powell has, favorably of the Saudi initiative. Israelis are virtually lining up—Israeli officials—wanting to go to Saudi Arabia to talk about this proposal. But the Saudis apparently are discouraging that. Do you think there should be some preliminary discussions, preliminary searching out of what the proposal means? And does it carry any solid hope, as far as you're concerned, of ending this morass?
President Bush. First of all, I think the Crown Prince's suggestion was a very positive development, and I appreciate those in Israel who are trying to find out exactly what it means.
There has got to be a vision for peace in order for us to head toward peace. And the President of Egypt has talked—made an offer for dialog that will help lead to a peace, hopefully. Crown Prince Abdullah has as well. And our Government supports efforts to create—lay out a vision for a more peaceful tomorrow.
And so I appreciate the efforts of both leaders, and I applaud those efforts of those willing to explore opportunity. But I want to remind everybody that it's going to be difficult to achieve any kind of peace so long as there is a cycle of violence. And one of the things that we talked about is how best we can come together to break the cycle of violence.
There are people in the Middle East that do not want peace. There are people who want to use death to prevent there to be peace discussions. They want to murder innocent lives. I cannot tell you how it breaks my heart to see the weeping moms and those who have lost life, because somebody is preventing peace from—somebody wants to prevent a peace process from beginning.
And so, as the President mentioned, the step is to reduce the cycle of violence and to get into the Tenet security plan as quickly as possible. But I applaud the efforts of these leaders for trying to move the process forward.
Q. I would like the question of both President Mubarak and President Bush. President Bush——
President Bush. It's the old two-question trick. [Laughter]
Q. President Bush, now President Mubarak has offered a window of hope, the offer of President Mubarak to host both Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in Sharm el-Sheikh or in Egypt. So what is your response to that offer? Particularly, what can the U.S. do in order to translate that offer, that is likely to break the cycle of violence, into a reality?
And President Mubarak, whether you were satisfied from what you heard from President Bush in your discussions regarding your offer? Thank you.
President Bush. Well, thank you for that question. Let me say, as I mentioned, that I appreciate any efforts, any ideas that will lay out a vision for a peaceful resolution. And the President's offer was a meaningful offer, and we applaud his efforts. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, Egypt has had a—has led the way toward leading the region toward peace, and his offer was indicative of that type of leadership. Crown Prince Abdullah has laid out an interesting idea. I, myself, at the U.N., talked about a solution.
The key, however, for us to get to the solution is to bust this cycle of violence. And that is where my administration—and, I know, the President as well—is spending a lot of time and efforts to convince the parties that violence will only lead to heartbreak and will enhance the chances for those who hate the idea of peace to prevail. And those of us who love peace must continue to, as I said, redouble our efforts, which we will.
President Mubarak. I'm satisfied with my discussion with President Bush about the peace process. And we hope we could continue, and the other partners should comply with what we are mentioning.
Something concerning the Crown Prince Abdullah initiative, I would like to say this is the first time in the history of the Saudis that they could say, "We are ready to normalize relations with Israel in case of peace prevails"—the first time in history. We should underline this. Thank you.
Action on Steel Imports
Q. Mr. President, many U.S. allies are threatening retaliation over your steel decision. Are you prepared for a trade war? And why shouldn't this be seen as a tax increase?
President Bush. Steve [Steve Holland, Reuters], we're a free trading nation, and in order to remain a free trading nation, we must enforce law. And that's exactly what I did. I decided that imports were severely affecting our industry, an important industry—had a negative impact—and therefore, provide temporary relief so that the industry could restructure itself. That's exactly what the World Trade Organization allows for. The International Trade Commission made this recommendation.
As you know, I honored our NAFTA agreements by exempting Canada and Mexico. I also—we will honor our agreements with developing nations. This is a remedy allowed under the WTO. It also is a part of our law, and I intend to enforce our laws.
Q. My question is addressed for Mr. President Bush and Mr. President Mubarak. As we know, this is your first meeting after 11 September attacks, and Egypt's experience in combating terrorism is worldwide recognized. Did you find a common stand in your talks today to combat this international phenomenon?
President Bush. We did. The President reminded me of the fact that he has been fighting terror long before I became the President. He's an old hand at fighting terror. And I assured him that we were strong allies in this effort.
There are some in the world who don't like President Mubarak because of what he stands for, a more open society. He's been a great leader of Egypt, and there are extremists who don't like him. And to the extent that we can help round up those extremists that would do harm to the President or his government or the people of Egypt, we will do so.
It doesn't matter to me where a terrorist tries to hide. We will work with our friends and allies to hunt them down, and I assured the President that my determination is as strong today as it was on September the 11th. This is an important moment in history, where nations must not flinch in the face of murder and terror and people who are willing to take innocent lives, people who hate free societies.
And I am proud of our alliance, and I appreciate his friendship, and I appreciate his steadfast resolve, as well, to rout out terror wherever it exists.
President Mubarak. Thank you.