Bill Clinton photo

Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt

September 29, 1995

President Clinton. I thought it was great. I thought your talk was great, what you said. There were some unusual things said yesterday, even more so in some ways than the last time when they were here. What you said and—we've got a transcript we haven't made up our mind about—[laughter].

Good morning, everyone.

Vice President Gore. Your picture is all over the United States today in the morning newspapers.

President Clinton. Yes. I thought it was interesting. The picture that most of them showed was the one in the New York Times today. Most—[inaudible]—showed us, the five of us, you know—have you seen it? [Inaudible]—every time. That's the picture that was mostly in the country.

President Mubarak. Yes.

President Clinton. That was great.

Good morning.


Q. Mr. President, what do you think is going to happen to Jerusalem when there is a final settlement?

President Clinton. Are you addressing me or President Mubarak? [Laughter]

Q. First Mubarak, then you.

President Clinton. That's good. [Laughter]

Q. Or vice-versa. I think you heard Chairman Arafat say something about a joint cornerstone.

President Mubarak. I think, as Chairman Arafat mentioned yesterday, there should be access of the holy places for all the religions in Eastern Jerusalem. And we know beforehand that Jerusalem will be very difficult to be divided. So any kind of arrangement for Jerusalem, east and west, without dividing it, I think, may have a problem.

Q. Well, that would be the Israeli position, wouldn't it?

President Mubarak. Look, it's—we should listen to all of the statements coming here and there, but this will be decided during the negotiations. All of us are going to act in that direction, with the help of President Clinton and the administration.

Q. Mr. President, do you want to elaborate on that?

President Clinton. You know what our position is, that the less we say about this at this moment, the better, because the parties have agreed themselves to make this a part of the final status talks. And what we want to do is to create the maximum chance that they will actually reach a good-faith agreement, because if they actually reach a good-faith agreement, then the chances are much greater that it will then be accepted by all the people in the area.

I think everyone expects that because of the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims, to Jews, and to Christians, that all of us believers from all over the world will be able to show up there and have access to our holy sites. But I think that it's very important that we not prejudge exactly what the structure be. We should let the negotiators work. They have done a marvelous job. I mean, look at yesterday, Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat initialed 26 maps in here. There were thousands and thousands and thousands of excruciatingly detailed decisions made by those negotiators. That is good evidence that they can actually work through these things. And I believe in the end, they will reach whatever they believe is a fair and livable accommodation on Jerusalem, and I want to see them have a chance to do it.

Foreign Policy

Q. Do you think, Mr. President, that your foreign policy, foreign policy in general is beginning to fall into place as you see some of the problems that you've had over the past 2 1/2 years get resolved?

President Clinton. Well, I thought we had a pretty good year last year as well. I think what's happening is that these two events of this week show that the announcement in the Middle East in 1993 was not a fluke, not an aberration, that there really is a process unfolding in the Middle East and that we have a chance to go all the way. And of course, President Mubarak and I will be talking about that today. Until we finish these agreements between the Palestinians and the Israelis and until we have an agreement between Syria and Lebanon and Israel, we won't be able to go all the way, but I think there is a sense of that.

And in Bosnia, I think there is at least a sense that what has been our thorniest and most difficult problem, we may be able to work through. Now, we're a long way from getting there, but we are making progress. And I'm hopeful and—these things will make the American people more secure and more prosperous. And they'll live in a world that they feel better about. And I'm happy for our people, but I'm particularly pleased for the people in the affected areas.


Q. Are you bringing to the leaders today a specific price tag for Bosnia when a peace settlement is reached? What is it you will be asking them?

President Clinton. No, because we have no way of knowing that. We have to see whether there is a peace agreement reached and what the map looks like and what the conditions are and what we're asked to do as a world community. So we have no way of knowing that right now.

Q. But you're still committed to sending U.S. troops to implement the peace?

President Clinton. I believe the United States should be a part of implementing the peace process. I have said that for almost 3 years. I don't see how, as the leader of NATO and basically the leader of the West, we can walk away from that. And I think the American people, once I explain it to them, will be supportive. And I believe the Congress will.

Q. How many?

President Clinton. I'll have more to say about that in the congressional meeting. You can ask more Bosnia questions in there because we're going to talk about that.

Continuing Resolution

Q. Are you going to sign a CR today?

President Clinton. I'll talk about that at the congressional meeting as well.

Q. Got to have something later.

President Clinton. Never satisfied. [Laughter]

Thank you all.

Q. Nothing ventured. [Laughter]

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President Mubarak, can we ask what main issues will be discussed with President Clinton?

President Mubarak. We have various issues to be discussed—implementation of the peace process; we'll speak on Bosnia; we'll speak of cooperation in the area; about the economic summit in Jordan. We have so many issues to discuss.

Q. President Clinton, actually, I have two questions. I wanted to ask you about what you plan to do in the next stage on bilateral ties with Egypt in order to boost investment, American investment in Egypt. And also, the other question is, we've been talking to many Palestinians about good intentions on the part of the Israelis in order to implement the peace process, and good intentions are the key for the implementation of the peace process——

President Clinton. Well, let me answer—I'll try to answer both of them. First of all, our bilateral relations are important with Egypt, but one of the things that is shaping our bilateral relations is the leadership that Egypt is showing in the region and throughout the Arab world as a force for peace and the strong stand taken against terrorism, which we want to cooperate with and support. I believe that that is very important not only for the strong tourism industry in Egypt but for getting investment and growth into the country and over the long run.

Secondly, I think Egypt's role as a regional leader will help us to strengthen our bilateral relationship. For example, if we can locate the Middle Eastern development bank there, that's not just to develop things for the Palestinians, that's for the whole region. What we want to do is to bring in a huge influx of capital into the Middle East to bring the benefits of peace to all the people who have fought for it. And since Egypt was the first nation to make peace and since President Mubarak has been a leading, consistent, unwavering force for the peace process, I think Egypt would benefit dramatically from that. So we will work on that.

Now secondly, with regard to the intentions of the Israelis, I believe that the Prime Minister and his government are completely committed to this. And I saw yesterday these maps that were signed in here that are the annexes to the words of the agreement. They signed— Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin signed 26 maps that had literally thousands and thousands of decisions on them. So they know exactly what they're getting into. They have made very, very detailed commitments to one another.

And just as I believe that Chairman Arafat is going to do his best to try to diminish terror, I believe that the Prime Minister will do everything he can to fulfill both the letter and the spirit of the agreement. And that is one of the things that the United States has been able to do with the leadership of the Secretary of State and Mr. Ross. And our whole team is to try to work with the parties to make sure that their relationship ripens.

And I will say this: I would urge you to go back and carefully review the text of the statements made not only yesterday at the ceremony but last night at the reception by both Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat. They said some remarkable things, some things that they certainly didn't say here 2 years ago, which, to me, showed that they are kind of opening up to one another and that the level of trust is growing.

Now, we all know that none of us have total control over people who are, in theory, within our dominion. Here in the United States we have crimes committed every day that the President cannot stop. But I think they are proceeding in good faith, and I think that the people in the Middle East will have a high level of confidence in the way the Israelis proceed now.

NOTE: The exchange began at 11:20 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this exchange.

William J. Clinton, Exchange With Reporters Prior to Discussions With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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