George W. Bush photo

Interview With Nile TV of Egypt

May 29, 2003

Upcoming Visit to Egypt/Meeting With Arab Leaders

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much for talking to Egyptian television. Mr. President, you're coming to Egypt next week, and you are meeting with President Mubarak and a number of other Arab leaders. What are you going to tell them? What role do you see the Arab countries playing in the coming stage?

The President. First, I want to thank President Mubarak for his hospitality. He has been telling me about the beauty of Sharm el-Sheikh for a long time, and now I'm going to get to see it firsthand.

Q. You will love it.

The President. I am looking forward to it.

The first thing I want to do is to make it very clear to the leaders in the neighborhood that I am intent upon working toward a two-state solution in the Middle East— two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace. In other words, I want them to look me in the eye so they can see that I am determined to work to make this happen.

I'm also going to remind them the United States cannot do this alone. We obviously need Israeli support. We obviously need the new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority's work and help. And we need countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia and Jordan and others to work together to cut off funding for terrorist groups, to prevent the killers from moving around, to help provide security, and as a Palestinian state emerges, to support Prime Minister Abbas' regime with not only advice but, when necessary, development aid so an economy can start to grow in a Palestinian state.

President's Commitment to Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, let me follow up on that. You said you are determined to bring peace, you are committed, personally committed to the roadmap, and you are personally involved in the roadmap. That has sort of a different approach from the approach that the administration had adopted at the beginning, which was a hands-off approach, the peace process.

The question is, how long would that commitment and involvement, personal involvement, last and how deep is it?

The President. Well, first of all, I think it's not a fair characterization to say we were hands-off—quite the contrary. I took an assessment of what was possible and realized that it was impossible to achieve peace with Chairman Arafat. He's failed the Palestinian people in the past. My predecessor tried hard, and I watched very carefully what was tried at Camp David.

Now, having said that, I also was working with the parties to try to set the conditions necessary for the emergence of a Palestinian government with whom we could work, so we wouldn't waste time, so that actually some progress could be made.

So the people have got to know when I say something, I mean it. Hopefully by now people have learned that, that when George W. commits America to a project, we mean that, we don't have idle chit-chat, that we're serious about our intentions.

Q. So the Arabs, or the people in the region shouldn't really be worrying about voices within your administration who are opposed to serious efforts by the United States——

The President. Yes, they don't have to worry about that, because I'm going to put the effort forward.

Q. So you don't listen to them?

The President. Well, it sounds like they don't listen to me, because when I say something, I mean it. And I think President Mubarak knows that. And I'm going to refresh their memories about the kind of administration I try to run. When I say something, we actually go do it. And when I say that I'm going to be involved in the peace process, I mean I'm going to be involved in the peace process.

Now, I understand it's going to be tough and difficult, but I believe it can happen. And I want to work toward achieving two states, so that the Palestinian suffering and humiliation ends.

Egypt-U.S. Relations

Q. And Mr. President, how do you see the future of the Egyptian-American relations, the strategical relations that binded those two countries over the past two decades?

The President. Strong, I think, a good future. Listen, we have counted on Egypt, and Egypt counts on America. It's a mutually beneficial relationship. Throughout my Government, people deal with the Egyptian authorities, and I think it's in our interests, our national interest to keep a strong relationship with Egypt, and I intend to do so.

Q. Right. We are looking forward to seeing you, Mr. President, in Sharm el-Sheikh. Thank you very much for your time.

The President. It's going to be an exciting trip, and I look forward to the hospitality of the Egyptian people. And I want to assure the people of Egypt that the relationship is an important relationship between Egypt and the United States. And I want to assure your listeners that when I come to the region, I come with peace in mind and the possibilities of peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis is real in my mind, and I'm going to work toward that objective.

NOTE: The interview was taped at 2:48 p.m. in the Library at the White House for later broadcast, and the transcript was embargoed for release by the Office of the Press Secretary until 5 p.m. In his remarks, the President referred to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt; and Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. A tape was not available for verification of the content of this interview.

George W. Bush, Interview With Nile TV of Egypt Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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