Press Briefing by Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and David Satterfield, Assistant Director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs
The Briefing Room
3:27 P.M. EDT
MR. MCCURRY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the White House. I have with me Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, who is the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, who can do one of two things. He can do a more formal readout of the meetings just concluded, or proceed directly to questions. My impression is, both Presidents gave fairly detailed discussions that covered the range of topics that they addressed during their meetings today, so we could maybe proceed just to questions, unless you'd like Bob to do that.
David Satterfield, who is the Assistant Director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, is also here from the NSC staff for moral support for the Ambassador; I doubt the Ambassador needs it. And why don't I just turn it over to Ambassador Pelletreau.
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: With you, Mike, I don't need more moral support. (Laughter.)
Q: Mr. Ambassador, after what we heard in the East Room, it still is a bit unclear as to whether or not Egypt will sign in New York the indefinite extension of the NPT. Can you shed a bit more light on how predisposed Mubarak is on that point?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: To add to what the two said out there, Egypt has reserved its position now on whether it, itself will be signing or not, but it has undertaken that it will not lobby other governments.
Q: Which is a departure from its position of --
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: No, it's said that before. That's an Egyptian position that they have taken before.
Q: That they wouldn't lobby?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: That they wouldn't lobby.
Q: Did they try to get the Arab League to go with them?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: They explained their position in the Arab League. There was, as I understand it, a vigorous discussion in the Arab League, and the Arab League passed the resolution that it did, which was a noncommittal resolution at that time.
Q: Mr. Ambassador, are you left any more confident today than you were before, or is the administration, that Egypt will indeed sign the indefinite extension?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: There's no question that Egypt believes deeply in the NPT. As Mubarak told you, he has a strong feeling about Egypt having been one of the original initiators of the NPT, and he made the point about the moral strength of a strong NPT and its importance to world and global stability. I think that is a very clear aspect of Egypt's total position, and that was something that we welcomed hearing very much.
Q: Mr. Pelletreau, where are Peres and Moussa going to meet, and wasn't that one of the -- wasn't that a suggestion from the United States, that they set up a mechanism to discuss their differences?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Their next meeting, I believe, will be in Paris on the way home.
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: But they have been meeting previously on this subject as well. The two governments have been discussing this issue. That is something that we think is very appropriate and very proper, that they should discuss it between themselves in a serious fashion, and we're pleased that is going on.
Q: Do we have a goal for something that they can produce out of that, we'd like to see them produce? I know it's up to them, but --
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Well, it is up to them. But at the same time, the overall goals, I think, were quite clearly stated by the President. We want to see a strong vote in favor of indefinite extension. We believe in the universality of the treaty. It will take some time to get to that point. And, working within the region, we see in the long term in both Egypt and Israel, also, are committed in the long term to making the Middle East an area that's free of weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical, biological or nuclear.
So there's a good foundation and a good basis for further discussion of this subject between them, and we're pleased that they are discussing it.
Q: Ambassador, to what extent did they discuss the threat to the peace process and to the region itself from both Iran and Iraq, and what's your sense of when the administration's going to take the next step to, if you will, tighten the screws on Iran?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Iran did come up as not so much directly related to the peace process, but Iran's threatening posture to the region more generally -- its support of terrorism, its undermining and subversion of friendly regimes, and there was no difference of view in the two sides that Iran needs to be contained, and, as far as the United States goes, that our measures have had some effect, that they need to be strengthened, and we're in the process of considering how best to do that.
Q: What's your sense of how and when that will happen?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Well, I think it will happen fairly soon, as has been reported in the last couple of days. We had a meeting at the Cabinet level yesterday, and options are being prepared for the President to consider. And I think that will be happening quite soon.
Q: Was there any discussion at all of the cease-fire in Sudan, which I know has been of concern to the President, and whether there's any potential for developing that now?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: That really did not come up between the two Presidents. It was referred to earlier in a discussion between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State, but not in any detailed fashion.
Q: Not to spoil the party, but --
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: You never do.
Q: -- but why are you calling the role of terrorist states and all -- what is the current status of Egypt's relations with Libya and how does the U.S. feel about that? And did that come up?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: There was discussion of Libya. And President Mubarak made very clear that Egypt adheres to the international resolutions, the U.N. resolutions, and is abiding by the sanctions and will continue to abide by the sanctions. In fact, President Mubarak described some of the measures that Egypt was taking to increase its ability to ensure that it was fully abiding by the sanctions.
Q: Mr. Pelletreau, aside from Libya and Iran that you mentioned, it was -- came up in the -- about its threatening posture, where there are other topics which were discussed such as Iraq lifting the sanctions of Iraq or the two American hostages or the people held in Iraq or whatever you call it. And last but not least, both Presidents said something about that. They discussed what was going on in the Occupied Territories and in Gaza and Jericho and about the closure of the Gaza and the West Bank? Were there any specific things that you could offer that they will be undertaking with Israel to change the situation or improve the situation in that matter?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Well, with respect to the peace process, President Mubarak focused a good deal on the situation in the Palestinian self governing areas and made very clear that he believes that further progress on the Palestinian-Israeli issues is vital for progress on all other fronts. This is without detracting from the Syrian-Israeli negotiations, but that the Palestinian issue and how it is being treated and how the issue is being moved forward through further negotiations colors everything else in the peace process. So, yes, we did have a specific discussion about it.
And we also discussed various aspects of it. We discussed the security dimension of Gaza and Jericho and the importance of having the Palestinian authority making 100 percent effort to maintain security and to reduce to the point of eliminating terrorism. At the same time, we did discuss the economic conditions in Gaza which all -- both sides recognize are very difficult -- and the need to have economic development and the need to have jobs and opportunities for the Palestinians. And so it was quite a comprehensive subject. And the closure was also discussed and the effect that has on Palestinian economic development.
Q: There were a couple meetings yesterday and the day before yesterday -- the ad hoc committee for the Palestinian authority with the donor countries -- and I understand there were pledges to complete the crisis or the shortage in the budget of the Palestinian authority at the end of 1995. Were there any specific numbers which were floating in the discussion today, yesterday and day before yesterday about what they are going to provide the Palestinian authorities to continue functioning?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Well, that came up in the -- if you're referring to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee which is the committee of international donors that is organized to provide assistance to Palestinian self government -- the Palestinian side did present its best budget estimates for the coming period.
And the international donors looked at what of their pledges could be allocated to meeting that shortfall and what additional pledges would have to be looked for outside of this specific meeting. I would say that it was a positive meeting, both from the point of view of gaining greater precision of what's required, and gaining a greater degree of specificity of what the international community can come up with. But we're not at a period of closure here; we have an evolving situation that we'll be continuing to work on.
Q: President Mubarak said that Egypt is not asking Israel to join the NPT now. What exactly is Egypt telling you they want Israel to do and when -- what moves on what timetable?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Now, I think I have to leave that for Egypt to explain what its position is. We are encouraging Egypt and Israel to discuss this issue together, and I think I have to refer you to the Egyptians.
Q: Did Egypt try to ask the states to try to convince Israel to have a deadline for signing the NPT treaty?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: This goes along the same dimension. We see this discussion as taking place between Egypt and Israel. We are encouraging each side to discuss it with the other side. But we're not taking a detailed, substantive position on what each side's position would be.
Q: Ambassador Pelletreau, can you tell us how much further along you are in ensuring the extension of the NPT, which you have said is a strong, high priority, as the President has -- how much further along are you now, following the meeting with President Mubarak, than you were yesterday? What kind of assurances or messages did you get from him?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: Well, I think there were two very positive things that came out. One was Egypt's own very strong commitment to the NPT and to seeing the NPT extended and remain as a vital element of future global security; that's a very positive development. And Egypt undertaking that it would not be lobbying other governments against extension of the NPT. So we feel both confident and determined that the NPT renewal will be approved by a majority -- we hope a very strong majority -- of the signers of the NPT, and that it will be indefinitely extended and that will be effective.
Q: The economic partnership. Has it in any way been projected as a substitute for future concerning the AID from the United States to Egypt? Has it projected in this way, in this light?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: No.
Q: Is it going to be a substitute in the future?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: No. In fact, the President told President Mubarak that he was committed to doing all he could to see that the AID program is preserved in its current form. That is what we're supporting before Congress this year. The Joint Partnership for Economic Growth and Development should be looked at as a certain re-focusing of the U.S. and Egyptian joint efforts to try to make them more effective in terms of where Egypt is now in its economic development. And it's got a number of aspects that I could go through if you want, but I don't see a lot of enthusiasm on some of the faces here. (Laughter.)
It's worthwhile saying that the point that we made specific and definite progress on today was that the President's Council, composed of 15 senior businessmen from the private sector from each side, came together and was officially formed and met with the two Presidents and is now launched as part of this joint partnership. And having the private sector, with senior businessmen on both sides -- and Egypt, I can tell you, sent a bunch of heavy hitters from their private sector -- was a very positive development in that respect.
Q: Did Egypt give any indication that it was willing to extend the NPT unilaterally, to just go ahead for an extension by themselves?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: I don't recall that as being part of the discussion.
Q: Did the two Presidents discuss the situation in Lebanon and ways to contain or stop the daily clashes there?
AMBASSADOR PELLETREAU: There was not any detailed discussion of the situation in Lebanon beyond their joint commitment that they will continue working in close partnership toward the joint goal of a comprehensive peace. That is something that both governments are thoroughly committed to, and that was reaffirmed during this meeting.
Thanks very much.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END3:48 P.M. EST
William J. Clinton, Press Briefing by Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, and David Satterfield, Assistant Director for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/269819