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The President's News Conference With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Cairo

October 26, 1994

President Mubarak. Good morning. It is a source of great pleasure for me to welcome President Clinton and his able assistants in Cairo on behalf of the people of Egypt. We look upon President Clinton with great admiration and esteem. He's a man of courage and conviction, a man of ideals and action alike.

Since he has assumed his awesome responsibilities, he has demonstrated an exceptional ability to combine his evident concern over domestic matters with a genuine interest in foreign policy. Under his leadership, the United States has played a pivotal role in the maintenance of world peace and security. Such a role is indispensable in an era of profound change and— [inaudible]. It was only natural that the Middle East received much attention from the President and the American people.

During the past 2 years, much has been achieved on the road to peace. To a great extent, this was due to the active role the Clinton administration undertook with vigor and perseverance. And it has been a success story all along.

We are not unmindful of the obstacles that remain on the road to a comprehensive and lasting peace. But we are determined to pursue that goal with vigor and determination. As you move to consolidate the steps which were taken on the Palestinian and Jordanian tracks, we cannot lose sight of the centrality of the Syrian and Lebanese track. Today I discussed with President Clinton the necessity of making meaningful progress on these tracks. I assured our guests that President Asad is wholeheartedly committed to a just and honorable peace. So is the Lebanese leadership. Hence, we should spare no effort in order to reach that goal without delay. In the weeks ahead, we shall work together and more in harmony toward that end.

We must rekindle hope in the hearts of the peace-loving forces in the region. And with the same goal we must fight despair and violence. We deplore the killing of innocent people and attempts to spread fear and hatred. The time has come for healing all wounds of the past and of creating a better future for Arabs as well as Israelis.

President Clinton, you have made a great contribution to the solidification of the ever-growing friendship between our two nations. Through your words and deeds alike you have cemented our partnership for peace and development. This role is highly appreciated by our people.

In our discussion this morning we explored new ways and means for strengthening our cooperation even further. We are determined to make it a stable and everlasting aspect of our policy.

In short, we are in agreement that this relationship, which is based on mutual respect and mutuality, is a constant element of progress and stability, a model for cooperation and solidarity among nations.

Much credit goes to you, Mr. President, and your vision and sound judgment. I wish you success in the efforts you are exerting during this trip. Your decision to make Cairo your first stop is a good omen, for it is here in this proud city that the first and most difficult steps and decisions towards peace were taken.

May God Almighty bless your endeavor and guide your steps. And thank you.

President Clinton. Thank you. Thank you, President Mubarak.

It is fitting that we begin this day, which will include the celebration of a new peace between Israel and Jordan, in Egypt with President Mubarak. Egypt's courageous example set at Camp David and President Mubarak's tireless leadership in the peace process have paved the way to the historic progress we celebrate on this day. Mr. President, this region, indeed, the entire international community, owe to you and your nation a deep debt of gratitude. Egypt led the way. And I am proud to stand here with you, the United States is proud to stand with Egypt as partners in the pursuit of peace.

Today I reaffirmed to President Mubarak my commitment to do all I can to achieve a comprehensive settlement. The peace we seek calls on the parties to do more than lay down arms. We seek reconciliation between peoples, cooperation between governments joined by a vision of shared destiny. The United States has walked each step with Egypt. Despite many sacrifices, the journey to peace has brought Egypt to better times. After so many years of conflict and so many casualties, no Egyptian has died in battle against Israel since 1973.

Now we're on the verge of seeing those and other benefits extend throughout the region. I salute President Mubarak for the crucial role he has played in bringing the Palestinians and the Israelis together. Your work helped make possible the historic handshake between Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat in the White House last year.

To keep moving on that front, President Mubarak and I have just met with Chairman Arafat. We had a useful discussion about the need to fully implement the Declaration of Principles between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Israel. We reviewed the progress toward elections and the early empowerment of Palestinian authorities in the West Bank.

I made it clear that the United States places great importance on establishing strong and accountable democratic institutions. I also told Chairman Arafat that as the Palestinian administration starts to work on setting up a system to raise revenues, the United States will lead an international effort to support the Israeli-Palestinian agreement on early empowerment in the West Bank.

We also discussed a matter of great urgency, the absolute necessity to combat Hamas and all other extremist groups using terror to perpetuate hatred. We agreed that the same courage is needed to fight the enemies of peace that Chairman Arafat showed in making peace.

I want to reaffirm that the United States will stand with all friends of peace. Terrorists must not be allowed—must not be allowed—to intimidate the peoples of this region into abandoning the peace process. At this moment of opportunity, those who perpetuate violence pose the greatest threat to the Palestinian people and to all Arab people. The enemies of peace are desperate, but they must not defeat the hopeful forces of the future.

President Mubarak and I discussed our determination to stand as partners in this and many other efforts. We have worked on many things around the world in the past; we do in the present. I congratulated him again on the success of the remarkable population conference here at Cairo. We will continue to work together on many fronts, including the need to stand up and repel the Iraqi threat to Kuwait.

Our countries share a commitment to promote economic growth in Egypt as well. At my request, the Vice President met with President Mubarak when he was in Cairo in September, and they initiated a new partnership for economic growth. Earlier this week our two countries agreed to establish new committees to support this partnership. The Vice President will be saying more about that in the next few months. I believe he'll have the opportunity to come back here.

Again, let me thank President and Mrs. Mubarak for their gracious reception. And let me thank President Mubarak especially again for his leadership in this process. I am confident we would not be where we are today had it not been for him.

Thank you, sir.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. I'd like to ask both President Mubarak and President Clinton how Chairman Arafat responded to your saying that it is an absolute necessity to combat Hamas and other groups of terror and how both of you interpret Chairman Arafat's comment about the Israel-Jordan agreement, saying that those who support it should drink sea water?

President Mubarak. Chairman Arafat is very keen to put the violence of Hamas to an end. I remember when one of the events took place a couple of weeks ago, he did his utmost and he captured several of the people of Hamas when he heard that the man—the soldier is still in Gaza, although it proved that the man was not in Gaza. He came here the second day, and Secretary Christopher was here, and he told him about the effort which Arafat did to avoid this trouble. Hamas needs cooperation between both sides, so as not to spoil the peace process and the progress of peace in the area.

President Clinton. I felt that we got a very firm and unambiguous response. Certainly, the position that I took, the position that President Mubarak took was very firm and unambiguous. And Chairman Arafat said he would continue to do all he could to combat terrorism, specifically Hamas but other groups as well. And I am satisfied with the response that he gave, and I believe he will attempt to implement it.

We discussed that and a whole range of other issues. But I believe, on this issue, he will continue to do that. He understands, I think, clearly that Hamas is his enemy now, that once you become a partner in the peace process you have to fight for peace and those who seek to undermine it are seeking to undermine you. I think he clearly understands that. And I was satisfied with the answer I received. And we will have to now proceed to achieve the results. But I think the understanding there is clear.

Q. And what about the Israel-Jordan treaty, his response——

President Clinton. We did not discuss his comments yesterday. I can tell you this: I think that this is a great day, and I think that it will continue the process. And I agree with President Mubarak, we have to also move on with Syria and with Lebanon. But clearly, the peace process is moving in the right direction.

Q. U.S. President, you are the first American President to visit Syria in 20 years. Do you expect to narrow the gap between the Israeli and the Syrian viewpoints or produce a breakthrough on this track before the end of 1994?

President Clinton. I expect that we will make some progress. I expect that we will narrow the gap. I do not expect this trip to Syria to produce a dramatic breakthrough in the immediate aftermath of the trip, but I believe we have made a good deal of progress in the last few months. I have been quite encouraged by that, and it is on that basis and my conviction that both President Asad and Prime Minister Rabin and their two peoples want to continue to work for peace that I go to Syria.

In terms of the timing of a breakthrough, I don't want to commit myself to that because that really is up to the parties. They must determine the substance and the timing. But I believe we should move as quickly as possible, and I am pushing it as quickly as possible. I cannot give you a date.

Q. President Clinton, earlier this week your Secretary of State spoke in Washington, and he talked about putting international pressure on Iran to deal with Hamas. He didn't name the Western states, but it's clear that there are some, perhaps including Germany and France, that are believed to be trading with Iran. What kind of international effort do you plan to lead to crack down on Iran? And I'm wondering whether President Mubarak can talk about perhaps what the Arab world might be willing to do to put pressure on other terrorist states as well.

President Clinton. Well, first of all, let me say that what we want to do with regard to Hamas and these other terrorist groups is to try to move to put pressure on all points of support for them that we are able to determine. And that would include an effort that would go beyond Iran.

Obviously, there are things that can be done that are well-known to all of you in the form of refraining from having economic relations. And we're going to ask all of our friends throughout the world to support this, all the people who are the friends of peace and the enemies of terrorism. We ask them to recognize that they cannot have it both ways.

Q. President Clinton, in connection with terrorism, and also Chairman Arafat, how will the U.S. objectively evaluate what he is doing to combat terrorism? And is there any plan that the U.S. would have to peg the amount of money that it would raise for the implementation of the agreement between Israel and PLO to his cracking down on terrorism?

President Clinton. Let me answer the second part of that question first, because I think it's important to get this out. There was absolutely no discussion of tying any effort—of aid by the United States or the international community to this effort. The effort to combat terrorism is the first step that is the precondition to making the whole peace process work.

So we did discuss the need that we have always acknowledged and supported to continue with elections in the territories, to have economic development assistance. But there was no quid pro quo discussion. Chairman Arafat started the discussion himself with his desire to combat terrorist groups and with his willingness to do all that he could.

I think that we would all admit that it is impossible to guarantee 100 percent success in any effort. I mean, in the United States we're not 100 percent successful in combating crime or organized crime. What we want is 100 percent effort. And I think it will be obvious to the Israelis, who are partners in the peace process with the PLO, and to the United States and to the other parties whether that effort is being made. I must say that from my own observation, based on what our own people have told me, there has been an increasing effort in the last several weeks on the part of Chairman Arafat and the authorities in the territories to do what they can on this front. And I think it will continue to increase. And I think President Mubarak agrees with that.

President Mubarak. Yes, I agree with that.

Q. President Clinton, sir, what is the statement you're making after speaking so strongly against terrorism by visiting Syria, a country which the U.S. still labels as an advocate of terrorism?

And President Mubarak, please, did you discuss the issue of the sanctions imposed against Libya with President Clinton, and if so, do you hope for a lifting—a complete or partial lifting of these sanctions soon?

President Clinton. Let me answer the Syrian question first and then defer to President Mubarak.

Terrorism is still an issue between our two countries, and it cannot be ignored. But the most successful way to end terrorism in this part of the world is to have a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Syria is a partner in the peace process. We are making progress in that process. I believe President Asad wants a comprehensive peace and wants an end to terrorism as a part of that. And therefore, I think it would be a mistake for me not to take this opportunity, since I'm in the region, to try to go to Syria to further the peace process.

President Mubarak. Concerning the sanctions in Libya and Iraq, we just touched these two issues in general. They were on my agenda. We just had a very short discussion about it.

Q. Are we still at the status quo now as it is, or will there be developments with regards to these sanctions?

President Mubarak. This needs further discussions with the United States.

Q. The question from Egyptian television is addressed to the two heads of state. President Clinton, President Mubarak, what's the American viewpoint and the Egyptian viewpoint respectively on the delay on implementation of self-rule in the territories?

President Clinton. The American viewpoint is that we should proceed as quickly as we can. We want to have—we want to support the elections process, and we want to support the multinational development process in the territories. And we do support that. We also are very sensitive to and understand the security concerns of Israel. So one of the things that I had hoped to do in my meeting with Chairman Arafat, and again in my meetings in Israel, is to try to work through the differences on both sides about that so we can proceed with the elections and proceed with the development process. I think we should do it sooner rather than later, giving proper concern to the security needs of Israel.

President Mubarak. Concerning the Egyptian point of view toward this, we are with the continuation of the implementation of the declaration principles. But if we are going to respond to terroristic action, this will delay the peace process and this will not lead to any security and any comprehensive peace in the whole area.

Thank you very much.

Q. And Mr. President, please, did Chairman Arafat ask your assistance or mediation to solve the problem of the holy places in Jerusalem between Jordan and Palestine?

President Clinton. No, we did not discuss that at all.

President Mubarak. Let's just leave it at that.

NOTE: The President's 75th news conference began at approximately 9:45 a.m. at El-Qubbeh Palace. In his remarks, he referred to Yasser Arafat, Chairman, Palestine Liberation Organization.

William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Cairo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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