The President's News Conference With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at Camp David, Maryland
President Bush. Mr. President, thank you. Welcome to Camp David. It is a joy for me and Laura to have you here at this beautiful part of our country, a place where we like to come and relax and a place where we like to welcome our friends.
We had a—the President and I had a good dinner last night. We talked a lot about our mutual concerns, opportunities to make the world a more peaceful place. And we got up and had a good private visit and then met with our delegations.
First, I want to thank the President of Egypt for his country's strong support in our war against terror. I know there's been a lot of focus on, obviously, the Middle East, and I'll mention that in a second, but we're still in a war against people who want to harm America and people who want to harm Egypt. And we've had—we've got a good friend, Americans have a good friend, when it comes to this war on terror, in Egypt.
The President understands that we've got a long way to go in order to be successful. He's now been told again by me that my most important job is to secure our homeland, and this country is plenty tough and plenty patient and plenty determined to achieve that objective.
Obviously, we spent time talking about the Middle East, and we share a common vision of two states living side by side in peace. And I appreciated so very much his—listening to his ideas as to how to achieve that objective, that grand goal. The world—the Palestinians hurt, and I know that. And my concern is for the Palestinian people. And my view is, is that if the Palestinian people have a government that is transparent and open and willing to serve the people, Israel will be better off, Egypt will be better off, America will be better off, and we're more likely to achieve peace. And we discussed how to achieve those objectives.
The President of Egypt has had a lot of experience, and I appreciate his experience, and I appreciate his advice. Anytime he is willing to give it, I'm willing to listen. And so, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your time, and I appreciate your friendship, and welcome you to Camp David.
President Mubarak. Thank you very much for that. I will deliver my speech in Arabic language.
President Bush. He's going to speak in Arabic. That's good. The American press——
President Mubarak. I would like to thank President Bush for his welcoming remarks, which reflects the deep friendship between us. During our stay at Camp David here, I conducted extensive discussions with President Bush on a range of issues of mutual concern, most important of which was the deteriorating situation in the Middle East, and especially the Palestinian-Israeli track and its negative impact on regional and international security in general.
There is no doubt that the peace process in the Middle East is passing through a critical junction which requires us to exert all possible efforts on the political and security tracks, to rebuild the confidence between the parties, on one hand, and to relaunch a serious political negotiations aimed at final settlement on the other.
While Egypt's leading quest for peace in the Middle East has achieved its objectives here at Camp David 24 years ago, we have come back together today fully committed to exert our maximum efforts once again, so that peace and security may prevail in the Middle East region. And I must affirm here that your personal role, Mr. President, and the role of the United States today remains as important as was America's contribution towards reaching the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel more than two decades ago. And we look forward to the continuation of the effective role.
The entire international community, ladies and gentlemen, has supported the courageous vision of peace in the Middle East put forward by President Bush in his speech before the United Nations last fall. This vision was adopted by the Security Council in its Resolution 1397, which affirmed that peace in the Middle East must be based on two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side. We in Egypt and the entire Arab world support this vision and strongly believe that it represents the only way to achieve progress towards the settlement of the conflict.
Now it is time to move to implement our common vision in an effective and systematic way. And we have a strong foundation to implement that vision, and that is represented in the principles adopted by the Madrid peace conference and supported by the initiative adopted by the Arab League summit conference in Beirut, which affirmed Arab rights while responding to all Israeli concerns. These are the terms of references that should govern all future efforts.
For us to be able to achieve this vision, the confidence that was lost between the two parties during the previous period must be rebuilt as we embark on serious political negotiations that will contribute to the realization of our objectives. In this context, Israel must: End the siege imposed on the Palestinian people and withdraw its forces to positions occupied on September 28, 2000; and halt assassinations and the repeated incursions in the territories under the control of the Palestinian Authority; and immediately halt all settlement activities in the occupied territories, including the illegal confiscation of land and expansion of settlements under the pretext of natural growth or any other consideration.
At the same time, the Palestinian Authority must continue to intensify its efforts towards restructuring in a way that facilitates the better performance of its functions based on the principles of transparency and trust, in preparation for the establishment of its sovereign, independent state. The Palestinian Authority must continue in its firm implementation of President Arafat's decisive commitment to halt the violence and intensify the security cooperation and coordination under the supervision of the United States.
It also falls upon all of us, as partners in peace, to work towards alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people, through economic and humanitarian assistance, so as to remove the feeling of despair that stands in the way of reaching the desired settlement.
Mr. President, Egypt and the Arab states have affirmed their condemnation and rejection of the use of force and violence against civilians. Egypt has also affirmed its commitment to continue its major role in the search for peace. At the same time, the United States has affirmed, by putting forward this clear vision for peace, its commitment to effectively play its role in its capacity as the main sponsor of the peace process.
We look forward to a strong American engagement in the coming phase to implement this vision, in the context of an agreed timeframe and through negotiations on a permanent settlement that should lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the entire West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem. For the settlement to be just and comprehensive, Israel must withdraw from all the Arab territories occupied during 1967, including Syrian and Lebanese territories.
While pursuing our efforts, it must be kept in mind that there are forces that lack the conviction of our joint vision and will continue to obstruct our efforts to move towards a final and a comprehensive settlement. The way to confront the enemies of peace is to move forward with courage and determination to renew hope to the Palestinians and Israeli peoples in the future in which prosperity and stability prevail and away from the menace of violence and confrontation.
My meeting here today with President Bush has reaffirmed our joint determination to revive the hopes of peace through the longstanding partnership between our two countries and through which we have and will continue together to reach historic achievements on the path of peace between Arabs and Israelis for the benefit of the peoples of the region and also for the benefit of regional and international stability.
The depth of Egyptian-American relations represents one of the essential cornerstones in our joint pursuit of peace and stability in the Middle East. In this context, we discussed today means to strengthen our bilateral ties, including our trade and economic relations, so as to reinforce Egypt's ability to implement its plans for economic reform and to guide us toward a more balanced trade relationship between us.
Our meeting today coincides with a visit by the United States Trade Representative, Mr. Robert Zoellick, to Egypt, to meet with his counterparts on the Egyptian side, which I hope that it will result in tangible progress in furthering our relationships to new heights.
Mr. President, I look forward to working with you in the weeks and months ahead to chart the correct path on the road to peace, so that we can complete together the implementation of the mission that we have started together here at Camp David more than 20 years ago to achieve just, comprehensive, and lasting peace in the Middle East. I am confident that our joint efforts, supported by a solid determination, will lead us to achieve this goal in the near future.
President Bush. Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Q. President Bush——
President Bush. Hold on a second, please. We'll answer two questions apiece, two from the American side, two from the Egyptian side. I'm going to call on the American first. If you don't mind, contain your questions to one of us, if that's possible. And we'll start with Mr. Fournier [Ron Fournier, Associated Press], who I know—I know will adhere to that rule. [Laughter]
Q. Mr. President——
President Bush. Thank you.
Timetable for a Palestinian State
Q. Do you agree with President Mubarak that there needs to be a deadline for a Palestinian state to give the Palestinian people hope? And on the other hand, I want to know if President Mubarak—the reforms of the Palestinian Authority that you say— that President Bush says will give the Israelis hope, can they be done with Arafat still in charge?
President Bush. See, it's hard to reform the press. [Laughter] It may be harder to reform the press than to implement the needed reforms in the Palestinian territories. Your first question was?
Q. Do you agree with President Mubarak that there needs to be a deadline——
President Bush. Yes. Here's the timetable I have in mind. We need to start immediately in building the institutions necessary for the emergence of a Palestinian state which, on the one hand, will give hope to the Palestinian people and, on the other hand, say to the world, including the neighborhood, that there is a chance to defeat— to live in peace, to defeat terror. And that's important.
I also agree with the President of Egypt that, as we discussed the development of institutions necessary to provide hope and security in the region, that we've got to be talking about a political—have a political dialog. Part of the consultation process that we are having is to determine what's feasible in terms of that political dialog, what's feasible in terms of the timetable that a lot of people are anxious to talk about. We're not ready to lay down a specific calendar, except for the fact we need to get started quickly, soon, so that we can seize the moment.
And one of the things I'm most appreciative about, about the—about the progress made to date is, people now understand they have responsibilities. As I said in my April 4th speech, I talked about the responsibilities necessary to achieve a vision of peace. And President Mubarak has shown that he is accepting responsibility. He's very much involved in this process, and he's very much anxious that we work together to achieve that which is necessary and, to put it in his words, to come up with an effective and systematic way to get to the vision that we've—that I've outlined.
President Mubarak. What's your second question, please?
Reform of the Palestinian Authority
Q. I just want to know whether those Palestinian reforms that President Bush says have to happen first, can they be done, sir, in your opinion, by Yasser Arafat?
President Mubarak. Look, we should give this man a chance. We are working very hard in cooperation with the United States for the reform in the Palestinian Authority. Such a chance will prove that he is going to deliver or not. If he's going to deliver, I think everybody will support him. If he's not going to deliver, his people will tell him that.
Q. President Bush——
President Bush. The President gets to decide what member from the Egyptian press corps——
President Mubarak. Yes.
Q. President Bush——
President Bush. Good going. He selected you. [Laughter]
Q. Right. Nihal Saad, from Egyptian Television. Thank you for giving me the floor. It has been the stand of successive American administrations that the settlements, the Israeli settlements, is an obstacle to peace. But ever since Prime Minister Sharon came to office, there has been a steep increase in the settlements by almost 40 percent. Now, what is the stand of your administration concerning the settlement building, and what message would you tell the Israeli Government concerning that issue?
President Bush. Well, on April 4th I delivered the speech that I'm talking about, that I would hope you'd review what I said. I said, all parties have got responsibilities to achieve peace, including the Israelis. And Israel must work to create the conditions necessary to achieve peace. And my position hasn't changed since that speech.
Adam [Adam Entous, Reuters].
Reform of the Palestinian Authority
Q. Thank you. Mr. President—President Bush, are you confident you will get support from Arab leaders for reaching beyond Yasser Arafat to other Palestinian representatives?
President Bush. Look, Adam, here's what I'm confident about. I'm confident about the—Arab leaders understand the need for us to develop the institutions necessary for a peaceful and hopeful state to emerge.
Chairman Arafat, as far as I'm concerned, is not the issue. The issue is whether or not the Palestinian people can have a hopeful future. I have constantly said I am disappointed in his leadership. I think he's let the Palestinian people down. And so, therefore, my focus is on the reforms necessary to help the Palestinians.
The President believes that the Chair-man—if you notice, he didn't say he's going to deliver—should be given a chance to deliver. And that's an interesting point of view. I also happen to believe that there is plenty of talent in—amongst the Palestinians, and that if we develop the institutions necessary for the development of a state, that talent will emerge.
The issue is bigger than one person. The issue is an issue that really deals with people who suffer and people who have no hope. And I believe—I believe it is in the Palestinians' interest to have an independent state, at peace with its neighbor, and I believe it's in Israel's interest. Otherwise, I would not have taken this position.
Halting Middle East Violence
Q. President Mubarak—my question is addressed for President Mubarak. And I want to have a comment from Mr. President Bush, if you please. My name is Hanaa Simery, from the Egyptian Television, and my question is, is it realistic to ask for a complete halt of violence between the Palestinians and Israelis as a precondition for resuming any political negotiations?
President Mubarak. Me or you?
President Bush. I don't care. Who would you like to answer it?
Q. Both of you.
President Bush. Both of us, okay.
President Mubarak. Both of us, on the same question. All right——
President Bush. Maybe we'll give the same answer. [Laughter]
President Mubarak. I think we have the experience, since the Prime Minister took office, that he will never start the negotiation unless violence could come to an end—even that before Prime Minister Sharon. Till now violence didn't stop, and I don't think the violence will come to an end unless the people feel that there is hope for peace and there is something to show that peace is coming. If they didn't feel that, they will not stop violence; it will continue forever.
President Bush. My attitude about violence is this: People have responsibilities to do everything they can to stop violence. Chairman Arafat must do everything in his power to stop the violence, to stop the attacks on Israel—I mean everything. And that includes reforming the security forces so that they are—their primary function is to deal with violence.
The Arab world must work hard to defeat terror and violence. My opening comments were sincere about the President of Egypt; he's working hard to defeat violence and terror. And so the one thing I'm certain of is that we've all got to focus a lot of energy and attention on stopping violence, not only in the Middle East but all around the world.
See, there are terrorists who would love to destroy any peace process, and we have the responsibility to prevent them from doing so. And that means working all the time to stop it from happening. There are people who hate freedom, and they'll use terror to destroy innocent lives to achieve evil objectives.
And all of us—that's what I'm certain about—all of us must work—I'm certain if we don't work together and assume our responsibilities, it's going to be hard to win the war on terror. I'm certain if we stay focused and tough and resolute, we can win the war on terror. And as we remain tough, we're going to be able to achieve peace in parts of the world where people have kind of said there's no chance for peace, and it's not just in the Middle
East—not just in the Middle East.
Thank you all very much for coming.
President Mubarak. Good job. Thank you.
President Bush. Good job.
NOTE: The President's news conference began at 10:32 a.m. outside Holly Cabin. President Mubarak's opening remarks were in Arabic, and his remarks were translated by an interpreter. In his remarks, President Bush referred to Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority. President Mubarak referred to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel.
George W. Bush, The President's News Conference With President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at Camp David, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/213888