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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
His Excellency Amre Mahmoud Moussa, Foreign Minister of Egypt
Press Remarks Prior to Their Meeting
Washington, D.C., July 10, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. It is a great pleasure for me to welcome Foreign Minister Moussa to Washington, and to open with him a new chapter in the friendship between the United States and Egypt.

Over the past two decades, our nations have built a strategic partnership that supports our common goals in the Middle East and around the world. We work together to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East; to encourage economic development throughout the region; and to combat the scourge of international terrorism.

Through the partnership developed by Vice President Gore and President Mubarak, high-level officials from our governments consult and, whenever possible, cooperate on economic, environmental and other issues. Relations between our armed forces are close and strong. And we have learned over the years that the more frequent and comprehensive our consultations, the stronger and more reliable our partnership.

The insight has spurred us to establish this U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue, which the Foreign Minister and I are inaugurating today. Under our guidance, the officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American State Department will meet regularly to exchange ideas on regional and global issues. To mark the start of this dialogue, we are releasing today a joint statement on its structure and goals.

We expect the strategic dialogue will help us to understand each otherís positions better; to cooperate as fully as possible when we agree; and to air our disagreements frankly and resolve them amicably when we differ. In our sessions today, for example, we will be discussing the status of the peace process in the Middle East, counter-terrorism, developments related to Iraq and Iran, African regional issues, among other topics.

In each of those areas, U.S.-Egyptian partnership is essential to help build peace, prosperity and freedom for our citizens, and to secure a stable future for the people all across the Middle East. Iím confident that our dialogue will be a source of strength for the partnership and for the region today and in the years to come.

Foreign Minister Moussa and I actually speak on a very regular basis; but we felt that it was a very good way, I think, to put some structure and formality into our relationship, beyond the normal one of informally speaking. So itís a great pleasure to have you here, Mr. Foreign Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: Thank you very much, Madame Secretary. I am really very happy to be here in Washington and in the State Department, especially at this juncture of serious developments in the Middle East -- whether it is pertaining to the peace process or other problems in the area, in the larger area encompassing North Africa, West Asia and, indeed, the Horn of Africa.

There are a lot of issues to discuss, but we have decided -- thanks to the Secretary -- that things should not be taken up or issues as they arise, but we must have a conceptual framework to see, to build on this strategic relationship that has started between the U.S. and Egypt for the last two decades or so.

We have enjoyed the best of relations between the two countries, between the leaders of the two countries, between the Secretary and myself, and the two diplomacies. Indeed, there are certain points that need to be discussed; and whatever differences, as the Secretary very rightly said, to be discussed and resolved amicably and through dialogue.

This is a very important moment in the relations between the U.S. and Egypt, U.S. and the Arab world, U.S. and the Middle East -- that strategic talks are going to start. This is new, but it means that we do care for the U.S. -- relations with the United States, and we do care for the future of the region, which is very important for the U.S. I wish to underline that Secretary Madeleine Albright has indeed enjoyed the respect of the people of the region; and a lot of hopes are pinned on her efforts to save the peace process and to put it back on track according to the agreed principles and based on the work -- tremendous work -- that has been done since the inception of that process, or this phase of the process, since 1991.

So once again, Iím very glad, Iím grateful for you, Madame Secretary, for this opportunity that we are going to build together a new horizon based on cooperation, friendship and strong relations.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I wonder if you could tell us what the U.S. thinking was in not opposing President Mubarakís decision to visit, despite a UN ban, to go to Libya to pay his respects to Muammar Qadhafi. I understand the fact that Egyptís Health Minister is in Iraq right now. I mean, Egypt, youíve projected them as a friend and, of course, theyíre always projected as a moderate force. Is there any conflict here? The mother of one of the victims called this, this morning, a betrayal; and said that the Administration just seems to have lost interest in the American victims of Lockerbie. What is Mubarak doing in Libya with Qadhafi that you can tell us?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that President Mubarak went through the procedure at the UN, through the Sanctions Committee, saying that he had wanted to make a humanitarian visit, that he had a doctor going with him; he approached it through the appropriate channels. We felt that a one-time humanitarian visit was appropriate, but we are not going to go along with any further visits by anyone for the purpose of just paying courtesy calls on Mr. Qadhafi. So we did believe that this was a humanitarian effort, and that President Mubarak had gone through the proper channels in order to secure the appropriate permissions for this.

Let me say that we have not nor do we ever forget about the victims of Lockerbie.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, are there any progress being made from yesterdayís meeting between the Palestinian delegates and Ambassador Dennis Ross? Is there anything new -- (inaudible)?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that, as I have said, basically we have been working very hard to narrow the gaps. The Palestinians, as you know, had accepted our ideas in principle; and the Israelis had said that they could not accept them as they were. We have been working very closely with them in terms of refining our ideas, and constantly working to narrow the gaps. The Palestinians who were here yesterday -- we were discussing where we were.

But let me just say that what has happened here as a result of this long stalemate, it is increasingly difficult, it seems to be, for the Israelis and the Palestinians to talk with each other. We donít think that this impasse can be resolved and that we can come to a conclusion if they do not talk with each other. There is a limited amount that the United States or anyone can do if the parties themselves do not talk with each other to resolve the remaining difficult issues.

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, just to follow up on the earlier question -- why is Egypt reaching out at this time to Libya and Iraq? Especially when youíre talking -- two countries that are considered pariah states by the United States and its allies -- when you have this strategic dialogue?

FOREIGN MINISTER MOUSSA: Well, on Libya we have been reaching out or trying to reach out since long time in order to discuss with the Libyan leadership the ways and means to resolve the Lockerbie issue, and to enlist the support by Libya of the goals by the Security Council.

Ever since this involvement by Egypt and by President Mubarak, in particular, a lot of changes have been noticed, have been entered into the Libyan position. We believe that it is always useful to dialogue, to talk. The Secretary was just saying that nothing is resolved without dialogue between the parties. So we see no inconvenience. We see, in fact, that it is useful to talk and to try to find a solution for the problem, as the families themselves suffering would also benefit from it.

As for the latest visit, it lies within the parameters of Arab traditions and of neighborly relations when there is a certain, say, circumstances that would necessitate a visit, especially within the humanitarian framework, we do it. Also, there are channels and this is within the framework of legitimacy and the resolutions of the Security Council on that matter. So Egypt has acted within that parameter, as the Secretary has just underlined.

As for the first, which is Iraq, also, the resolutions of the Security Council which are being now under implementation and talks between the UN and Iraq allow visits for humanitarian and certain other purposes, which we follow.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, your people have talked about a swift and fast conclusion of the -- (inaudible) -- of the peace process. And yet youíre talking about the strategic window and the urgency -- the sense of urgency. How fast is fast? How long will the strategic window be open before the U.S. says, well, we cannot reach an agreement?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I believe that while there are constructive discussions going on, that it is worth continuing the process. We are clearly coming to the end of this phase, and we cannot let it go on indefinitely. I have, in fact, made that point quite clear. I believe that we are coming towards the end of it. But as long as the talks are constructive, then I think itís worth going the extra mile.

But Iíd like to just repeat what I said, which is that it is now essential for the parties to talk with each other. The U.S. can play and will continue to play as helpful a role as we can, but the fact that the parties have not, as a result of this long stalemate, been able to make useful contact with each other, I think we believe itís essential that they do so.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, is there an American plan to get the parties to talk together? And what is next after the Palestinians came and we heard from Gaza that they are unhappy and the pressure is only on the Palestinians? Are you ready now for another move, a different move?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think, first of all, we have put down to the parties our ideas. There is not an American plan; there are some ideas that we have put forward. As I just said, I think that we want to see whether we can bring this approach to a successful conclusion. Iím not prepared to go beyond that. I can just tell you that it will continue to be of great importance to the United States, as Iím sure to Egypt, to make sure that we work on a comprehensive peace. One canít just walk away from a situation that is as difficult and as important to all of us as the Middle East and the peace process.

We are patiently working this issue and will do so, so long as the talks are constructive and intensive. But the parties need to talk with each other.

[End of Document]

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