|Press Availability With Egyptian Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit|
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
July 31, 2007
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: (Via interpreter) We had today a meeting, the group of the GCC plus Egypt and Jordan. We convened that meeting with Dr. Rice, the Secretary of State, and the meeting truly was one of the important meetings. We have covered a wide variety of regional issues and we agreed on a statement that will be issued and it will cover six points.
Obviously, the statement as well as the discussions cover the Middle East issue, the issue of Iraq, the Iranian nuclear issue, the issue of Lebanon, as well as the issue of terrorism, and lastly the nonproliferation and issues of weapons of mass destructions.
The meeting was very fruitful and we have exchanged clearly a variety of views. It was a frank discussions and we believe that there’s a great deal of understanding between the U.S. Secretary of State on the one hand and the other participants on the other hands.
The U.S. Secretary of State explained to us in details and with clarity the American vision and the American views to move and advance the Middle East peace process and the conference or the meeting that President Bush called for and expressing the American desire to advance a Palestinian-Israeli settlement that would lead to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and contiguous Palestinian state.
We also heard with a great deal of interest the American vision and the American views about Iraq regarding the upcoming period, which is the next 17 months the life of the Administration.
That was briefly what we have discussed. The U.S. Secretary of State and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, they will both be honored to meet President Mubarak after this press conference. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much, Minister. Thank you very much for arranging this meeting of the GCC plus Egypt and Jordan and the United States. This is the fifth time that we have met in this configuration, beginning with the meeting that we held during the UNGA last September. And I think it is a sign of our intensifying political dialogue that we have met more frequently, and I believe we are continuing to find this forum an excellent way to address the many challenges and opportunities that we have.
And today, we indeed, as you said, discussed a number of those challenges, particularly how to support a unified Iraq in which all Iraqis can live in peace and security. We talked about the challenges facing Lebanon and how we can support the democratically elected Government of Lebanon. But we also talked at some length, as you said, about the opportunities that may be there now to advance the two-state solution.
I thank you very much for welcoming, as did the other members of the GCC, Egypt and Jordan, the President’s statement of July 16th. And I look forward to the consultations that we will have in advance of the convening of an international meeting sometime this fall. I said to the minister and to others that I expected to be frequently here in the efforts to prepare that meeting because we also need to enhance and work to accelerate progress on the bilateral track between Israelis and Palestinians.
So thank you very much for inviting us here, and it was a very fruitful discussion.
QUESTION: What’s exactly the aim of the next coming conference or meeting in autumn? Is it only for the Palestinian authorities or for the aim of resuming the peace process exactly?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I think President Bush made very clear that the reason to have an international meeting is to advance the progress of the two parties toward a two-state solution. No one can have a discussion, no one can have a negotiation, in lieu of or in place of the parties. This is something that the parties have to do.
But there can be international efforts to support diplomatically what the parties are doing. There is an active bilateral track now between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. I am going to Israel and to the Palestinian territories in a couple of days, I guess, after I’m here and in Saudi Arabia, and it’s my intention to see what we can do to stimulate further progress on that bilateral track. Because I think when we get to an international meeting, we want it to be a well-prepared meeting that really does advance progress toward a two-state solution. That is what the President has in mind. That is what we have in mind. There is no reason to call the international community together just to review what has been done. The purpose is to give a spur to future and further progress. And so that’s what we will do.
I said to my colleagues that this conference shouldn’t be thought of as “Made in America.” We will be consulting about how best all of us can make steps to make sure that the meeting is a success.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: (Via interpreter) I would like to just add to what the U.S. Secretary of State said. We, in today’s meeting, we have talked about our point of view and what we would like to see as a part of the agenda of that meeting and what kind of outcome we would like to see. We have told her about the results of the visit by the two foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan to Israel and the views that we heard from the Israeli side, and also what we would like to see as happening as an additional American efforts to advance into that direction. And we have emphasized that we would like to see a meeting with an elaborate agenda capable of dealing with the Palestinian issue in a way that would lead to the establishment of the Palestinian state in the very near future.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) A question to Secretary Rice. What kind of reference are you going to use for the upcoming meetings? Is it going to be the UN Resolution 242? Is it going to be the Arab League? There is an Arab concern that maybe there are new terms of references or there is a change in the Arab League initiative.
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Well, I think that we can build on the several UN Security Council resolutions and other proposals that have been put forward, other plans that have been put forward. We have, of course, the Arab initiative. We should remember we also have the roadmap that the parties and the region are – and the international community are all agreed to. We have various statements that leaders have made, that Palestinian leaders have made, that Israeli leaders have made. I think we will want to put all of that together to put forward the most positive agenda that we can.
But let me just underscore the purpose again here. We really don’t want to have a meeting for the sake of a meeting. We – it doesn’t make any sense for the President of the United States to ask people to come wherever we ask them to come, which is still yet to be decided, but it doesn’t make sense for the President of the United States to ask people to convene unless we want to use that convention of parties to push the process forward.
There is a lot of work to do between now and then to lay a proper foundation so that the meeting can be a spur to further progress. That began today with the comments that I heard from my interlocutors here. There will be a Quartet meeting sometime probably in the fall. We will probably see each other again at the UNGA. I expect to come back to the region. There is a lot of work to do to make sure that this is an agenda that advances the cause that everyone is looking to, and so that’s what we’re going to be doing for the next few months.
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: I would hope that the Quartet’s meeting as it takes place, the Arab working group would have the chance of having an encounter with the Quartet in order to coordinate the work for the coming meeting.
SECRETARY RICE: I know that’s very much wanted by the Quartet as well.
Yes, (Inaudible) --
QUESTION: Hi, this is for the --
SECRETARY RICE: No, it was (Inaudible).
QUESTION: Oh. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’ll make this one snappy. Two questions. First to you, sir. Can there be a two-state solution right now while the Palestinian state is essentially split in two? Can you move forward on the peace track?
And then, Madame Secretary, the neighbors agreement has been in place for long enough to, in a sense, judge how some of it’s going. Did you discuss behind closed doors a sort of progress report? Are there some areas where you see more things that need to be done?
FOREIGN MINISTER GHEIT: May I? (Via interpreter) Regarding the question about the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state at a time when we see Palestinians split, I believe that what it is needed is accelerated moves in order to reach the horizon of that state and an agreement between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority regarding this settlement, this settlement that will be presented to the Palestinian people. If we wait, I believe this will have a negative impact on the general situation in dealing with the Palestinian issue. That is one dimension.
The other dimension that we hope that this split within the Palestinian community is a temporary status and there are calls for dialogue, for unification. There are some calls yesterday and through the Arab League foreign ministers meetings. That issue was discussed. And the focus is on the need to bring back the Palestinian legitimacy to Gaza. All these are elements we have to work very hard, but when we are working hard and in (inaudible) we have to work very hard in order to achieve an agreement between the two sides; otherwise, we will be threatening a great deal of what has been achieved during the last two decades or since October ’91 when – after the Madrid conference.