Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak
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CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. President, thank you for joining us. You met recently in Cairo with the new prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Tell us what your impressions are of him now.
HOSNI MUBARAK, President, Egypt: For me to the first time see Mr. Netanyahu, I heard a lot about him, I heard his speeches here, his press conferences, but I didn’t make any comment before seeing him, so as toexchange views with him, speak with the man, understand what’s in mind. Then it was very good meeting. He is key in the peace process, as I understood from him. He has his own style for fulfilling his commitment concerning the agreement being signed between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and he promised that he is going to go ahead but we are giving him some time to arrange his situation because he was about three weeks or two weeks in office, but I think he would continue and he would work for peace.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: When you say own style, does that mean own interpretation of the understandings of the principles, or you mean own style?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I think his own style, the way to implement the agreement, but the agreement is an agreement.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So there’s no question–
HOSNI MUBARAK: There was not going to be changed, so we are waiting until a plan on how to fulfill the agreement and we agreed to contact with each other every now and then, and there is anything to me which needs consultation, both agreed to meet at any time, to discuss any matter, which needs consultation because we are intending to support peace. And we supported peace from the beginning. And Egypt, the country that started the peace process in this area…Without what Egypt did since 1977, I don’t think that we could have reached what is going on now.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So is it your impression that this is a man that you and all the other Arab leaders can work with?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I think we can work with him very well, and we have the experience with the Likud Party beforehand. We signed the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel with Menachem Begin. He was a very strong man. But we concluded a favorable agreement which is still working till now, and it will be a lasting agreement.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What do you see right now as the biggest obstacle to concluding a comprehensive peace?
HOSNI MUBARAK: Look, still there are problems of the settlements, problems of the withdrawal, for one example, Hebrone, which is considered for the Palestinians is, is an important point, which will give them confidence in the agreement to continue, although Mr. Netanyahu promised me that he is going to do that but in another style, because he has some problem with the settlers. Maybe the problem of Jerusalem, but since Egypt signed an agreement with the Israelis at the beginning and even before that, we have two Camp David frame works, the first frame work which deals with the problem between Egypt and Israel, the second frame work deals with the Palestinian problem, and all its aspects. I think the–Jerusalem is a big issue, but they could find a good formula which satisfies the needs of both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Did Benjamin Netanyahu say that to you?
HOSNI MUBARAK: No. I just told him. I didn’t want an answer from him because he was just newly appointed in his cabinet. I don’t want to embarrass anybody. I want a formula could be achieved.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But you mentioned the settlements. Today there were reports that there are new bridges and new highways being built from the Golan Heights, from the West Bank, that indicate that Israel wants more access. How do you read that kind of–
HOSNI MUBARAK: I am afraid of such things to be done. My fear is, it is going to complicate everything.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, why do you think this happened, especially after you–
HOSNI MUBARAK: I can’t understand it. Now this may lead to much more violence, much more terrorism. I don’t think neither Israel nor any country in the area or in the whole world need much more terrorism.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Is this the kind of thing that you–that is the red flag, to pick up the red phone and say, Mr. Prime Minister, red alert?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I am going to tell him. I am going to tell him.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Will you tell him soon?
HOSNI MUBARAK: Yes, I’m going to tell him when I return. Yes. But this is very dangerous as to make good calculations now. We are on the way to a final negotiation for peace. We have to conciliate this. We have to support the peace. And I said several times, peace, cooperation, love, so if we had any kind of concession.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But also in the past, your position has been that peace with Syria can be achieved only with–in exchange of land for peace and Prime Minister Netanyahu has been adamant in his insistence that there will be no returning of the Golan Heights. Did you and he narrow that divide in your conversation?
HOSNI MUBARAK: Look, I spoke with him in general terms. I didn’t want to embarrass him for the first meeting. I’d like to understand what is his mind, but I told him my advice. I have no problem, we have no problem between Egypt and Israel, except something very important for both of us, stability and terrorists. I told him look, Syria will not go through any peace process or sign peace agreement unless it takes back all its occupied territory.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And what did he do?
HOSNI MUBARAK: And I told him, I don’t want any answer from you, I don’t want to create problems with you. This you could discuss with your cabinet and whenever you’re convened, you have to do it, with a former Prime Minister Rabin, he said, Israel is not eager to keep one centimeter of the occupied and of the Israelis, and these statements came out several times, but they wanted to know what are the–they are going to gain from Syria in return. Anyway, it’s a negotiating issue.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But psychologically for Israelis, it is–
HOSNI MUBARAK: Psychologically for, for Syrians as well.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I mean, one of the reasons why it is said that Prime Minister Netanyahu is now their leader is because Israelis were concerned about the escalating insecurity. Is there anything that you could put on the table or the other Arabs that would in any way psychologically at least reassure the Israelis that they have nothing to lose?
HOSNI MUBARAK: In 1967, Golan was very important in any war which may take place. Nowadays with the modern warfare, it’s of no importance. You could overcome Golan. You don’t need to put anything in Golan–neither the Israelis or the Syrians. So it’s doesn’t work, all this big fuss.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: How soon, Mr. President, do you think that negotiations, peace negotiations have to be resumed? Is time a factor now?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I think the sooner the better because if they are going to stay for quite a long time, that means all the powers of the forces who are against peace will find the fertile land to start working in terrorism and complicate the whole thing. It is very dangerous. We have to start as soon as possible.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So you think that if the negotiations will resume, this would be–this would be a wedge against the terrorists who are determined to end the–
HOSNI MUBARAK: Believe me, terrorist actions will never continue–will never stop unless we reach a comprehensive settlement.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But the–it’s interesting–and this was the argument that Prime Minister Netanyahu made when he was a candidate–that there were more people killed since the peace process started than, than before.
HOSNI MUBARAK: Even now there is no process going on. Many people are going to be killed and it will continue, and if it is not going to continue internally, inside Israel, it may happen anywhere else. All of us have business, have embassies, have planes, have everything all over the world. So it’s very dangerous, so I think resuming negotiations, the sooner the better, and we should expect in the course of the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and Syrians, we should expect, as I told Rabin and Peres before, terroristic action may take us to end of the process, but we should insist on continuing the process, because whenever peace prevails, all these countries, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, all the countries in the area will cooperate in fighting terrorists.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And they will?
HOSNI MUBARAK: For sure.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Syria?
HOSNI MUBARAK: For sure. Whenever they sign peace agreement, everybody will be keen on keeping stability in the whole area.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What do you hope to get from President Clinton in your meeting today and you’ve also met with other U.S. officials?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I’m not asking President Clinton for the impossible, but I could tell you very frankly the American role is the most important role in the peace process. They started this role since 1973, and we need American role, it’s very important, vital. Without it, we couldn’t achieve what has been achieved till now.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mr. President, the United States Government and Egypt have had some differences of opinion over several things, including sanctions against Iraq, sanctions against Libya, and also the candidacy for a second term of Boutros-Ghali, an Egyptian, now Secretary-General of the United Nations. How serious are these issues between your two countries?
HOSNI MUBARAK: This is a problem between Egypt, frankly, and the United States. Whenever there’s a problem, we exchange views. We discuss like any other friend. For me, it was shocking to start saying no for Boutros-Ghali–six months before the renewal. Anyway, I don’t want to tackle this problem–the Secretary-General of the U.N.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You think he should remain?
HOSNI MUBARAK: I don’t know. This depends upon the voting in the Security Council.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But he says he wants to stay.
HOSNI MUBARAK: He wants to stay, for sure, he wants to stay.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Finally, Mr. President, you alluded to terrorism before. As you know, terrorism is now hitting the shores of the United States. What are your thoughts now about the United States and how it faces terrorism? Do you have advice for the President on how we should be dealing with it?
HOSNI MUBARAK: It is an international phenomenon. We have to take measures and to react or to act against terrorism anywhere in the world.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So what measures should–
HOSNI MUBARAK: For example, the main problem is a Middle East problem. If the Middle East problem could be solved fairly, this will be the biggest help to avoid terrorism.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Because?
HOSNI MUBARAK: Because the people sometimes feel there’s injustice. And just feeling with people–they feel sometimes that the–the Israelis are taking everything, they are taking nothing, and the propaganda here and there is a big problem. For example, so many leaders who are dealing with Israel and the United States, including me, have been targeted by these people. They don’t want the peace process to continue. They don’t want a relation with the Israelis. That’s why they are trying to fight us. But we are insistent on peace to continue, so we have all to work for a comprehensive settlement. This will be the biggest victory against terrorists.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Mr. President, thank you.