THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
October 25, 1993
The Briefing Room
2:35 P.M. EDT
MR. STEINBERG: This is a BACKGROUND BRIEFING. The
officials who will talk to you can be quoted as Senior Administration
Officials, one and all. [Names Deleted].
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: First, a bit on the
logistics. There was a restricted meeting that the President had
with President Mubarak, which lasted approximately one half hour
which concentrated on the Arab-Israeli peace process. And after that
there was a one-on-one between the two presidents, which lasted again
for approximately 25 minutes. And then the party went to, obviously,
the press conference and then to a luncheon in which other issues
were discussed, particularly a range of bilateral and regional
My colleagues will expand on the substance of the
discussions, especially on the peace process.
During the meeting the President congratulated Mubarak
on his reelected, his third term, and reiterated that the United
States looks forward to working closely with him, both on the peace
process and regional issues, and then the bilateral relationship.
And the President assured Mubarak of our strong support. And Mubarak
characterized the bilateral relationship as working -- "working very
well." And the President agreed that the state of the bilateral
relationships were excellent.
There was an extensive discussion on the peace process
which my colleague will expand on. The two presidents discussed
rather extensively during the expanded meeting on Somalia. The
President made a point of thanking Mubarak for Egypt's participation
in the efforts in Somalia, especially in the UNOSOM II -- UN0SOM II
effort, and characterized Egypt's role as very important to the
success of the operation. They expressed their support -- first
President Mubarak expressed his very specific support for the
President's policy in Somalia and the U.S. position. And both
presidents supported the Ethiopian efforts under President Meles to
mediate a solution. And they discussed in some detail the road ahead
in terms of establishing security, peaceful reconciliation and the
continuation of humanitarian effort.
There was -- in some detail -- a discussion of Libya and
the Pan Am 103 issue. And the President made very clear how -- the
importance that he attaches and the United States attaches to Libya's
compliance to the key resolutions -- U.N. Security Council Resolution
731 and 748; that was made very clear. And they discussed next steps
in terms of trying to obtain compliance from Libya.
There was an extensive discussion on our bilateral
relationship. In terms of the aid levels, the President did
reiterate that the United States will exert its best efforts to
preserve the current levels of assistance and underscored the
importance that the President attaches to assisting Egypt as well as
Israel because of the critical role both countries play in the Arab-
Israeli peace process.
A key link to the talks on assistance with Egypt was the
importance that the President and the U.S. attach to Egypt's economic
reforms, which in the U.S. view are vital to the future of Egypt.
And we want to continue to be supportive as possible in that effort
and helping Egypt progress towards self-sufficiency as a key
With that general opening, I would like to turn it over
to my colleague to discuss the peace process, which took, I think, a
large portion of the discussions between the two leaders.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The two presidents had,
as my colleague was saying, an extensive conversation on the peace
process. And the President really outlined a presentation that has
three elements in it and emphasized that in all of these elements,
he, the Secretary and all of us have been working very actively.
The first element is the implementation of the
Declaration of Principles. The Declaration of Principles has to be
transformed into an enduring agreement. There have to be real
changes, and there has to be a profound change in the realities on
the ground. Each side, the Israelis and the Palestinians, have to
see that in fact what has been worked out is in fact going to be
implemented in a way that ends up building up a confidence on both
We and the Egyptians together have made it clear that
we'll do all we can to be supportive of this process of
implementation. Both of us feel, based on the discussions we've had
with the Israelis and Palestinians, that this has gotten off to a
good start, that the negotiations, the committees that have been set
up, reflect the seriousness and earnestness on both sides. But
there's also a desire on our part to be as helpful as we can. We
have found -- we have heard from the Israelis and the Palestinians
that they want us to play an active, supportive role. We will do
that, and we'll do it in a way that coordinates closely with the
Egyptians as well.
The second element has to do with broadening the process
itself and making headway on the other tracks. You heard the
President talk about a commitment to a comprehensive peace
settlement. And we are determined to go ahead and do all we can in
that direction. Here again, the Egyptians also -- President Mubarak
also emphasized the importance of this and stood ready to be helpful
where they could in working with us.
The third element is what we call the Arab world
reaching out to Israel. It's importance because it reinforces the
peace constituency, especially in Israel. It certainly affects the
ability of Israelis to look at what has happened because of the
Palestinians and see that it's part of a larger whole, and to see
that the revolution and attitudes that Palestinians have vis a vis
Israel is reflected by Arabs also reaching out. And the more one
sees a demonstration of an embrace or a reaching out towards Israel,
the more one can have confidence that the process as a whole not only
can go forward, but that it is not going to be reversed. And a major
objective that the President laid out to President Mubarak was to
work on all three of these elements because there's a relationship
between them. He emphasized the things that we've been doing and he
took note also of some of the signs that we're beginning to see of
this kind of reaching out.
You saw Rabin stop in Morocco on his way back from the
signing here. Tunisia hosted the regional working group on refugees,
and the Israelis were present. Crown Prince Hassan met Foreign
Minister Peres here in the White House. The Qatari Foreign Minister
met with Peres and announced it. And most recently now, there was a
previously scheduled boycott meeting that was scheduled for yesterday
-- and it's not only not taking place, but it's been indefinitely
postponed. And I think that's a reflection of many of our efforts to
push on this last track, but also it's a reflection that there are
changes that are taking place out there.
The upshot is that the two presidents emphasized a
commitment to working in all of these areas -- working closely
together in all these areas. And we feel one of the things that we
will be doing with the Egyptians is coordinating very closely as we
Q Could you tell us what is the genesis of the
optimism that Mr. Mubarak spoke of today about Israel and Syria,
bridging the gap between them?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I don't know that
he specifically was making any kinds of predictions other than his
own belief that there is, in his view -- and frankly, in our view as
well -- there is a real commitment on Israel's side and on Syria's
side to not only stick with this process, but to try to work out an
agreement. There are continuing gaps in the -- in what I call this
complex of issues which are territory, peace, and security. And
we're going to have to do all we can to try to overcome those gaps.
One thing we know is that there is a commitment to trying to work out
an agreement. There is a commitment to try and to produce a peace
agreement. And it's hard to know how long it's going to take to be
able to overcome the gaps, but what's very clear from our own
discussions, as well, is that the commitment is quite serious.
Q Well, he spoke of a short period of time -- I mean
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think he spoke
about his hopes that this might be realized in a short period of
time. It would be desirable, obviously, to realize it as soon as
possible, but we have to be realistic as well.
Q Is it our view that he is beginning to get on top
of the terrorists' threat in his own country? Where does that stand
now with the various fundamentalist groups?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think the -- what we
know is that there continue to be groups that at least have their
leaderships based in Damascus. What we have seen from the Syrians on
the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement is a posture that
makes it clear, number one --
Q Fundamental -- in Egypt.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry -- I was
locked in there, wasn't I? (Laughter.)
Q You were cruising --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I was on a roll. Was
that cassette 103 I was giving? (Laughter.)
Q And I'm writing it down. (Laughter.)
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I saw you
writing, and that's why I said, it must be good. (Laughter.)
Q -- said it's okay to be hopeful, but you need to
be realistic about the time frame. What is a realistic time frame?
Q answer the question about terrorism in Egypt.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you're talking
about -- the issue is fundamentalism in Egypt. I'll offer a couple
of thoughts and I'll invite my colleagues to add anything they might
like to to it.
He is certainly very confident that in the aftermath of
his election that in fact the situation from his standpoint is
improving, that they are making headway in terms of dealing with the
problems that are there; that the Egyptian population and the
Egyptian public are quite sympathetic to the government, not only
because the government is making an effort to sort of deal with the
problem, but also because there's a sense that what some of the
groups have done is so alien to Egypt itself and its tradition. And
as a result, I think he conveys, I think, a very strong sense of
confidence and authority about continuing to be able to make headway
against the problem
Q Well, if that's the case, why is security so off-
the-wall more intensive than it is for any other leader of his
stature that comes to this country today -- blocking off traffic in
front of the Blair House, those big turnpike barricades? What is the
Q It's never been done.
Q It's never been done.
Q Don't even try to say it -- you don't know what
you're talking about.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not responsible --
Q It's better for -- (inaudible) -- that it's based
here in the United States, and what is the nature of that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Judgments made about
protection of visiting Presidents are made not be themselves but by
the people responsible here for their protection --
Q Based on what kind of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not -- we don't
have -- we don't make those assessments. Those are made by the
people responsible for his protection.
Q But you must be aware --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We are not responsible
for his protection.
Q and the justification for them.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is a general
level of precaution after the September 13th signing ceremony because
the enemies of peace have made it clear that they are out to do what
they can to subvert the process. So --
Q But you understand, there wasn't this security on
September 13th, so that has led a lot of us to think --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No -- there was --
President Mubarak had -- I do not -- if you want a security briefing,
you need the security experts. We're not responsible for this -- for
deciding what the level of protection is.
Q But presumably they pass on their conclusions to
you, because it has political ramifications.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, all I can tell
you is that we don't make those decisions, and we're not privy to the
assessments that lead to those decisions.
Q So you're not aware of any higher level of threat
or specific threats?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, we're not aware of
any higher level of threat or specific threats. We are not aware of
Q You mentioned that the two presidents discussed
additional steps to enforce compliance by Libya in the Pan Am 103
case. Are there -- what's -- is there something in the works there?
What are the additional steps?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well first, as you well
know, the exercise now in the U.N. is that for several months there
have been all sorts of -- and I must stress -- rumors more than
reports that the Libyans were prepared to somehow finally comply with
Resolution 731 and render the two suspects to either U.S. or British
jurisdiction, which is the key requirement in that resolution.
And, quite frankly, we've been very skeptical of those
rumors/reports because in the last year, year and a half, we've been
dealing with more -- if I can put it -- intermediaries than one can
count somehow or another pledging or promising that Qadhafi was ready
to give up the two suspects. It's never happened, and we were, I
think, given the experience factor, very skeptical it would happen
this time, and it didn't; it didn't happen by October 1st. So we're
now in consultations with our U.N. Security Council partners to
determine a new effort at sanctions, reinforced sanctions, which
would include oil technology exports, a limited freeze on assets and
closing some of the loopholes in the previous resolutions. And
that's the effort underway now.
Given the relationships -- after all Libya is Egypt's
neighbor, and President Mubarak knows Qadhafi well -- there was an
extensive discussion of Qadhafi, his state of mind, his -- any
assessments on what his intentions might be, which was very helpful.
But the main part of the exercise is that certainly as long as Libya
does not comply with these resolutions that we're going to have to
reinforce sanctions and force them to comply.
Q Did President Mubarak think there was any realistic
chance that Qadhafi was going to comply?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think he voiced same
type of skepticism that we have in terms of actual compliance. But
there was an extensive discussion of that.
Q When the President urged -- progress on the Syrian
track, he drew special attention to the state of play in the Knesset
or -- that there is this thinning majority that Rabin has -- he
specifically mentioned Shas dropping out. Is there concern here that
there is only a very limited time frame for Rabin to act across the
board, that if something doesn't happen quite soon, he could
effectively lose the political clout he needs to translate agreements
and to act?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think our general
view, and I'll ask my colleagues to join in that, our general view is
that Rabin enjoys substantial support within Israel for the peace
process and certainly the Israeli-PLO agreements and the
breakthrough. What the President was referring to are the specifics
of Israeli coalition politics, which Rabin obviously has to factor
into his equation as he moves ahead -- and nothing more, nothing less
Q But how important is it in terms of our
consideration in urging Israel to get cracking on the Syrian track?
The President seemed to indicate that there was a certain amount of
urgency to this.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What the President was
indicating is that what has been a constant of our position is that
this is a comprehensive peace process, which means peace on all
fronts, and it's important to engage all the parties. And I think,
as my colleague pointed out, we have no indication of any flinching
on the part of any of the leaders as the engagement in that process,
either from Syria or Israel, in the case of the Israeli-Syrian track.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The implication is
actually different than what you're raising. And the point is that
from the standpoint of an Israeli population that is absorbing a
major move on peace, you've heard Rabin talk about the need to digest
what has happened. So what we're talking about, number one, is
taking account of the need to digest on the one hand. And on the
other hand, one of the things we're emphasizing is, one of the ways
to maintain the momentum and one of the ways to help build the
strength of those in favor of peace is to demonstrate that things are
happening to reach out to Israel, to demonstrate that what has
happened between Palestinians and Israelis is mirrored and
parallelled by what is happening between the larger Arab world and
So there are political realities in Israel, but what we
see, as my colleague was saying, is very strong public support for
what has been agreed to, and a desire to demonstrate that they are
the kinds of changes that are taking place in the region that will
demonstrate that it is truly a new day, and as that new day is more
clearly demonstrated, it will become easier to take additional steps.
Q Was the boycott discussed with Mubarak in that
regard? If you're going to have confidence-building for Israel, you
mentioned you were able to derail the Damascus conference. But that
simply prevents the thing from getting worse. What about getting rid
of it? Did the President ask Mubarak to use his good offices in the
Arab League on that --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We have spoken to
President Mubarak about a range of different kinds of steps,
including on the boycott that can be taken. And I think that what
you will find is that there will be an effort to try to promote
certain steps by a variety of different states in the Arab world to
move toward the Israelis. Precisely what and where that will be and
when it will be, that's something still to be worked out.
Q What are you talking -- can you give us some sense
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, as I said,
there's a range of different kinds of steps. I gave some examples of
things that are already taking place -- direct contacts. When the
Qatari Foreign Minister announces that he's met with Shimon Peres,
you have an example that there's something different that is
We look at a variety of different kinds of possibilities
-- direct contacts, some practical forms of cooperation in the
economic area, thinking about tourism, thinking about the possibility
of having academic exchanges, journalistic exchanges. I mean,
there's a whole variety of steps that each Arab state may not take,
but they might take some. And we want to be out there promoting
that, and I think the Egyptians are understanding of that.
Q Has anybody shown sign of taking some of those
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I recited several
that have already taken place.
Q Beyond those examples. I mean --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think that --
Q more economic cooperation.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, you have an
announcement of a formation of a Jordanian/Israeli joint economic
committee that parallels the one that was announced in the
Israeli/Palestinian agreement. One of the things that committee will
begin to do is to focus on projects of mutual benefit. Again, that
begins to transform the reality as we have known it in the area.
Q You mentioned earlier, that President Mubarak said
that he felt that the security situation vis a vis Islamic
fundamentalism in Egypt was improving. One, does the United States
share that assessment that the situation there is improving? And
two, following his election, does he feel that he has more freedom,
one, to either liberalize his government, or two, to crack down
further on the fundamentalist movements there as a means of improving
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're a tag team.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It's an old tradition.
No one is trying to underestimate the threat. The
threat exists, the Egyptian authorities recognize it, and their
policy towards it is one of working at the core issues, of course,
that underscore the threat of Islamic extremism, if you look at -- in
the Muslim world as a whole. And that's what we call addressing the
issues, the social-economic issues which the Islamic extremists very
effectively in certain instances are exploiting for their own
But what you have in Egypt and part of -- a large part
of our aid effort to Egypt is targeted on this is -- is economic
reforms, because it's only through, in our view, and the Egyptians
share this, it's only through moving forward on the economic/social
agenda that one is able, no matter if it's Egypt, if it's Algeria, no
matter what country you're talking about, you're able to undercut the
ability of these Islamic extremists to undermine the political
process, and quite frankly, come to power.
Now, the threat has in recent weeks and in the last
couple of months has receded because of the effectiveness of the
measures that the -- both on the security front and the continuation
of the economic reform program. And as my colleague mentioned, one
of the factors that has come into play here is that the resort to
lethal force has had a negative impact on the populace as a whole.
You know, people don't take too kindly to these acts of violence
Q Was there any discussion of the World Trade Center
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Excuse me?
Q Was there any discussion between the presidents on
the World Trade Center bombing?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, I don't believe
there was -- no.
Q Is there any Israeli public opinion being impacted
by, for example, the deaths of the two Israeli soldiers on Sunday?
There was another car bomb that, I guess, detonated harmlessly. But
is Israeli public opinion continuing to stand behind, or is there
some sign of erosion of --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:
I think obviously, this is a very negative development. It's the
extremists who are trying to force the agenda and undermine the peace
process and undermine the Palestinian-Israeli breakthrough such acts
of terrorism. But I think Prime Minister Rabin stated it best, that
despite these acts which the Israeli government will deal with on its
own merits, security merits, the Israeli government is proceeding on
the peace process. It will not be detracted by the enemies of peace.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END3:00 P.M. EDT