Written Responses to
Questions Submitted by the Egyptian Newspaper Al Ahram
January 26, 1988
How would you describe Egyptian-American relations at the moment, with
particular reference to the Egyptian economic situation and the problem of the
Egyptian FMS [foreign military sales] debt to the United States? How do you see the
future of the relationship?
The President. Our relationship with Egypt today is particularly
strong. It is a special partnership, deriving its strength from our similar
views and interests on so many issues, most notably our mutual commitment to
peace and stability in the Middle East. We share the
determination to advance the Arab-Israeli peace process, to reduce tensions in
the Gulf, to contain the threat of terrorism from which we have both suffered
so much, and to promote development and better lives for the people of the
region. The bonds between the Egyptian and American peoples are strong, built
on many years of cooperation in military, economic, educational, and cultural
are doing a great deal to help alleviate Egypt's difficult economic
situation and its heavy debt burden. We are encouraged by Egypt's efforts to develop a
stronger and more vibrant economy. In recognition of these efforts and Egypt's requirements, I
recommended to Congress that our assistance levels to Egypt be maintained, despite
severe cuts in both overall foreign assistance and U.S. domestic programs. As a
result, in fiscal year 1988, Egypt will receive one-fourth
of our total worldwide economic support fund assistance and nearly one-third of
all foreign military sales assistance, all on a grant basis.
am proud of the results we have achieved together in our partnership in the
economic field, with the cooperation of both the public and private sectors.
For instance, U.S. private investors in
the oil industry have helped develop Egypt's leading export
sector, while providing employment and training for many talented Egyptians.
Our official assistance programs have financed power stations, water
facilities, and telecommunications equipment, health services, and over 500
schools -- all of which have helped raise living standards for many Egyptians
and build the base for future economic growth. Looking ahead, I hope we can rely
more on our private sectors to generate growth. Experience around the world has
shown that this is the best approach to increasing employment and production.
believe the future of Egyptian-American relations is bright and that our common
vision of peace will enable us to continue to work together to meet the many
challenges on the horizon in the Middle East and
around the world. President Mubarak is a strong and
determined leader, and I look forward to discussing a wide range of issues with
him when we meet this week.
Egypt's Role in the Middle East
What is your perception of Egypt's role in the Arab
The President. Egypt has always occupied a
leadership position in the Arab world. This position has recently been
reaffirmed publicly by the Arab summit in Amman and the prompt
reestablishment of relations with Egypt by the majority of the
members of the Arab League. President Mubarak's
recent tour of the Gulf States is a further
demonstration of the central role Egypt plays in the pursuit of
stability and security in the Middle East. I value the counsel of
President Mubarak as an Arab leader committed to
Middle East Peace Efforts
In September 1982, you presented the ``Reagan plan'' for peace in the Middle East. The current situation
is clearly explosive, but some elements in Israel favor peace
negotiations. Are you considering any new initiatives? Would you support an
international peace conference, and do you foresee such a conference taking
place before the end of your administration?
The President. Recent events in the West Bank and in Gaza make it clear that the
status quo is unacceptable. We must work together with those in the area to
give the Palestinians a reason for hope, not despair. Conditions must be
improved in the territories, and real movement toward a political settlement of
the Arab-Israeli conflict is essential. However, without a new sense of realism
on the part of all the parties, this will be difficult. Flexibility must be
demonstrated by practical suggestions, and not just by rhetorical posturing.
my full encouragement and support, Secretary of State Shultz has been working
actively to find a way to bridge the gaps on substance and process that have
prevented the advent of negotiations. He made some headway during his October
1987 trip to the region but found that important differences remain on both the
format and the agenda for bilateral negotiations.
have not ruled out any means of reaching bilateral negotiations. For nearly 3
years, we have devoted much time and effort to seeing how an international
conference could be structured that would result in such negotiations -- the
only kind that are likely to be productive and meaningful. A conference must
facilitate such negotiations, not be a vehicle for avoiding them. We are
committed to trying to find a basis that meets the needs of all the parties and
gives us a reason to believe that the negotiations can be successful. Our aim,
after all, is a comprehensive peace, not just a negotiating process.
fact that 1988 is an election year in the United States will not reduce our
commitment to continuing our efforts on behalf of Middle East peace. The enemies of
peace will not rest in 1988; therefore, the proponents of peace must not, either.
The United States is a signatory to the
1949 Geneva convention, which includes an article
against deportation of people from their homeland. How far are you willing to
go to ensure the protection of human rights for Palestinians and to prevent
their deportation? Is your concern for their rights equal to your
well-established concern for the right to emigrate by other peoples?
The President. The human rights
situation in the West Bank and Gaza remains extremely
complex. The United States recognizes that Israel, as the occupying
power, has legitimate security concerns and responsibilities as well as an
obligation to protect the human rights of Palestinians. The United States has a regular dialog
with the Government of Israel on human rights, as with other governments. We
are, indeed, just as concerned with the human rights of Palestinians as of
other peoples and have made it very clear that we oppose deportations and any
denial of the due process of law.
What regional issues will you discuss at the upcoming summit with Secretary
The President. Let me begin by
explaining the current status of our dialog with the Soviet Union on regional issues.
Over the past few years, the United States has actively sought to
engage the Soviets in a frank exchange of views in the search for constructive
and peaceful solutions to conflicts and problems in various regions around the
world. Through patience and persistence, we have succeeded in establishing a
regular cycle of meetings between U.S. and Soviet experts and
policymakers. These discussions have helped each side to understand the other's
positions and perspectives. Unfortunately, in many cases we continue to differ
on the best means to achieve peaceful solutions.
Americans are particularly troubled by the use of Soviet forces abroad, as in Afghanistan, and by wars waged by
regimes supported by the Soviet Union against their own
peoples or their neighbors. In the course of our dialog, the Soviets have
expressed a political commitment to withdraw their forces from Afghanistan and have said this
could be completed in 1988. We hope this happens.
General Secretary Gorbachev and I met in Washington this last December, we
agreed that the aim of our regional dialog now should be ``to help the parties
to regional conflicts find peaceful solutions that advance their independence,
freedom, and security.''
Please explain your Afghanistan policy; particularly,
is there any connection between the proposed U.S. reduction of forces in
and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan? Are you planning to
reduce arms shipments to the Mujahidin to encourage a
rapid Soviet withdrawal? Are you close to agreement with the Soviets on an
interim government in Kabul, and how would you feel
about a future alliance between Kabul and Tehran?
The President. We, and the 122 other
governments who voted for the Afghan resolution in the last U.N. General
Assembly, seek a fair and comprehensive settlement based on the rapid and
complete withdrawal of Soviet troops. It must provide for self-determination
for the Afghan people, return of the refugees in safety and honor, and a
restoration of Afghanistan's independence and
sovereignty. It is entirely up to the Afghan people to decide what form of
government they have and how they run their country. We sincerely hope that
1988 will be the year in which all Soviet troops leave Afghanistan. Until then, however,
we and other governments will continue to provide full support for the Afghan
Afghan conflict is Moscow's problem. The Soviets
must make the necessary decision to get out. Once this has clearly occurred, we
would of course use our influence to be helpful. We would favor a neutral,
nonaligned Afghanistan, free from foreign
Persian Gulf Conflict
What is happening on U.N. Security Council Resolution 598? Are you getting
cooperation from other Security Council members on an arms embargo? Do you plan
to reduce the U.S. naval presence in the
Gulf? And how do you feel about the creation of a U.N. force?
The President. The United States has pushed hard for the
full implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 since its unanimous
adoption on July 20, 1987. Six months after the
adoption of Resolution 598, it is clear that, while Iraq has accepted
Resolution 598 in all its parts and without imposing conditions, Iran has no
intention of negotiating its implementation in good faith. Iran has used the time since
the adoption of 598 to build up forces for another offensive against Iraq and to increase attacks
upon nonbelligerent shipping in international waters in the Gulf.
view is, therefore, that the Security Council should act to adopt an enforcement
resolution imposing an embargo on the provision of arms to Iran by any member state.
Together with other permanent and nonpermanent members of the Security Council,
we are discussing an arms embargo resolution which we hope will receive the
unanimous support of the Security Council as soon as possible. We note that the
has so far resisted the adoption of an arms embargo, preferring instead to call
for further delay and discussion of separate U.N. action related only to the
Gulf, ignoring Iran's continuation of the
have no plans to change the mission of our forces in the Gulf. Our Navy, which
is charged with carrying out that mission, continually reviews the composition
of our forces there to perform in the best and most efficient way. Our basic
commitment remains unchanged.
regard to proposals for a United Nations naval force in the Gulf, we believe it
is essential that the concept for such a force be spelled out clearly. If the
proposal is for a U.N. force to help monitor or enforce compliance with an arms
embargo, we would be prepared to consider the possibilities seriously once an
arms embargo is adopted by the Security Council. We want an arms embargo to be
as effective as possible. The Soviet Union, however, has been
inconsistent about its concept for a U.N. naval force. The Soviets appear to
favor a U.N. naval force that would replace the U.S. and other navies in the
area and impose an end to attacks on shipping, while allowing Iran to continue the land
war. This represents a deliberate diversion from the full implementation of
Resolution 598, which calls for a comprehensive cease-fire.
Note: The questions and
answers were released by the Office of the Press Secretary on January 28.