Indyk: Egypt strategic partner for US
Egypt-Regional-USA, Politics, 6/30/1999
US Undersecretary of State for Near East Affairs Martin Indyk said yesterday that Egypt is the United States' "strategic partner in the Middle East." Indyk added that US President Bill Clinton, who will meet with visiting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tomorrow, "wants to consult with President Mubarak on how we can -- together -- help to push the peace process forward on all fronts, with the objective of achieving a comprehensive peace."
Indyk spoke to reporters yesterday in a briefing on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's official visit to the United States.
On Syria's stance toward peace, Indyk said that indications from Syrian President Hafez al-Assad "lead us to believe that he is keen to engage with the new [Israeli] government in the hopes of achieving a comprehensive peace."
He said the US believes that Egypt should "broaden and deepen" relations with Israel as the peace process moves forward. He stated, "The Egyptian-Israeli relationship forms one of the cornerstones of a successful peace process."
On the results of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, Indyk said that the lasting peace is a "good example." He added, "I think it's fair to say that from the Israeli perspective, the relationship has not been as warm as they would have liked it to be. The Egyptians have always said that this depends on the progress on the other tracks. We feel, from our point of view, that it will help progress on the other tracks to warm up the relationship."
He said that deepened economic relations between Egypt and Israel would help enhance regional economic cooperation, adding, "The Egyptian private sector, together with the Israeli private sector, can do much to lead the way and to indicate that there is a new day in this regard. We would also like to see the MENA economic summit process reinvigorated."
Indyk noted the strength of the Egyptian economy in light of Egypt's economic reform program, saying, "With a growth rate averaging around 5 percent a year over the last four years, Egypt is doing very well economically." He added that during Mubarak's visit, Egypt and the US will sign a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement as a preliminary step toward a free trade agreement.
However he added, "The conditions are not ripe at the moment for moving immediately to a free trade agreement." He said there are "adjustments" to be made that may be "painful" for both sides. He said that movement toward a free trade agreement would be gradual, "but the TIFA is an indication of our interest in moving in this direction."
Indyk said that in light of a gradual 50% reduction in US aid to Egypt over the course of ten years, "The Egyptian Government has introduced the concept of moving from an aid-based relationship to a trade-based relationship. We think that makes a lot of sense. It is, after all, trade which has been the engine of growth for the Egyptian economy; and, of course, our own government is deeply committed to freer trade."
He said, "There are a number of problems involved in moving to a free trade area agreement with Egypt, that relate to specific sectors to the Egyptian and American economies, particularly the textile sector," adding, that there are "protection issues, tariffs issues that are going to have to be dealt with; and that's going to take some time"
Responding to reporters' questions, he said the threat from terrorism in Egypt has "significantly declined," adding, "The Egyptian government has done an effective job in difficult circumstances in dealing with that threat."
On the new NGO law, Indyk said, "I think that there is some benefit in the new law, in terms of giving legal status to many of these NGOs."
On alleged Egyptian religious persecution at al-Kush, he said, "Clearly something happened there. We have looked into it extensively, and our best judgment is that this was a case not so much of religious persecution, as it was a case of police misconduct and mistreatment of some Egyptian citizens. And we have accordingly urged the government of Egypt to pursue a credible investigation."
He added, "These are issues that we have discussed with the Egyptian Government in the course of day-to-day business with Egypt. So I would not expect that they will come up in the discussions with the Secretary of State or with the President."
On the regional peace process, Indyk indicated that the us approach is based on "Wye implementation, resumption of permanent status talks and resumption of negotiations on the Syrian and Lebanese tracks, and resumption of the multilateral negotiations and the MENA economic summit process. We think that there's an opportunity here to move all of these tracks."
Asked about the upcoming meeting of the Geneva Convention, Indyk said that such a conference would not be productive in solving the issue of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. "There is in the Geneva accords no mechanism -- a mechanism does not exist. It has been invented for the purposes of trying to put Israel in a corner on the settlement issue. We oppose it strongly as a matter of principle, because we do not believe that the Geneva Convention should be used in this way," he said.
"The settlements issue is an issue to be dealt with in the permanent status negotiations," he added. "That is the place where the settlements issue should be addressed."
On the issue of Iraq, Indyk emphasized areas of agreement between the US and Egypt. "We share a commitment to seeing Saddam Hussein comply with all the Security Council resolutions. We share a commitment to the territorial integrity of Iraq. We have made clear that as we pursue an effort to support the Iraqi people in changing their government, that one principle that is uppermost in our minds is the maintenance of Iraq's territorial integrity," he said.
He said the US tries to "watch as intensively as we can what he's [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] doing in the known areas where he could reconstitute his weapons of mass destruction," adding, "one of our red lines is the reconstitution or deployment of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and we would react with force to either eventuality."
Meanwhile, a state department official clarified earlier Indyk statements by saying that there is no linkage between the toppling of the Iraqi regime and the Middle East peace process, except that progress in the peace process will be conductive to a change in Iraq leadership, adding that Iraq has so far refused to abide by UN resolutions. The official added to earlier remarks by Indyk on Iraq, the Middle East and ethnic cleansing, saying that, "The world is not going to tolerate that kind of behavior."
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