UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's joint press encounter with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit following meeting with President Hosni Mubarak (unofficial transcript)
Cairo, Egypt, 24 March 2007Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit: Good Morning. The Secretary-General and the President have had a meeting this morning. The President welcomed the Secretary-General and wished him success in his endeavours during his current tour of the Region. A discussion took place between the Secretary-General and the President and it focused on the Middle East situation, the regional situation, and the President spoke on how he sees developments in relation to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, the situation in Lebanon, Iraq. Also, they discussed Darfur as well as Somalia. But in general it was a very constructive discussion and they touched also on the coming Arab summit in Riyadh and what is to be expected from this summit, and they discussed the Quartet activities in April. It was a very good exchange and I think both the Secretary-General and the President benefited from that exchange. Thank you very much.
SG: Good morning, ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much, Minister Aboul Gheit. In fact he has preempted all that I wanted to say and has not left much for me to say.
I am delighted to be back in Egypt and pleased to meet again with President Mubarak. In fact, this is my first meeting with President Mubarak in my capacity as Secretary-General of the United Nations, but I had a previous occasion of meeting with President Mubarak. I was very happy to see him in still very dynamic leadership and as Secretary-General I count on the counsel of President Mubarak and the support of Egypt to address all the problems in this region. In fact, it is true that we have many problems in this region starting from Iraq, Lebanon, Darfur, Palestine, and the Israeli issues. In Lebanon, political instability threatens to undermine Security Council resolution 1701, which brought to an end last summer's conflict between Israel and Hizbollah. The President and I discussed all of the issues involving this crisis and agreed to work together for their solutions. And of course we also discussed the distressing crisis in Darfur and Somalia. The international community must do everything in its power to resolve the terrible humanitarian crisis in Darfur. This will require all of us working together for the common aim to end this human suffering. We discussed also the recent situation after the formation of the National Unity Government. We agreed that it is necessary for the international community to encourage this ongoing peace process, and as Secretary-General of the United Nations I am looking forward to meeting with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert and other leaders in the region. We discussed all of these problems and I reiterated my welcome for the formation of this National Unity Government but still we expect that the National Unity Government would meet the expectations of the international community for the peace and security in the region. On Iraq, the President and I agreed on the gravity of the situation in that country and the need to resolve internal disputes while encouraging the constructive engagement of all neighbours. We look forward to further meetings in the neighbours-plus formula and the formal launching of the International Compact [for] Iraq. With this brief comment I would like to answer your questions.
Q: Thank you very much. I have two questions, the first question is for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: you mentioned that you are going to be meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas, and that there is a need to encourage the efforts of the new Palestinian Unity Government, and my question is whether you are going to be meeting with any of the members, Minister Hanieya, the Palestinian Prime Minister or any other ministers of the Palestinian Government? Another question is to Minister Aboul Gheit: what is your response to the odd comments that came from the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about the timing of the referendum of the constitutional amendments here in Egypt?
SG: I am going to meet with, as I said, President Abbas and other members of the Cabinet. At this time I understand that my itinerary scheduled does not include my meeting with Prime Minister Hanieya, but I may expect that while meeting with President Abbas I may be meeting together or separately, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finance of the new NUG government.
FM: Do you wish me to respond in English and Arabic? Both? The response is that Egypt and the United States are friends and we maintain the best of good relations between both. However, Internal Egyptian Affairs are an Egyptian Affair and nobody else has the right to say anything in relation to that development inside Egypt. There would be a referendum only the Egyptian people have the right to say their views on that referendum, If you are Egyptian then you have the right to put your views. If you are not, then thank you very much it is our own development, our own country according to our own pace.
Q: Mr. Secretary-General, have you asked President Mubarak to help you to ask his neighbouring President Bashir to admit UN peacekeepers into Sudan, and if you did what was his response?
SG: One of the main focuses in my meeting with President Mubarak was on, of course, the situation in Darfur. I explained all what has been discussed between the United Nations and the government of Sudan on this Darfur situation including deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operations and humanitarian situation in Darfur and I also of course, expressed my desire that whatever President Mubarak, as one of the respectable leaders in the region, could do, will be appreciated. He explained all of the situations again, which is very much useful in my further dealing with the Sudanese government. I expect that President Mubarak and other leaders in the region will take the time and look at this issue more seriously to help the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to address this issue as soon as possible. I explained to him that while the issue was mainly dealt with between the United Nations and the African Union, at this time, Arab Leaders should also try to help address this situation.
Q: There is some talk to the Secretary-General that the United Nations role has been maybe away on the decision of the war on Iraq, and after that how can the United Nations repeat its role especially we are facing in the region another problem which is concerned with Iran?
SG: It is not true to say that the United Nations has been staying away from the situation in Iraq. In fact, during the last four years, the United Nations has been actively participating in supporting the Iraqi people and government in their political facilitation including election monitoring, constitution drafting and constitution reviewing process, as well as economic and social restructuring and reconstruction efforts. Though the presence of the United Nations recently has been limited because of the situation on the ground, we are now considering how differently and what the United Nations can do. This includes the increased presence of the United Nations in Iraq and also for assisting the political facilitations and economic and social reconstruction. My recent chairing of the International Compact [for]Iraq was a good beginning for such efforts by the United Nations.
(Q and A with FM)
Q: The Secretary-General: What's President Mubarak's special proposal to you for solving the Palestinian problem?
SG: I will not disclose much in detail what I have discussed with President Mubarak. As you know he is one of the most respected leaders in the region, he has a lot of knowledge and experience in this situation, my discussion with him on every subject including the situation in Palestine and the Middle East has been very useful. I am going to build upon what we have discussed this morning in the course of my further meetings with the leaders in Israel and Palestinian authorities.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
Off-the-Cuff on 24 March 2007