Special Interview with Egypt’s Foreign Minister

Foreign Minister Kamal Hassan Ali, in an, interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, welcomed moves by Arab countries to restore relations with Egypt. He also stated that Iraq’s declaration about the need for Israel’s security is part of “a new policy of peace-searching and for the recognition of Israel.”

Last week, the Iraqi government made public a conversation President Saddam Hussein had with Rep, Stephen Solarz (D. N.Y.) on August 25 in which the Iraqi leader was quoted as saying that he believed in the “existence of an independent Palestinian state accepted by the Palestinians and it is also necessary to have a state of security for the Israelis.”

Iraq has long been one of Israel’s most implacable enemies and diplomats could not recall any previous such public statements by Iraqi leaders. There was no explanation as to why Iraq decided to release the text of the conversation at this time.

The following is the continuation of an abridged transcript of the JTA interview with Ali:

Q: Egypt has welcomed the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq (Tareq Aziz) that he was ready to meet with you or Dr. (Boutros) Ghali (Minister of State for Foreign Affairs) in Cairo or Baghdad to open a direct dialogue on resuming relations. Do you expect such a dialogue to take place in the near future?

A: Whenever any Arab country shows that there is the willingness to restore the dialogue with Egypt, we welcome that. And it is very clear and very natural that Egypt, as an Arab country, is not against the resumption of relations in full with the Arab countries. But again, I would like to confirm that this is not a substitute to the peace or the peace process which we are encouraging all the time and working on.

VIEW OF IRAQ’S STANCE

Q: How do you view the President’s (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) remark to U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz about the need for Israel’s security?

A: It is a good sign after the Fez (Morocco) summit meeting (last September), because the Arab countries have followed a new policy of peace-searching and for the recognition of Israel. When this statement comes from President Saddam Hussein, that means he is confirming his commitment to the Fez summit meeting, and this means also that here is a clear view about the prospects of the future.

Q: I believe that Israeli Foreign Minister (Yitzhak Shamir) was quoted as rejecting the nation that President Hussein has suggested the recognition of Israel, and he attributed the (Iraqi President’s) statement to his dilemma in the Gulf war.

A: Well, I only notice in this respect, that the Israeli suspicions are more than needed to push forward the peace process. Some more confidence should be built–either through understanding the others or through encouraging the others to follow good practices.

Q. So then you don’t see it as merely a ploy to gain a more moderate image in the U.S. in order to obtain weapons.

A: Of course, this is for the sake of affecting the public opinion in the U.S. Congress on arms deals to Iraq.

Q: But you are saying this doesn’t detract from…

A: Well, you know, you can’t simply refuse such an approach. It is difficult, because it is declared. It isn’t in the rooms. It is declared.

Q: When you travel (with President Hosni Mubarak) to the United States later this month, what will you be asking of the Reagan Administration, with respect to its role in helping to expand the peace process and in getting Israeli troops out of Lebanon? Do you expect any progress to have been made by the time you go?

A: I think much will depend on the negotiations which are going on between Lebanon and Israel, with the United States for the time being. So this is one of the main elements of our talks in the United States. Then, of course, the prospects after the (Arab League) committee of seven toured in the United States and in the other countries, and the visit of King Hussein (of Jordan) and what are the perspectives.

Q: Is there anything specific, though, that you’ll be requesting from the President in terms of the U.S. role?

A: Yes. This will be, of course, the stress on the settlement issue in Israel. This is one of the major points to be raised with the Administration, because we feel it is influencing and affecting the entire peace process and it is contradictory with encouraging Jordan and the Palestinians to participate in any forthcoming negotiations. So this is one (issue) and then of course the bilateral relations between Egypt and the United States.”

U.S. ARMS SUPPLY TO EGYPT

Q: In that area, a Kuwaiti paper (Al Qabas) reported recently that Washington was putting up severe conditions on its weapons supply to Egypt, and that Cairo has been refusing those conditions so far. Could you comment on that? Has the U.S. imposed conditions that your government finds unreasonable?

A: No, I do not know about any conditions from the United States, The flow of armaments from the United States as a substantial supplier of weapons to Egypt is continuing without any difficulties, and we are, as you know, diversifying our sources, and have contracted France and other countries in supplying Egypt with armaments. So there is no difficulty in this respect.

Q. The Press here has been expressing disappointment with the U.S. over its aid package to Israel and for not exerting adequate pressure on Israel with respect to its presence in Lebanon and speeding up the peace process. Does this reflect your government’s feeling?

A: This matter didn’t affect at all our relations with the United States. It is for the United States to take care of her responsibilities in the area. But this in fact gave the impression that to some extent, the invader of Lebanon got back a sort of bonus, which is contradictory to the influence and also the image of the United States in the area.

Q: Has this diminished your confidence in being able to use your (country’s) friendship with the United States as leverage on Israel?

A: Certainly it does. And it puts difficulties on us in approaching the Arab world and the Palestinians for instance, in the effort of urging them to be more forthcoming.

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