WASHINGTON (Oct. 25)
Amid extratight security, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with President Clinton at the White House on Monday, and afterward the two leaders praised each other for their respective contributions to the Middle East peace process.
Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, has been serving as an intermediary between Israel and the Arab parties in the peace process.
In their meetings Monday, which included a lunch at the White House, the two leaders discussed the implementation of the Israeli-Palestinian agreement, as well as how best to push forward on other negotiating tracks.
It was the second meeting between Clinton and Mubarak this year. The Egyptian president visited Washington this past spring.
Outside the White House, two blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue were blocked to traffic by large concrete barriers, in what was said to be an unprecedented security effort.
Large numbers of secret service agents and police officers were on guard against possible terrorist attacks directed at the Egyptian president, who has been cracking down on Islamic extremists in his country.
At a news conference in the White House’s East Room following their first session Monday morning, Clinton thanked Mubarak for his country’s work on behalf of the peace process.
Turning to the Egyptian leader, Clinton said he was convinced that the Israeli-Palestinian agreement “would never have come about had it not been for your continuing encouragement.”
MUST BE ‘SOME PEACE WITH SYRIA’
Mubarak returned the compliment, saying that the agreement “would have been impossible” without the active role played by Washington.
Both leaders spoke of the importance of quick progress on other tracks of the peace process, especially on the important Syrian negotiating track, which is currently stalled.
In keeping with U.S. policy, Clinton spoke repeatedly of the importance of securing a “comprehensive” peace in the region.
The United States has appeared more eager lately than either the Israelis or the Syrians for immediate progress in their talks.
But when asked by reporters whether the Israeli political system could withstand simultaneous land-for-peace deals with both the Palestinians and Syria, Clinton hesitated.
“I don’t know what the answer to that is,” the president said.
“Everybody in Israel has got to know in the end that there can’t be a total peace in the Middle East unless there is some peace with Syria, but the timing is very important, and progress on the things that are now at hand is very important,” he said.
On another issue, U.S. aid to Egypt, Clinton also seemed to avoid giving a firm answer. Egypt is currently one of the top recipients of U.S. aid, receiving $2.1 billion annually.
When asked if U.S. aid to Egypt would decrease because of the Israeli-Palestinian accord, Clinton said he “wouldn’t put it that way.”
He said he would continue to support “strong American aid to Egypt.”