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Egyptian President to Push Peace With Bush

Aired March 4, 2002 - 11:04   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who is going to be meeting with President Bush tomorrow at the White House to try to push the Middle East peace process forward.

CNN's Wolf Blitzer spoke with Mr. Mubarak today, and he had some newsmaking comments on the peace efforts, from what we hear. Wolf checks in now from Washington with that for us.

Hello -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Thank you very much, Leon.

The Egyptian president spoke with me over at Blair House, right across the street from the White House, and told me that he is ready to float his own peace initiative, designed to try to stop the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He's proposing a summit meeting at the southern Sinai town of Sharm el-Sheikh, in Egypt, between the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

At the same time, in a phone conversation that he had, previously undisclosed, with the Israeli prime minister, the prime minister of Israel of Israel did propose a secret meeting that he had with the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. And as you know and our viewers know, the Saudis recently have floated their own peace initiative in the Middle East, one designed to see an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and the Golan Heights down to the 367 lines in exchange for a full normalization, peaceful relations, with the Arab world.

The Egyptian leader told me he did call up Crown Prince Abdullah and make this proposal, pass along this request from the Israeli prime minister. But it is unlikely that Crown Prince Abdullah would be meeting with the Israeli prime minister, at least until, according to President Mubarak, there is peace in the region.

I want to play an excerpt from the interview that I had with President Mubarak.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOSNI MUBARAK, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT: ... and ask if the prime minister is to come to Sharm el-Sheikh, I will at that time, after the violence, on condition that they could invite Arafat, not to solve the problem, but to give an impression to both parties, to the people on both sides, to the people in the Arab world, that there is a window of hope. We have to work on it.

We will discuss some points so as to make that atmosphere much far better, and then after that, they can continue discussions on the level of ministers, or (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But it's a matter of good impression or hope to the public opinion in Israel and in the Palestinian land.

BLITZER: Do you have confidence in both Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian President Arafat that they can make the tough decisions that will Get the peace process going again?

MUBARAK: It is difficult to say that. From the side of Arafat, we can push, but I don't know if Mr. Sharon is going to respond to that or not.

BLITZER: Do you ever talk to him?

MUBARAK: I have two times, telephone calls. Once after he's been elected. He phoned me just maybe one minute. The last contact was after the conference initiative. He had a long talk with me on the telephone, and I sent him a message to come to Sharm el-Sheikh, he told me I would like to sit with you bilaterally. I told him I have no problem with you. There's no problem between Egypt and Israel; the main problem is the Palestinian problem and the one which is going on. Your people are affected. The Palestinians are affected. Let us give the people some hope that peace could prevail (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

That's my intention, and that time to ask Arafat and Sharon to come and sit. We're not going to solve all the problems we want -- just as a change, to change the atmosphere, to see the people both are sitting with each other. They have never met with each other. Then after that, with the help of the United States, I think it could move forward. He apologized.

But he asked me to arrange a second meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah, to understand for him the initiative. I know it's a very difficult question. So I thought (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I'm going to just pass by this message.

BLITZER: Did you send that message to Crown Prince Abdullah?

MUBARAK: Yes, I sent a message.

BLITZER: What did he say.

MUBARAK: I sent the message to Crown Prince Abdullah.

BLITZER: What was his response?

MUBARAK: I just said that Sharon said so much, but I don't think that Crown Prince Abdullah, the country of all places, will be able to meet with Sharon unless there is peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And as far as a summit at Sharm el-Sheikh between the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian Authority president, Egyptian officials tell me that Prime Minister Sharon in the phone conversation with President Mubarak was, in their words, noncommittal, at least so far -- Leon.

HARRIS: Interesting. Did President Mubarak have much to say about -- or did he take a position on this offer being made by Crown Prince Abdullah, this idea of his? Did he say much at all about that?

BLITZER: Yes, he was very complimentary to the Saudi crown prince. He thought it was significant that for the first time the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia was proposing a full peaceful relationship with Israel on the part of the Saudis, the guardians of the holy sites in Mecca and Medina. That was very significant. But he thought it was time now to take that Saudi proposal one step further and get Arafat and Sharon to sit down together.

Since Egypt does have a peace treaty with Israel, he thought it would be useful for Egypt to make this proposal, to see if Sharon and Arafat could come to Sharm el-Sheikh and get the negotiations at least started, and then lower-level officials would pick up the negotiations.

He said he'll make this pitch to President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell when they meet tomorrow, hoping the United States will give the Egyptian peace initiative, as well as the Saudi peace plan, some impetus to move forward.

HARRIS: Very interesting.

Will the entire interview be on "Wolf Blitzer Reports" today?

BLITZER: It will be, at 7:00 Eastern tonight -- Leon.

HARRIS: We look forward to seeing that.

Wolf Blitzer, thank you very much.

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