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Dr. Hisham al-Naqeeb, Office of Information at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, speaks about the summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, 6-03-03 - 2003-06-03


The summit between U.S. President George W. Bush and the Israeli and Palestinian Prime Ministers, was proceeded by meetings with five Arab leaders resulting in an endorsement of the U.S.-backed “road map” for peace. Joining VOA-TV’s David Borgida to talk about this is Dr. Hisham al-Naqeeb, director of the Office of Information at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington D.C.

MR. BORGIDA
And joining us now to talk about the peace process, Dr. Hisham al-Naqeeb, Director of the Office of Information at the Egyptian Embassy here in Washington. Dr. Naqeeb, thanks so much for joining us today. We're delighted that you joined us on such a busy day.

DR. AL-NAQEEB
My pleasure.

MR. BORGIDA
President Mubarak seemed to be a central figure today there on the shores of Sharm el-Sheikh. We've both been there before. And he said the words a lot of people were waiting to hear: We welcome the road map.

How critical is this to set the stage for Wednesday's meeting with President Bush, the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Israeli Prime Minister?

DR. AL-NAQEEB
Let me start by saying one important thing, David. We have to look at the performance of this administration, which we believe that it had started from a very high ceiling. This administration started from the ceiling of recognizing a Palestinian state. President Bush, I remember, right after his election, saying that "I would like to see an independent Palestinian state."

So, starting from this high ceiling, we had our expectations high. We have been waiting to see what President Bush has to offer. And he came out with his road plan [map.] The road plan [map] of the administration said the fact that we have presented the road map, we have to understand that this is not an agreement, this is a guidance for all the different parties. Each party has to fulfill their own obligation according to the terms of references that had been set before.

And when I mention the terms of references, we have set the foundation in Madrid at the Madrid Conference. We have 242, 338, and we have 1397, U.N. Security Council resolutions. So, after all, we have to look at the road map as not an agreement in itself but as the guidance to all the different parties in the road, aimed at establishing a Palestinian state by the year 2005, as the President has said.

MR. BORGIDA
Dr. al-Naqeeb, how important is it that the President of the United States would go to the region, particularly after the G-8 summit -- actually it was the last day or so of the G-8 summit -- to make his presence felt in the region and make a statement that he and his administration care so deeply about peace in the Middle East?

DR. AL-NAQEEB
As a matter of fact, this step was so important for not only Egypt but for the Middle East in general. President Bush came, underscoring the fact that this administration seeks peace, stability and prosperity in the region. This administration is adamant on seeing a more prosperous, more independent Middle East.

As you know, after Iraq, there was some repercussions to what had happened in Iraq. President Bush coming to the region right after what happened in Iraq is another demonstration that this administration really seeks peace and stability for the people of this region.

MR. BORGIDA
Let's talk about Egypt and the role of Egypt in the peace process. After all, you're representing the government here in Washington. Egypt has been widely viewed for a long time as a moderate Arab state, but there are some in some quarters who say moderate Arab states ought to be able to do more, too, to influence the peace process in some way. What can Egypt do, from your vantage point, to move the peace process along that is beyond rhetoric?

DR. AL-NAQEEB
As a matter of fact, yes, you are right, beyond rhetoric. I [can] sit for hours and hours to tell you that Egypt has been present in every step in the Middle East peace process, starting from the major step that President Sadat, God rest his soul in peace, took in 1977, when he took the first initiative ever in the region by visiting Jerusalem following that 1977 Camp David peace process. That opened the door to the rest of the Arab world to realize that peace is the only option.

And then came President Mubarak, reiterating the fact that the only option for Egypt, the major option, the first option, the first strategic option for Egypt, not only for the Arab world but for Egypt, is peace. So, we left no stone unturned seeking the peace process.

And if we talk about Sharm el-Sheik, maybe it was that there is an historical connotation, not only a political connotation, for choosing Sharm as the venue for the conference. And that is that Sharm has been the witness of many peace agreements between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians in the past five or six years. And you were a participant there.

MR. BORGIDA
I was there.

DR. AL-NAQEEB
You were there yourself.

MR. BORGIDA
Dr. Hisham al-Naqeeb, thanks so much. Director of the Office of Information at the Egyptian Embassy here in Washington. We're so delighted you could be here. We appreciate your time.

DR. AL-NAQEEB
Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. Thank you.

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