June 27: Egypt's Role in the Mideast Peace Process

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, June 27, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: Egypt will play a major role in any peace negotiations in the Middle East. Earlier today, I sat down with Gamal Mubarak (search), the policy committee chief of the National Democratic Party, Egypt's ruling party. He's also the son of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (search).

I began with getting his reaction to the latest developments in the region.


SNOW: Well, thank you for joining us. Let's talk a little bit about the latest developments in the Middle East. There is an agreement in principle, although it's not signed yet, for a cease-fire between Palestinian and Israeli factions. Are you optimistic at this point that we're, at least, going to get a cease-fire?

GAMAL MUBARAK, EGYPT NAT'L. DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I'm hopeful, let me put it this way. These, as you know, are very difficult and challenging times in the Middle East, as it has been for some time. The U.S. and the president himself, President Bush himself, has really stepped out in recent weeks in a manner that seems very much convincing to many people in the region that he is determined to try and get this process back on track again.

The summit that was held in Sharm el Sheik (search) and followed by that in Aqaba with all the leader gathered there, I guess, left us all with a sense of commitment that there is seriousness and commitment from all sides to get it back on track again.

We're hearing leaks coming out that they could be close but let's wait and see what the coming few days holds.

SNOW: At Sharm el Sheik, the president also said everybody has a role to play. The United States, it's well known handles dealing with Israel, primarily. Saying to the Israelis, OK, you're going to need to get rid of settlements, you're going to need to deal in food faith.

But part of the burden also lies with Arab neighbors to deal with the Palestinians. What is your government prepared to do to assist Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas (search), in his attempts to go ahead and negotiate in good faith, a durable peace with the government of Ariel Sharon (search)?

MUBARAK: I think Egypt, over the entire history of the peace process, has been very much supportive in playing a very leading role. And in this recent impasse, even in the past few months when the Palestinians were going through the process of forming the new government and appointing a prime minister, Egypt has been there, you know, supporting and helping very much in that direction.

Now I believe, as hopefully, if we get beyond this stage and we move into the other phases of the road map, there's going to be a continuous role for Egypt to play, to try to support the Palestinian authority. Even try to help rebuild some of the infrastructure, which has been disrupted over the years, to give it the capacity and capability to actually stand up to at this times commitments in the Road Map.

SNOW: I am hearing from people in the region that Yasser Arafat (search) is fighting each and every one of these steps and to some extend, there is a power struggle between him and Abu Mazen. Will your government say to Yasser Arafat, this is a chance for peace, cooperate?

MUBARAK: Again, you hear different reports about this and people analyze it differently. As far as Egypt's position is concerned, we're very much supportive of the reforms and the new prime minister. And I think president Mubarak's message in his various communications with President Arafat that the success of Abu Mazen is a success to the Palestinian cause and Palestinian authority and eventually a success to you.

Because let's not forget. This entire process, which started with the Madrid Conference and the Oslo Process, which was a strategic shift in change on the Palestinian side, was started with President Arafat at the helm of things. So, he has a big stake in starting that process and I believe he has a big stake also in seeing it going to a fruitful conclusion.

SNOW: In many ways, the process dates back to 1977, when an Egyptian president and Israeli prime minister met at Camp David. Do you believe, at this point, that there's reason for optimism? I have been struck in speaking with diplomats in this town and some visiting heads of state that they think something may actually be accomplished this time.

MUBARAK: See, Egypt has been at this, as you said, since those days. And this was a vision, a consistent vision and policy that we have consistently been at, despite all the difficulties and the challenge, we've seen it all. We've seen the ups, the downs; we've seen the Arab countries, Jordan coming into signing a peace agreement. Even the Syrian track in recent years, at least, discussions gaining some momentum. We've this historical shift on the Palestinians, as I was saying in the early '90s moving forward.

Yes, we've seen setbacks. Yes we are in a very, difficult period of time. But the vision and the consistent policy that Egypt has taken, working very closely with the U.S. -- let's acknowledge despite difficulties, did bear a lot of fruit. And the challenge now is how to get out of those very, difficult conditions into a process where trust and confidence between the parties is restore so we can move forward for the benefit of the region.

SNOW: So, are you optimistic?

MUBARAK: I am. We have to -- I mean, there is no other option. We just have to be hopeful, optimistic, and persistent. Otherwise, we would be giving in to extreme forces on both sides of the region.

SNOW: You mentioned before, the president's determination to be involved in the region. Have you been surprised by his level of resolve?

MUBARAK: President Bush?

SNOW: Yes.

MUBARAK: To be honest with you, the public at large, not only in Egypt, but in the region, are still very skeptical because of what's been going on the past two years. I mean they want to see action on the ground. They want to see progress. They are not going to be satisfied with conferences, summits, press conferences and statements. That's a challenge that we see and face back home and I'm sure it's in the entire region.

SNOW: Is the expectation then, that the United States must step in and work its will, because if the United States is to be held responsible, one would assume that the people who are angry at the United States would think, OK, the president need to dictate this to the Palestinians and this to the Israelis?

MUBARAK: I think the administration has stemmed up the ante in a sense and made commitments, which I would find it difficult for them to back off from at this point in time. And it is not only in terms of statements, but you can see a flurry of activity. I mean, Dr. Rice is there now. There is a special envoy down there. Powell was just in the region and so on.

So, I mean we see that there is seriousness to move forward. And don't forget, now we have a broader context in the region with Iraqi problem, too, which is adding to the skepticism. And people are questioning the motives of this new U.S. posture and policy in the region.

SNOW: The policy in the region is to spread democracy. Do you think that has any resonance with your public or the publics at large within the Middle East?

MUBARAK: In the case of Egypt, that has been a message, which we have been talking about domestically, which has been an issue for discussion and debate. And there has been some serious progress on the ground, but we still have a long way to go.

SNOW: Do people have a greater respect for America's ability to accomplish things as a result of what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq militarily?

MUBARAK: In the general public, there is still a lot of skepticism. People yet, honestly don't understand the main motives or they're skeptical about the main motives, specifically about the American intervention in Iraq.

And that is another issue, which is simmering because the situation obviously is worrying a lot of people, now even here in Washington. And if we don't get into a period, hopefully soon, of some kind of stability, it is going to add to that skepticism.

SNOW: All right. Gamal Mubarak, thank you for joining us.

MUBARAK: Thank you very much.


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