Med2019 Dialogue with Sameh Shoukry

[Music] I'm very happy everyone to be joining mark Perlman to have this discussion with the Foreign Minister the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sami shukri who's had a very long diplomatic and government career in Egypt you've served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs since 2014 and even had a few stints in the United States as ambassador to Washington and also as Egypt's representative to the United Nations so I wanted to start this discussion by pointing out that Egypt is the largest country in the Arab world and of course has an ancient civilization that we all study Egypt has been a trailblazer historically in the region and a very important power broker regimes have come and gone very quickly in the last decade and there's been so much change in the region I thought we could ask you first off where you see Egypt's strengths at the moment it's a particular role in the region against the backdrop of so many diverse challenges well thank you very much I'm very happy to be participating in this session the fifth session of the Met dialogue and certainly it is events as this one which brings together representatives from across the region and beyond to deliberate and to consider the various aspects of what is currently happening and how we can do it better and there's always room for improvement I think that currently I don't want to repeat what was said previously about conditions in the regions and the various challenges that exist I think that previous panelists have covered that sufficiently but maybe more to concentrate on Egypt's role in the region and definitely in terms of its size in terms of its historical influence and its the divergence of its social composition it still does hold a place of prominence and influence in the region and its associations which go beyond the Mediterranean in depth being an integral part of the Arab world of the African continent of the nonaligned of the Islamic Cooperation so we have various hats to wear and I think the premise is that in all of these associations what we are striving for is stability security and fulfilling the aspirations of our and our neighboring peoples I think that over the last five years Egypt has demonstrated the resilience to have been able to weather the difficult years subsequent to 2011 to regain a system of governance dealt upon democratic principles and to create the stability that I believe will be fundamental to expand that stability into the region and provide an environment of greater security I want to get to some of the specific cases in your neighborhood clearly one big problem for the region for Egypt has been Libya we're seeing essentially what we can only define as a quagmire we have two opposites camps the Pretender negotiates in France and Italy maybe soon in in Germany but they actually fight much more and they have proxies Egypt has been accused of siding with Marshall haft our Turkey and Qatar with the government in Tripoli do you see any hope on the horizon in Libya or do you think war will continue well fundamentally the situation in Libya can only be resolved by the Libyans and their ability to overcome the divisions that exist and those divisions aren't simple they are complex because they are regional they are political they are hierarchical they are ideological and thereby there is a diversity of conflicting and competing elements including the fact that Libya is not the typical failed state which is underdeveloped on the deprived without any resources and wealth on the contrary we have the opposite and thereby there as never growing degree of a desire to manipulate those resources and to exclusively make benefit of them whether internally or through those external spheres of interest but I think there is a currently a process in Berlin that imposes a degree of hope because we sense that there is more coalescence around the fact that to solve the Libyan problem we have to find a comprehensive solution one that deals with all of the various aspects of bringing back to the political process to a full implementation of the Sahara agreement the dealing with the militias and their influence and manipulation of the Libyan government the fair distribution of the wealth building the institutions of governance and having them be truly representative bringing back the issue of the legislative oversight and of course unification of the Army has the only competent authority to secure [Music] stability and the sovereignty of the state there's a terrorist threat that is exceedingly expanding and that threatens not only Libya but also the neighboring states and Beyond and the Sahel in the States so I think it is incumbent that if the toxin in Berlin with the five permanent members of the Security Council and the main regional interested parties I believe that that comprehensive solution if endorsed by the international community can become a basis for the Libyan people with the help of dr. Hassan Salameh as the UN envoy to bring back the political process to the appropriate track and to bring about a consensus within the Libyans themselves to move ahead towards an electoral process that can create the legitimacy for a government that can fulfill the aspirations of the Libyan people just as a quick follow-up last time there was a process put in place by mr. Saleh me that was supposed to be a meeting of all the Libyans and Marshall Hoffler decided to attack Tripoli how can you negotiate with someone who thinks he can win militarily well you have to taken into perspective that dr. Salama who I respect quite highly and who was born under taking efforts all along to bring about that consensus unfortunately it was also burdened by not having been able to convene that National Conference and they had from the beginning and from the outset than those who had counseled him of the difficulties and during that extended period there were sufficient points of agitation that created the movement of the army opposition to militias some of the very fundamentals some of them associated to Isis and Al Wahda and theme that important to be able to confront those those elements so the you cannot really pinpoint a certain point of time or action and revolve around that all the subsequent developments but I think we have to take the the whole situation in its totality and evaluated objectively what about the israeli-palestinian peace process you recently expressed your concerns about the US administration statement about settlements and how that would set back the process indefinitely where do things stand in to your mind well Egypt's position as relates assessment has always been consistent we have condemned the expansion of settlements consider them a violation of international law legitimacy and we have never diverted from that position along with the Arab League and we are brother Arab States and I think the overall majority of the international community but we recognize as well the central role the of the palestinian issue to the stability and security of the region and that the palestinian people are certainly worthy of statehood as other peoples of the region and i think it is those rights are overdue in being fulfilled and it will continue to fester and and create pressures on all of the region and the ability to open doors of cooperation and coexistence that would benefit all the peoples of the region if the palestinian-israeli question is not resolved if the two-state solution is not put in place and implemented we strive to encourage all sides to have the political will and determination to undertake the difficult decisions and make peace but at the same time we do not exert any pressure or try to coerce them to do so this is a matter completely at this point well it is the encouragement it is the that we would be active participants to secure the peace deal that would be arrived at to promote it to provide our assistance and to open doors of the normalization of cooperation to encourage both the participants were the Palestinians or Israelis to undertake necessary steps to re-engage but also our partner and the United States to fulfill the vision of a comprehensive peace along the accepted norms of the international community being the Security Council resolutions and the international legitimacy an international law for all of those efforts I can say that we or others have so far been successful but we sense that this continuing stalemate is a dangerous situation that can flare at any moment we've seen in the past where we have had long periods of lull and and everybody thought that the dynamics and the equilibriums that existed could be sustained and they were proving wrong with very tragic consequences the Palestinians have stopped any kind of relations with the u.s. after several decisions before even the settlement statement they say the deal of the century is just hot air hasn't been presented and it's actually not a not a plan how can you still believe that the u.s. can be an honest broker on this issue isn't it time maybe for our country Europe for the Israelis and Palestinians directly to deal with this issue because the Trump administration doesn't want it when the Palestinians broke off their contacts with the United States this was for a variety of reasons related to Anwar and the financial support and there have been subsequent of course issues that also were not supported by the Palestinians or the totality of of the Arab world but still one recognizes the important role that the United States has played traditionally and its ability to continue to play an active role its ability to interact with all parties concerned and its general weight as I mentioned or if not the exclusive superpower but I wouldn't comment on what was referred to as a deal of the century because we really don't have any specific knowledge of what that deal contains other than the indication that it is a comprehensive deal that it is one that addresses the issue in a more let us say in a more out-of-the-box context but we would think that we will have to see the deal to be able to comment on it objectively how do you see energy security as possibly being a diplomatic vehicle for the region well this is one of I think the areas that can promote and generate a higher degree of cooperation between states especially of the eastern Mediterranean gypped has been at the forefront luckily we have had major discoveries of natural gas economic exclusive zone that has promoted a higher degree of cooperation with our partners in the eastern Mediterranean and we have introduced the idea of creating an eastern Mediterranean gas up to promote cooperation to promote exploration and interdependency and cooperation and I believe that this is an area where it can produce a more positive interaction among the states of the region to make full use of their natural resources to benefit their peoples but also to address some of the areas of concern for Europe for example the the ability to provide constant gas supply to the European gas Network I think is an important aspect that that will also bridge the divide between Europe and the Middle East and and creates the dynamics of intergovernmental and interstate cooperation are there any sparring countries that you could foresee becoming peaceful due to energy any specific ones sorry any specific countries that you see could benefit states of the eastern Mediterranean will apply themselves on the basis of cooperation rather than on the basis of confrontation or on the basis of trying to extract exclusively their interests at the expense of others I think it's a formula that will always lead to disaster because nobody was going to allow the infringement of their rights or else we will be living under the law of the jungle once again and I think after the in the 21st century and with all of the current mechanisms of that are in place both regionally and internationally a rule-based world order it would seem counterproductive that we revert to policies that can only bring confrontational conflict and potentially military action activities are you referring to recent deals signed by Turkey with the government in Tripoli Libya going back which has been criticized for those very reasons this what you were alluding to well I was answering the question generally but you want to define it in more specific terms I think our statement was very clear I think the situation in Libya currently doesn't need any further complication and the supposed government in Tripoli though endorsed by the international community does have to apply itself within the context of the political agreement and when the Political Agreement clearly defines the authority of that government to undertake activities and to enter into a legally binding treaties it has to conform to that treaty or else it loses its its legitimacy so it's for us a very clear-cut legal issue that should be addressed as such but of course there are interests there's no specific infringement on Egyptian interests but there are interested in for other countries in the eastern Mediterranean and there is the the matter of what is exactly the objective of such an agreement I think it might have gone into the Book of Guinness Book of Records and the speed in which there seems to be an effort to try to ratify what is from a legal perspective or non-existent existing treaty arrangement I want to get to a bone of contention between you and and Washington over the purchase of two Russian su-35 fighter jets Egypt is buying them from Russia the US government has said if you do so we're ready to slap sanctions to stop further military purchases are you going to go ahead and buy those Russian fighter jets or not well these are issues that I think you erase out of what has been circulating in generally and the media and press circles these are issues that I think are better dealt with on the basis of what is actually the situation and I really wouldn't comment any further on that other than we have a very diverse and important relationship with the United States we have relationships with various other partners whether in Europe or Russia or China and we undertake our relations in full transparency and with recognition of the importance of the strategic relations that exists between us and the United States but also we have other relationships that we I think have a mutual benefit but any specific issues that you've raised and since they are raised secretary from a-rated himself so me again these are issues that are dealt with within the context of bilateral relations and better left to that context on the subject of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo I know he also spoke out after the crackdown on Madame Ascher and and just made a statement about the importance of freedom of the press have you had that conversation with Washington does that come up we have an ongoing dialogue with the United States on all issues and I think we have to be careful in how we describe issues it's always much easier to use somewhat inflammatory narratives like a crackdown what is exactly is the definition of a crackdown i wouldn't oppose it in those terms when a representative of the media is asked to come into the public prosecutor to clarify certain issues and is not imprisoned is not no action is taken against that or individual or institution that does not constitute a crackdown that constitutes the enforcement of the law and should be viewed as such but in any case our discussions with the United States on all matters pertaining to the reform ongoing and the manner in which the government addresses the issues of freedom of expression civil civil liberties democratization human rights is a dialogue that we constantly have and we are always pointing to the fact that these are issues of an evolutionary nature that there are specific cities that must be taken into account at the same level of of development in different countries necessitates a different evaluation and that we have to deal with these issues in a comprehensive manner the Human Rights is not only an issue of civil civil and political rights it is an issue of a comprehensive nature the right to education the right to to housing the right to economic development the right to life which is constant the Egyptians are are threatened by and have been the target of fundamentalist organizations that is a right also that should be protected and should be emphasized what would you like to see more of from the United States for Egypt well again we we recognize the very important relationship that we have the strategic nature of that relationship to the vast abilities in the United States as a partner and Ally and I think that a great deal of our success depends on having a healthy and cooperative relationship of the u.s. we we want to see the same level of interaction and consultations as relates how best to deal with the issues of the region we'd like to see also greater US investments and what is a lucrative market in Egypt being the largest Arab state it's an immense market and a market with very strong relationships to the Arab world and to Africa too create the necessary employment for again a 60% of the population on the the age of 40 so we have economic challenges and I think the way in which this government has undertaken its economic reform policies demonstrates a willingness and the commitment but also demonstrates the ability of the Egyptian people to recognize that hardships have to be met and the confidence that they have placed in the government to be able to have implemented reforms that are now starting to that we are starting to reap the benefits of in decrease of in employment and a healthy growth rate I want to get quickly because there's not much time left the issue of Qatar Egypt has been one of the countries that impose a blockade on Qatar are you seeing any hopes that the situation can be solved I was just reading what the Egyptian representative told the International Court of Justice just a few days ago saying that Qatar supported terrorist operations in the Sinai and so on and so forth so it doesn't seem he gypped things could Qatar has changed its ways what we will evaluate this situation very objectively we always have hope and we always desire and that relationship between the Arab states is a special relationship built on our long history and the commonality of our cultures and the affinity that the peoples have towards each other but certainly the policies that the Qatari government has undertaken and the effects on the Egyptian people in its harboring of terrorist organizations and activists in the support it has been landing fundamental organizations and its interventions in places like Gaza in Libya has all been destabilizing to the region if there was a change of policy of there was a are union issues I can say that I do see any change in the policy but we always have hope I am getting a very polite Halas in my ear meaning that our time on this session and I was just enjoying starting to enjoy myself if you have a 30 second remark that you'd like to make to wrap up please well thank you again for the opportunity I think to wrap up I again I would say that it is the security and stability of Egypt that will resonate through the region it is the instability of Egypt that will have very dire circle create a very dire circumstances Egypt does shoulder its responsibilities in in providing an environment of cooperation of the dealing with the various issues of the region peacefully through negotiations through compromise but we have to also be very vigilant and that what has happened in the region and the spread of terrorism and that terrorism is not only Isis and al Qaeda that terrorism is Muslim Brotherhood is a Shabaab is Boko Haram and again if the international community is serious in dealing with terrorism Egyptians have lost their lives the Christian pilgrims in the Western Desert women and children have lost their lives and the eastern North East and Sinai we have shed blood because of terrorist organizations which are unfortunately supported by those who deem that they can utilize those organizations for political purposes but this genie out of the bottle cannot be contained if we are to focus on terrorism in one area and not to deal with terrorism in a comprehensive manner addressing all of those organizations this is a an ideological issue and a battle for the prosperity of future generations but fundamentally all of these organizations have the same objective and and deal and operate under the same ideological principles so we we have to I think be cognizant of the dangers they pose in the region and the potential of their expansion into the Mediterranean and beyond thank you there's so many more questions we'd love to ask but time is up and we appreciate your time thank you very much Minister shukri thank you very much ladies and gentlemen the booth