Gates to Meet With Mubarak in Delayed Trip to Egypt
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
CAIRO, Egypt, April 18, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here this morning for a series of meetings with Egyptian leaders, including President Hosni Mubarak.
The secretary was supposed to travel from Amman, Jordan, to Cairo yesterday, but the trip was delayed when severe sandstorms and high winds forced the closure of Cairo International Airport.
In a news conference in Amman yesterday, Gates said he was looking forward to hearing Mubarak’s views on “the situation in the region, … conditions and circumstances in Iraq, his views on Iran and Iran’s role with respect to Iraq.”
He also said he was interested in hearing the Egyptian president’s views on Lebanon.
“So I’m really just interested in hearing his thoughts as one of the elder statesmen in the region about his view of developments throughout the entire region,” Gates said of Mubarak.
Echoing a theme prevalent in meetings in Jordan, Gates said he plans to encourage Egypt’s support for the unity government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and for the reconciliation process in Iraq.
He said he also would ask Mubarak for “whatever he can do to encourage others in the region to invest in Iraq and to contribute to economic development there.”
A senior defense official traveling with Gates explained that Egypt is sensitive to any reductions in U.S. military assistance that might be visited upon the country because of the expense of the war in Iraq. During this visit, Gates will “reassure them that regardless of the war, that our relationship with Egypt is a long one, it goes way back, and it is one that will continue,” the official said.
Gates is scheduled to deliver a speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce here about Egypt’s traditional leadership role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The secretary will encourage Egypt “to reassert that particular leadership role,” the official said.
“The more regional players we can get to assume responsibility and take action on resolution of the Palestinian … the better,” the official said.
Another subject of discussion will be the United States’ longstanding role as a force and funding provider for the Multinational Force and Observers mission in the Sinai Peninsula between Egypt and Israel. Since early 1982, U.S. soldiers and troops from several other countries have manned the region to ensure compliance with the 1979 Treaty of Peace between Egypt and Israel.