ABOUL GHEIT: We're happy to have with us today the Foreign Minister of
Australia who is visiting Egypt. We discussed the situation in the Middle
East and developments in Egypt, including Egyptian political developments,
the constitutional reforms which were published today. We also discussed
the future economic program in Egypt. We agreed to cooperate in order to
improve Egyptian economy. Australia is ready to participate with other
donors in the Western world and work with other European countries, the UN
and international institutions on the economy, in the field of agriculture
in which Australia has a particular interest. They have great ideas about
agriculture; food security is also a priority.
This is an important visit because Australia has great influence on Western
countries. They are talking about investments and working with the World
Bank so that the World Bank will work with Egypt to boost the Egyptian
economy in the next critical stage in which Egypt needs a lot of help.
I also told the Australian Foreign Minister that Egypt has changed. We are
building a strong economy and a strong democracy which can join the other
democracies in the world. Thank you.
KEVIN RUDD: Thank you very much Foreign Minister and its good to be back in
Cairo again. I was here only two months ago and there have been profound
changes in those two months.
Firstly I'd thank my friend and colleague for receiving me today here in
Cairo. I would thank him also for his personal assistance to Australians
during the recent period of political turmoil here in Egypt.
Second I'd like to congratulate the people of Egypt for expressing their
strong voice for a future democratic Egypt.
For me as a foreigner it was a moving experience to walk down to Tahrir
Square yesterday and to meet some young people.
As the Foreign Minister has indicated to me today the work of change in
Egypt has just begun. The interim Egyptian government has indicated its
program for constitutional reform and that program extends over the six
months to come. It includes the great challenges of conducting both
parliamentary and presidential elections during that period. The people of
Australia and the people of the international community commend and
celebrate the decision of the people of Egypt to move in this historic
The third point I'd make concerns how we in Australia and the international
community can partner with Egypt in the period ahead on the challenges that
Egypt faces with its economy.
Firstly how we can continue to support foreign investment in Egypt in this
difficult period including addressing international confidence in the
future of Egypt's tourism industry. Egypt is a beautiful country. It is a
hallmark of antiquity. Therefore I'm sure international tourists will come
back in due course to savour the beauties of this ancient country. We're
acutely conscious that seven to ten per cent of the total workforce is
employed in the tourism industry.
Furthermore, as the Foreign Minister indicated, we'll seek to work directly
with Egypt and with international partners in the area of food security but
also agricultural research and reform to increase Egypt's agricultural
output. Since my last visit here in December we've had a technical team
here looking at possible future cooperation in the areas of dryland
farming, irrigated farming and water management. We will now build on this
in partnership with the Agriculture Ministry here in Egypt.
Australia will also work with the international community through
international financial institutions to provide other forms of partnership
and assistance and support to our Egyptian friends in the period ahead.
The Foreign Minister has been keen in emphasising the long-term importance
for Egypt of demining here in this country given the number of landmines
which were laid here during World War Two. Australia invests more than 100
million dollars globally in a program of demining in many countries
suffering from mine legacies in the past. We will now expand our efforts
here in Egypt.
Finally, the Foreign Minister and I also spoke this morning about unfolding
events in the country to our West – Libya – and the loss of life in that
country. Speaking as the Australian Government, I stress again the
absolute importance of the Libyan regime respecting the norms of
international law and refraining from acts of mass violence against the
civilian population, or it will incur the penalties which are available
under international criminal law.
In conclusion could I again thank the Foreign Minister for his hospitality
I'm also meeting with the Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Minister for
Planning and International Cooperation and other Egyptian political figures
throughout the course of today.
Egypt is a great country. What happens here will be of profound
significance in the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Australia intends not to be a fair-weather friend for Egypt, but a friend
for all seasons. In working with our friends in Cairo, we are working for
the long term health of this democracy, the long term health of its
economy, and the long term support for its people.
ABOUL GHEIT: We will answer only two Questions because we have to meet two
visiting American Senators who are Senators McCain and Lieberman at 9:30.
QUESTION: what's happening in Libya is developing quickly. Are there fears
of foreign intervention in Libya like what happened in Iraq?
ABOUL GHEIT: Security Council decision was issued yesterday. We haven't
seen any intentions in this respect. Some measures were considered. For
example establishing a no-fly zone in Libya. But until now these are just
ideas. We are talking only. Nothing has been agreed. On our part we will
not agree to any foreign intervention or military action against an Arab
country but we ask the Libyan authorities to refrain from violence and to
reach a settlement with the opposition which has proved its strength.
We ask the Libyan authorities to help Egyptians leave. There are
difficulties in allowing Egypt flights to bring Egyptians back we are
asking the authorities in the Tripoli airport and on Libya's borderers to
allow Egyptians to use camps because the weather is very difficult. The
Libyan people are hospitable and we expect them to be hospitable to
Egyptians because they are our brothers. Egyptians and Libyans are Muslims
and Arab brothers. Egypt is trying to send ships which will reach Libya in
two or three days but the ships have limited capacity so we need more
trips. Until the ships go and come back and flights are able to move
Egyptians I ask our sons in Libya to stay at home, to not leave until they
are sure there is a chance to travel through flights or ships. They
shouldn't expose themselves to danger by going to the airport which is full
of people. There are several thousand people in the airport. There is an
office of the Foreign Ministry in the airport working with Egypt Air. I
ask the Egyptians to go to this office but they have to keep an open mind
as there are priorities for booking flights, they shouldn't fight for
QUESTION: There are talks in Europe and Libya about a military presence in
ABOUL GHEIT: Where did you hear this?
QUESTION: In the Security Council yesterday some opposition Libyan figures
approved of military intervention in Libya. Is there an Egyptian or Arab
position on this?
ABOUL GHEIT: The Arab League took a position which was a firm position for
the first time in its history by suspending Libyan participation in the
Let's concentrate on how to get Egyptians out of Libya. This is what Egypt
is thinking about.
The Libya/Tunisia border is open and the Egyptian Embassy in Tripoli
stressed this. I was on the phone yesterday to senior Libyan officials who
responded positively. I talked to the President of Libyan Intelligence
yesterday and he promised the borders were open so Egyptians can cross into
Tunisia which is receiving Egyptians well.
I phoned the Tunisian Foreign Minister and the Algerian Foreign Minister
who proved their true commitment to Arabs and Islam by supporting Egyptians
who are returning from Libya. Thousands of Egyptians are now flooding into
Tunisia and Algeria and are being well received.
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