THE SECRETARY OF STATE
OCTOBER 15, 2023
PRESIDENT SISI: (Via interpreter) Mr. Secretary, welcome. I’m very pleased to see you – welcome to Egypt – and distinguished members of your delegation.
I know that this is the last of your big tour in the region. I commend this enormous effort that you’re making to – let me tell you, Mr. Secretary, that the crisis is quite unprecedented, and we need forceful work, we need our strong determination to make sure that we contain such a crisis.
It’s very important to start my words with one thing that I’d like to highlight. We strongly denounce hurting or harming civilians – any civilians of any (inaudible). This has been our commitment, stance. We’ve been very keen over the years to make sure that we bring about peace since the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Since that time, Egypt has been playing a very important role in addressing of the crises that erupted over the years. We’re talking here about five rounds of conflicts.
Very important to say also that throughout these five rounds of conflict, innocent lives were claimed (inaudible). And I’m going to state the numbers, and I just – I want to state the numbers because any delay in resolving this issue, trying to find to a solution, will just lead to more victims. Victims are, after Palestinian (inaudible), amounted to 12,500 civilians.
On the Israeli side, they lost 2,700 people, including 1,500 in this last crisis. What I’m talking about is information that everyone can check (inaudible). We’re talking about a hundred thousand Palestinians injured, and 12,000 (inaudible). We’re talking about children – we’re talking about 2,500 Palestinian children who were victims, and 150 on the Israeli side. I’m saying this now because we are facing here a huge crisis, and I’m quite concerned about the reaction – they just overextend the right of self-defense, and it turns into a convicted punishment of 2.3 million Palestinians living in (inaudible).
Yes, it is true what happened over the past nine days was very difficult and too much, and we unequivocally condemn it. But we need to understand that this is the result of accumulated fury and hatred over four decades, where the Palestinians had no hope to find a solution. Many people ask: Is this the right time to speak about this or only to try to find a way out of the current crisis? But what I’m saying here is that trying hard to get clear to lay the right foundation for our effort and our (inaudible) because we have to evade very dire consequences that would afflict the Middle East. We’re trying very hard to contain and resolve the crisis and avoid any other parties getting into the conflict.
Mr. Secretary, you spoke about the crisis and you spoke as a Jewish person, and let me tell you that I am an Egyptian citizen, and I was born and brought up in a neighborhood where we had Jewish neighbors. And Jews who used to live here in Egypt not ever suffered from oppression and persecution – targeted. As a matter of fact, the Jews were never targeted in the (inaudible) in over – throughout the whole history. Maybe we were persecuted in Europe – in certain European countries and some other countries – but this will not happen before. What is happening now and what we see now is a tidal wave that is a direct consequence of the crisis and its accumulated symptoms.
This requires us to work, as I said, forcibly and with full determination. It is very important to reduce the flame and to make sure that we deliver the assistance needed to (inaudible) that is under siege, where it is completely deprived of the basic services – food, water, electricity, and fuel. The infrastructure is deteriorating and coming down to zero. We need to hear (inaudible) ourselves. We need to hear each other, and we need to hear this from us, because we are the people who know the region. We are the ones who are very much interested and living day by day with everything that is happening in the region.
Two questions very much relating. One was about (inaudible), and one was (inaudible) and who committed that crime? It was the extremists. This (inaudible) and this is why we need to work together very diligently. I welcome you. I don’t want to take – to talk much. I welcome you, and I hope this is an opportunity for us to have (inaudible) and a good chance where we work to give a strong momentum to finding out a solution and – to resolve this crisis.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much, Mr. President. And as always, it’s good to see you. I wish it were under different circumstances. I come first and foremost as a human being, a human being like so many others appalled at the atrocities committed by Hamas. It’s hard to find the words to describe them, but “inhumane” is a good place to start. We’re determined to stand against Hamas and what it has done, and to make sure that it can’t happen again. We’re determined to stand with and for innocent civilians who suffer primarily as a consequence of what Hamas has done on all sides.
We come to work together as well to ensure that this crisis, this conflict doesn’t spread to other places, and we come to think together about a way forward for everyone that is positive, affirmative – the contrary of the vision that Hamas has, which is simply terror, destruction, murder. What we’ve seen these last days, I think, makes clear that there really are two paths for this region. And one is the path of greater integration, normalization, collaboration, affirmation of the rights of Palestinians, and working together in common purpose, common benefit – that’s one path. The other practice the one that’s offered by Hamas – a path, as I said, that offers nothing but death, destruction, terror, nihilism.
I think the choice is very clear. The challenge is for us to work together to put everyone clearly, affirmatively on that first path. We know that that’s what the overwhelming majority of people in this region want, it’s certainly what we believe they need, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to consult with you about the challenges we face in the immediate, but also on a path forward that takes us to a better place.