September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Vice President Richard Cheney and First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Kuwait Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah Joint Press Conference; March 18, 2002

Public Affairs Office
Embassy of the United States of America
Kuwait City, State of Kuwait
March 18, 2002
Transcript of the Vice President of the United States of America
Richard Cheney and First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of
Kuwait Shaykh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah
Joint Press Conference Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kuwait City, Kuwait
March 18, 2002

Foreign Minister: I have the pleasure in welcoming our friend, His Excellency Dick Cheney, the Vice President of the United Sates of America, during his visit to Kuwait. I also have the pleasure in commending the strong relations that link Kuwait with our friend the United States of America. Our friend's visit reaffirms the United States' awareness of the significance of exchanging visits between officials of the two friendly states and continued consultation about issues of mutual interests.

The State of Kuwait condemned from the first moment the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 and supported the international campaign against terrorism because it (Kuwait) was previously a target for various types of terrorism and out of its Kuwait's) belief in the necessity of defending and protecting the innocent.

The Middle East region witnessed recently negative developments that seriously threatened the peace process, and threatened to push the region towards an armed confrontation whereby all states of the region will be losers. Therefore, action to support peace efforts in the region is necessary. In this connection, I have the pleasure to commend the recent American position in adopting (UN) Security Council Resolution 1379 and sending General Zinni to the region to exert efforts to enhance peace prospects.

Once again, I reiterate my welcome to our friend, His Excellency the Vice President of the United States. Welcome.

Vice President Cheney: Good afternoon. I am delighted once again to be back in Kuwait and to have the opportunity to meet with His Highness the Amir, with the Crown Prince, and with Deputy Prime Minister Shaykh Sabah. I am proud to count many friends among the citizens of this country, and, sir, I want to thank you and your people for the very warm welcome that you have extended to me today.

I have come to the Middle East on behalf of President Bush to confer with regional leaders on issues of importance, especially our cooperative efforts in fighting terrorism and our determination to promote Arab-Israeli peace and reconciliation. We are conferring as well about other challenges to regional security, and the threat that weapons of mass destruction pose to all of us.

Kuwait is one of America's closest friends. Our ties of friendship were cemented in Operation Desert Storm, when we threw back the army of a tyrant and restored the sovereignty of Kuwait and liberated her people. A decade later, our two countries now stand together once again in the urgent business of opposing global terror. Our governments are equally committed to defeating this threat to the civilized world. America especially welcomes Kuwait's actions to choke off the flow of money, the terrorist organizations and their supporters, and we look forward to building upon this cooperation in the future. We also appreciate the U.S.-Kuwait military cooperation that allows us to keep and check the continuing threat that we believe Iraq presents to the region and to the people of Kuwait. I want to assure the people of Kuwait that the United States remains fully committed to doing everything we need to do to defend Kuwait's sovereignty and independence, and we join you in demanding that the Iraqi regime be made to honor in full its obligations under Security Council resolutions, particularly its obligations to admit weapons inspectors and to give them unimpeded access to any and all suspect sites, to return Kuwait's stolen property and to account for more than six hundred people who disappeared during the brutal occupation of your country.

The Amir, the Crown Prince, the Deputy Prime Minister, and I have spoken of these and other matters in our productive meetings today.

For me, this has been a week of open, frank discussions with Middle Eastern leaders on a wide range of issues that concern us all. Here in Kuwait, I have again benefited from the wise council of long-time acquaintances. To them and to all Kuwaitis, I bring the respect and good wishes of the American people and of President George W. Bush.

Question: Shaykh Sabah, this question is addressed to you. To what extent is Kuwait committed to the security agreements between Kuwait and the United States?

Foreign Minister: Kuwait is committed to the agreement signed between Kuwait and the United States. It (this agreement) still stands and both parties are committed to it. Therefore, there are no changes with regards to this agreement.

Vice President Cheney: I agree.

Question: Mr. Vice President, as you head to Israel, I would like to

know under what conditions you would meet with Yasser Arafat and should Israel allow him to attend the Arab League Summit? And I would also like to know your priorities in talks on oil policy with Gulf leaders, such as are you seeking assurances for price stability if Iraqi supplies are cut off? Are you seeking access to refined products for U.S. military needs?

Vice President Cheney: Is that all? With respect to the situation in Israel, I will be there later this afternoon. Upon my arrival, I plan to meet with General Zinni. He is in the midst of very difficult and delicate negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians and what if any contribution I can make to his ongoing efforts is something I'll look to him for guidance on this afternoon. With respect to - I think I have stated exactly what I wanted to state and I'll leave it right there. The second part of your question? (On oil policy.) I have talked in a couple of instances with my host about developments in the energy business. I have not come specifically focused upon the notion of trying to alter or change their policies with respect to the oil business. They're all sovereign states. They make those decisions. The United States has made it clear that we believe it is in the interest of both producers and consuming nations to have stability in prices. The wide swings in prices are not in anybody's interest, and that position hasn't changed. (What about refined products?) Refined products? I haven't talked to anybody about refined products. I haven't talked to anybody about that. Those are logistics matters that are being handled by our people on the scene.

Question: There are lots of questions in the region that the Iraqi regime continues to pose a threat to the region. If the United States makes any military decision, will the countries of the region support this (decision)?

Foreign Minister: Kuwait calls on Iraq and hopes that it would agree to UN Security Council resolutions related to the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction to protect the Iraqi people. We feel that it will be the Iraqi people who would be exposed to any war or strike.

Therefore, we hope that this won't happen, and hope that Iraq would appreciate the circumstances of its people and agree to UN resolutions regarding the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction and accepting the delegation (of weapons inspectors) to Baghdad.

Question: Mr. Prime Minister, precisely under what conditions would you support military action against Iraq, and Mr. Vice President, there's been a Gallup poll showing something like nine percent of the Islamic world thinks the U.S. role in Afghanistan is morally justified and in Kuwait it's like I believe 89 percent saying that Arabs were not involved in the September 11th attacks. What are we to make of that?

Foreign Minister: With regards to Kuwait and its position, if there is any action by the United States, we will not support this matter. We won't support it not because Iraq is a friend to Kuwait, in as much as it is because the current circumstances are not suitable and the Iraqi regime will not be harmed as much as the Iraqi people will by this matter. That's why I'd hoped that the Iraqi regime would appreciate what could happen to its people if it refuses to receive the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction delegation in Iraq.

Vice President Cheney: With respect to the question on public opinion polls, I'm not familiar with the particular polls you cite, Jim. I've found during the course of my travels and the work that I've been involved in with the administration in terms of our operations in Afghanistan that there's been a widespread support for the war on terror, that the people of Afghanistan felt -- and expressed their thanks -- felt liberated once the Taliban regime was removed. It's clearly in everybody's interest to eliminate the sources of terrorism that have afflicted not only the United States, but many other countries around the world. I think that those are important considerations, and I generally don't comment on polls in the United States, and I'm probably not going to begin now here in Kuwait.

Question: As a Kuwaiti, I welcome you back home. My question is if the United States of America decides on ousting President Saddam Hussein, would it be under the resolutions the United Nations had upon liberating Kuwait or would it be under the campaign of fighting terrorism?

Vice President Cheney: Well, I never like to speculate about future prospective actions or policies of the United States. But the President's made clear, as I tried to reiterate again in my statement today, that we believe Iraq has an obligation to comply with the UN Security Council resolutions which they agreed to at the end of the war that deal with such things as weapons of mass destruction, the Kuwaiti prisoners, and stolen property, and etc. That's still our position, and continues to be our position. The difficulty I think that we have all faced in the region is the international community has been consistent in its approach. The problem, the force for instability, the aggressor, has consistently been Saddam Hussein. That situation today, unfortunately, is still of concern to the United States. The President's addressed it previously, and it continues to be of concern, and we'll work closely with our friends here in Kuwait and elsewhere throughout the region to try to protect and preserve the peace and stability that we all care about, obviously, very much.

Question: Mr. Vice President, last Thursday, during your press conference with President Mubarak in Egypt, you praised the Saudis for offering what is routinely described now as a vision for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. That same day during a press conference at the White House, President Bush also praised the Saudis for quote unquote stepping up and offering a vision of peace. Yet that same day, the Saudi government-run newspaper carried a lengthy article describing how Jews acquire and drink human blood for Purim ceremonies. Given such behavior, why should Israelis, or American Jews, or people of decency anywhere believe that the Saudis are indeed committed to peace, and what have you, sir, personally done on this trip to discourage the dissemination of such poisonous hate speech?

Vice President Cheney: I think it would be a mistake to equate views that are expressed in that newspaper with the views of Crown Prince Abdullah and what he has put forward in Saudi Arabia. Obviously, those kinds of anti-Semitic comments are strongly opposed and disagreed with by, I think, all proper thinking people, whether they're American or in the Middle East. But I would think it would be a mistake to try to equate what appeared in a newspaper with the policies of the government of Saudi Arabia. I reiterate what I said. Once again, I think the Crown Prince has made a very positive contribution in stepping forward and offering up his vision and that it's part and parcel of what the President has done with respect to the views he has expressed, and the hopes and aspirations for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. We'll continue to do everything we can to resolve that conflict and the bloodshed.

Question: The U.S. has proposed the Mitchell Plan and the Tenet Plan, and now has accepted the UN resolution and Mr. Zinni is now in the region, while the bloodshed still continues on the Israeli part and Sharon's massacres still continue to occur. Do you not think that the U.S. should be applying more pressure so that the bloodshed will stop.

I mean, until when are we going to keep on introducing plans and the bloodshed is still continuing?

Vice President Cheney: We are, as I mentioned before, and as I think is obvious from the activities of our government -- the statements of the President, the UN resolution which we helped author and supported earlier this week, the return of General Zinni to the region -- doing everything we can to promote a ceasefire and an end to the bloodshed and to begin some kind of a negotiating process. We do not believe that the conflict is one-sided, in the sense that one can suggest, for example, that only the Israelis are responsible for the bloodshed.

When an innocent child dies, whether it's Israeli or Palestinian, it's a tragedy. We believe it's incumbent upon all of the governments in this part of the world, including the United States, to do everything we can to encourage the Israelis and the Palestinians, in particular Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon, to enter into a ceasefire, to do everything they can to put a lid on the violence so that there is no further loss of life, and to return once again to productive negotiations hopefully leading to a world in which there is a homeland for Palestinians and for Israelis, and that they can live side by side in peace and not experience the kind of tragedy that we've all witnessed in recent months.

Foreign Minister: I would like to say something, if you don't mind,

Mr. Vice President. Kuwait denounces the actions undertaken by Israel in Palestine, which have resulted in hundreds of victims. There have also been victims from Israel, and that is not in the interest of the Palestinian issue. We denounce all of these actions. We hope that the Vice President, during his visit to Palestine and Israel, would taken into consideration Yasser Arafat's presence in the Beirut (Arab League) summit. This would be a credit to the United States that it has done something for the brothers in Palestine. Therefore, I hope that the Vice President would take this wish into consideration during his visit either to Palestine or Israel and that we would find our brother Yasser Arafat with us in the (Arab League) summit which will be held in Beirut on the 27th of this month.

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