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Jimmy Carter Administration: Statement at the Opening Ceremony of Egyptian-Israeli Peace Negotiations

(October 12, 1978)

THE PRESIDENT. Distinguished Ministers, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary, friends:

For 2,000 years in the Middle East, people have cried, "Peace, peace," when there was no peace. The burden of war has lain heavily on this troubled ground. But less than 1 month ago, President Sadat of Egypt and Prime Minister Begin of Israel created a chance for true peace. In their negotiations at Camp David, they displayed the wisdom and the courage necessary to forge a framework for peace in the Middle East.

Everyone who shares their dream of bringing division and bitterness to an end in the Middle East will join me in welcoming their representatives to Washington as they take their next vital steps toward turning that framework into a lasting structure of peace.

No one who is aware of the history of our own generation or of this century or, indeed, of the last 20 or more centuries can overlook the historic importance of this event—the moment when Egyptians and Israelis meet to begin negotiating the terms of a treaty which will define in a practical and concrete way relations of peace between them.

Our meeting today gives us a measure of what has been accomplished and what remains to be done to make peace and dignity a reality for all the people of the Middle East. We have certainly not resolved all the issues, nor removed all the risks. We have established, however, principles and procedures for resolving the negotiations ahead.

Again, we invite Jordan, the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza, and others who are ready to seize this opportunity to join with us in our search for peace. The alternative is drift, stalemate, continued enmity, and perhaps even another war.

The talks that begin today deal primarily with that part of the Camp David framework related to a peace between Egypt and Israel, to establish the specific terms by which Egypt will assume its full exercise of authority and sovereignty over the Sinai, under which security will be assured to both nations, both peoples, and under which the two countries will live and work together as peaceful neighbors.

This peace between these two great nations must be the foundation and the first step toward the larger, even greater, more important result which we all seek-a comprehensive and a lasting settlement between Israel and all her neighbors. A peace treaty between Egypt and Israel should be complemented by progress toward fulfillment of the provisions of the general framework agreement which was concluded at Camp David dealing with the West Bank and Gaza and the just solution of the Palestinian question in all its aspects.

In the days since Camp David, we've seen difficult but important decisions made in both Egypt and Israel, decisions which demonstrate the firm commitment of the leaders, the government, and the peoples to this great effort, decisions which demonstrate their willingness and their ability to turn the existing commitment to peace into an early reality.

With President Sadat's striking vision of the future, he's made even more clear his nation's determination to achieve peace, not only for Egyptians but for all those involved in or affected by recent conflict, a peace that answers their yearning for an end to bloodshed, an end to destruction, and assures the legitimate rights of all who have suffered or who might suffer in the future through neverending war.

In these recent days Prime Minister Begin has displaced once again his courage and his statesmanship, his determination in dealing with the very difficult decisions which are necessary and must be taken for peace. I appreciate how hard, how difficult it has been for him to make some of the decisions and for the members of his government to join in with him. They touch the very heart of every citizen of Israel. The Knesset's decisions confirm what we in this country have always known and believed, that Israel's greatest wish is to live at peace and in good neighborly relationships with all the countries around Israel.

The United States is committed without reservation to seeing this great process through until each party to the Arab-Israeli conflict is at peace with all the others. Our own national interests are deeply involved.

The question of peace or war in the Middle East affects the well-being of every American. But beyond this, the generations-old cycle of tragedy and suffering speaks to America's moral conscience and to our deep and lasting concern for human rights and the expansion of human potential for peoples everywhere.

We will work hand in hand with all involved parties until the job is done and peace is assured.

Minister Moshe Dayan, Minister Kamal Hassan Ali, Minister Ezer Weizman, Minister Butrus Ghali, the Egyptian, Israeli, and American peoples and people throughout the world are depending on you now. Our assistance is available.

My own personal involvement is assured to you. Our hopes are with you, and our prayers.

Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER DAYAN. Mr. President, members of the Egyptian delegation, the Israeli delegation, distinguished guests:

Allow me to thank on behalf of the Israeli delegation the President of the United States for his hospitality and initiative in advancing the peace process in the Middle East.

Primarily, we appreciate your role in the negotiations between the Egyptians and the Israelis. It is our hope and belief that we have reached the stage in which we can finally conclude a peace treaty.

I know that we still have to overcome many obstacles, but with you and your aides' help, Mr. President, and the constructive spirit of the parties, we can accomplish peace.

Thank you very much again, and I am happy that immediately after this distinguished ceremony here, we shall go to the Blair House to our working meeting.

Above all, this is the purpose of being here.

Thank you very much.

DEFENSE MINISTER HASSAN ALI. Mr. President, Israeli delegation, American delegation, and guests:

Permit me at the outset to convey to you President Sadat's warm greetings and best wishes.

We are honored to present to you greetings from 40 million Egyptians. They are grateful to you, Mr. President, and to the American people for your genuine interest in peace in the Middle East. They will always remember your great contribution in Camp David to the cause of peace.

Mr. President, we are very happy to be here to continue our endeavor for peace. We are thankful to you for inviting us to conduct the negotiation in your beautiful country. Your invitation is a symbol of the American commitment to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. It is also another affirmation of your pledge to act as a full partner in the peace process.

We attach the greatest importance to the continuation of this partnership until a comprehensive peace is achieved in our area, a comprehensive peace which ensures the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and enables them to play a constructive role in a peaceful Middle East.

Mr. President, the peace-loving people of Egypt have welcomed the outcome of the Camp David meetings. Our people hope that the two frameworks will serve as a solid foundation for a comprehensive peace to be built in good faith by all parties.

We came here with good faith and earnest hope. We also came here determined to devote all the necessary time and energy to achieve our goals. We sincerely hope that our coming negotiations will be another success to be added to the achievement of Camp David.

We should encourage other Arab parties to join with us in this great pursuit. We also hope to continue our joint effort until peace prevails throughout the area.

My colleagues and I are looking forward to a very fruitful cooperation with our good friend, Secretary Vance, and his assistants.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Sources: Public Papers of the President