Next Steps on Egypt Policy

A. Elizabeth Jones
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs
Statement Before the House Foreign Affairs Committee
Washington, DC
October 29, 2013

Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, distinguished members of the committee, thank you very much for inviting us to discuss next steps on U.S. policy toward Egypt this morning. This is a summary of my full statement.

Egypt and the U.S.-Egypt relationship matter to us. Egypt is a vital partner. Our longstanding partnership is predicated on shared interests: Promoting a stable and prosperous Egypt, securing regional peace and maintaining peace with Israel, and countering extremism and terrorism throughout the region.

This partnership has brought the United States significant benefits: as you have each mentioned, easy transit through the Suez Canal; military overflights that facilitate our activities; and the counterterrorism and counterproliferation gains that come from Egypt's efforts to control its borders with Gaza and security challenge countries like Libya.

There is no doubt that a reliable Egyptian partner is in U.S. strategic interests. We firmly believe that the best, most reliable Egyptian partner is a democratic Egypt. A sustainable, inclusive, nonviolent transition to a democratically elected government will give Egypt the best opportunity to succeed. And Egypt's success can be the region's success.

Since the January 2011 revolution, Egypt's history has centered on what Egyptians want for democracy: political and economic reform and how their government can meet their aspirations. Following the revolution, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party won the parliamentary elections. And in 2012, President Morsi was voted into power, an election viewed as free and fair.

However, Mr. Morsi proved unwilling or unable to govern inclusively, alienating many Egyptians. Responding to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn and you saw a return to security and stability after years of unrest, the interim government replaced the Morsi government.

But the interim government has also made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy. We were troubled by the July 3 events and the violence of mid-August. The decision to remove Morsi, excessive force used against protesters in August; restrictions on the press, civil society and opposition parties; the continued detention of many members of the opposition; and the extension of the state of emergency have been troubling.

We have also consistently and strongly condemned the heinous violence and acts of terror against Coptic churches and the Coptic community. At the same time, we have condemned the continuing attacks on the security forces in the Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt.

After the events of mid-August, the president said we could not continue business as usual with respect to our assistance. That decision -- after careful review, we recently announced a recalibration of this assistance. That decision ensures that assistance is directed towards core U.S. interests, including helping Egypt secure its borders in the Sinai, preventing the flow of weapons into Gaza that threaten Israel and countering terrorists seeking to attack U.S. and Egyptian interests.

We will continue military training and education as well as a sustainment of certain U.S.-origin military systems. However, we are holding the delivery of several major weapons systems: F-16s, M1A1 tank kits, Harpoon missiles and Apache helicopters. We will work to provide economic support that directly benefits Egyptian people, including in the areas of health and private sector development but are not moving forward with any further cash transfers to the government.

We will review these decisions informed by credible progress on the interim government's political roadmap toward a sustainable, inclusive and peaceful transition to democracy. This recalibration reflects our effort to advance U.S. core interests in Egypt and the region while impressing upon the Egyptian leadership the importance of making progress toward a democratic transition, progress we believe the Egyptian people want. Our decision is designed to use our assistance to encourage such a transition and a strong private-sector- led economy that can reinforce political stability.

We welcome the interim government's commitment to a political roadmap to restore a democratically elected civilian government. We continue to urge the government to be inclusive, respect the rights of all Egyptians and respect the rule of law, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, the role of civil society and religious freedom.

Beyond issues related to the roadmap, the United States has stayed firm to its principles and interests of advancing civil society engagement by encouraging the passage of an NGO law that conforms to international standards and Egypt's own international commitments. We have registered concerns over the June trial verdict against NGO workers and have urged redress.

We have also raised our concerns about state of emergency, which the government recently announced would not be extended when it expires on November 14.

On the economy, we are encouraging the interim government to maintain economic stability, help restore growth and investment and create jobs.

Egypt has an enormous opportunity now to pursue the aspirations of the 2011 revolution and to provide for the needs of the Egyptian people. The United States wants to help. To do that and to actively advance our core interests in Egypt and the region, we need to have the ability to continue U.S. assistance to Egypt.

Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Engel and distinguished members of this committee, we want to work closely with Congress to obtain the flexibility needed to continue our assistance relationship with Egypt consistent with the law and our national interest and to encourage progress on Egypt's democratic transition.

Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.