Background Briefing on Secretary Kerry's Meetings in Cairo, Egypt
MODERATOR: So this is a quick backgrounder on the remaining meetings that occurred today with, let’s see, President Mansour and al-Sisi. We have two Senior State Department Officials who will just give you a quick overview, and then we’ll take some questions.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So in the meetings, not unlike what the Secretary did with Foreign Minister Fahmy, he talked about the importance of pressing forward on the roadmap, the importance of sticking to the schedule that the roadmap has outlined, that they’ve outlined in their roadmap, and the importance of going through – in addition to that – to the international rights, the internationally accepted rights that the Egyptians – that the Egyptian people would demand and that are part of any democracy. So he especially talked about freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, protection of minorities, those – freedom of religion, those kinds of things. He also talked about the importance of stability, that we completely support the effort not to – the effort to persuade citizens not to engage in violence, but said that stability was absolutely essential in order to get to the economic reform, the economic rebuilding kinds of programs – again, not unlike what he talked about with Foreign Minister Fahmy.
He asked for – he pressed – he pressed hard on inclusivity. He stressed really hard in inclusivity that it was not – that as far as the United States was concerned, it wasn’t – that the crackdown that was underway was not appropriate, that inclusivity required that there be an outreach to the Muslim Brotherhood and others, that so long as individuals foreswore violence that they should be invited into the political process, and that this was – this was a very important part of democracy and important – and important to the United States.
He pressed hard on not extending the state of emergency when it expires on November 14th. With – let’s see, am I missing anything that they talked about?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I mean, on the – I could add a couple things if you want.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Okay.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So two other things that I think --
QUESTION: The state of emergency expires when?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: November 14.
QUESTION: November 14th or December 14th?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: November 14.
QUESTION: November 14th.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Two other things the Secretary emphasized: one, the importance and his intention of engaging the region broadly in supporting Egypt’s transition and also its solidifying its economic development; and then second, relatedly, the connection between Egypt’s political situation and its economic situation, in that the stability that Egypt needs is also directly tied to its ability for its economy to get on a more solid footing for things like tourism and other foreign investment opportunities. And while Egypt clearly benefitted in the near term from the infusion of cash from the Gulf and other places, it’s clear that that’s not a sustainable model over the long haul and that Egypt’s economy and stability are kind of closely linked in that way.
MODERATOR: Okay. So let’s take a few questions.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what – so what did al-Sisi say? What was the response to these points? Did he agree? Is he going to do anything?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: [Senior State Department Official Two] was in the al-Sisi meeting. I was in the Mansour meeting, so we’ll answer --
QUESTION: Okay. So what did al-Sisi and Mansour say?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So I think he reiterated – he strongly reiterated his commitment to the roadmap. I think he also underscored his sense of the significant challenges that the Egyptian Government and the Egyptian people face. And I think his sense was that patience is required on the part of the international community and on the part of the United States as Egypt works through these challenges, but at the same time was sort of unwavering in his commitment to meet the goals that the government has set down for itself.
QUESTION: What about on the state of emergency? Did they sort of hint or say that they were going to end the state of emergency?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Mansour – Mansour in particular said that he has actually not used any of the elements of the state of the – of emergency except for the curfew, and the language was positive. I think that’s the best I can do.
QUESTION: What did they --
QUESTION: What about al-Sisi? Sorry.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I mean, no strong indication one way or the other, but it was raised by the Secretary in the meeting.
QUESTION: What did they want to talk about? What did they bring up?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They, in particular, wanted – they all talked about how important the U.S.-Egyptian relationship was, how important it was to them, that they see themselves continuing to be a strategic partner. They said that they see the relationship to be much more than assistance; that the assistance element of it, to a degree, has been overplayed, and they wanted to talk about the kinds of things that we can do together.
In that connection, I should mention, as he had – as he – as the Secretary said in his press availability, he committed to the strategic dialogue that President Mansour had requested. And we said yes, absolutely, we would like to do that. That’s a good way to get at a lot of these issues and to a much greater – in much greater detail. So President Mansour pointed to Foreign Minister Fahmy and said, “Please take it up with him,” in terms of arranging this. So it was very much along the lines of okay, let’s get – they didn’t say get back to, but they said there are a lot of strategic issues to talk about, let’s do that.
QUESTION: Were there plans to return here?
QUESTION: It seems – can I just --
QUESTION: I’m sorry. Are there plans to come back soon?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There were – that was not discussed.
QUESTION: The Secretary didn’t mention the Muslim Brotherhood at all when he talked about outreach and meeting with other people when he spoke publicly. How strong was his intervention on that point in the private conversations, and what response did he get?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The way he focused on it with President Mansour was on the importance of inclusivity, the importance of outreach, and persuading the Muslim Brotherhood and others – he didn’t – it wasn’t necessarily focused totally on the Muslim Brotherhood – that if they foreswore violence they should be invited into the political process. It was along those lines that they talked about it.
And President Mansour expressed some frustration at their inability to entice the Muslim Brotherhood or entice these people to engage in this kind of a discussion, and said that they – he agreed that it was important for all elements of society to participate, but they hadn’t succeeded so far in getting them to do so.
QUESTION: Did he understand that maybe slaughtering dozens of them in the street isn’t exactly the best way to get them to --
QUESTION: -- persuade them?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: What was your question?
QUESTION: The Muslim Brotherhood talking to them. If you kill them in the streets, why do they want to talk to you?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They didn’t talk about it that way. It was much more talking about what are we going to do from now on, because the focus was on the roadmap, on the elections, parliamentary elections, and the constitution.
QUESTION: And you said that al-Sisi talked about the need for patience from the U.S. and international – how inclined are you to --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sorry?
QUESTION: How inclined to be patient are you?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think the Secretary was clear that the roadmap is something that was declared by the Egyptian Government and we expect them to meet it.
QUESTION: Then what is he talking about patience? Why is al-Sisi wanting patience if you have these clearly defined dates? Is he saying they’re going to slip? What does he mean?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think he wasn’t necessarily referring to patience in terms of the roadmap, but patience more broadly in terms of Egypt’s ability to shift over time to a more stable and prosperous --
QUESTION: All right. How inclined are you to be patient in waiting for Egypt to be able to get there?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: This is the way I would put it: There was a lot of talk about how important it is to move now, that the Egyptian – that Egypt requires stability that comes from this kind of progress on the roadmap and on granting universal rights, particularly through the constitution drafting, in order to get the economy on track; that there isn’t time to wait around for that kind of thing, that Egyptians expect fast progress on that and they need to get moving.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say that your point is that okay, well, the international community might be willing to be patient for you to get your act together, but the Egyptian people sure aren’t going to be patient if their economy still sucks in five – four months, five months?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: I’m trying to figure out what – I mean, I don’t understand the patience line. Does he want – he wants patience from the international community or he wants patience from the Egyptian people?
MODERATOR: I think he said patience from the international community.
QUESTION: I know that’s what [Senior State Department Official Two] said. But then what [Senior State Department Official One] just said suggests that he – that it’s – he’s saying it was going to require patience for us to get our act together on the economy and for things to turn around. And that suggests that it’s more the patience of the Egyptian people so they don’t go through this whole thing again.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think he was talking to us about what he expects from the Egyptian people. I think he was talking to us about what he expects from the international community.
QUESTION: Can I ask about --
QUESTION: Perhaps I can ask it this way. Were any – oh sorry, Kim. Were any deadlines set or asked for in terms of restoration of the aid?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There’s already a timeline.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Nothing new.
QUESTION: So the timeline – so the April 2014 elections is kind of when you will start reviewing whether to resume the full package of aid?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I would – no. I would say it’s an ongoing process.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, we’re not going to wait till then.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So for instance, as the constitution discussion is underway right now, we’re in conversations with the Egyptians right now about the kinds of things that are appropriate in a constitution based on international standards.
QUESTION: Are they resistant?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They’re talking to us about it. I can’t tell you what’s in the constitution. I don’t know. But we’re not – but we’re also talking to civil society about the kinds of things that they want to have in the constitution and encouraging that kind of engagement and that kind of dialogue as well.
So the first dates that have been talked about is that the – that the draft is due to the President – this is what we heard from – this is what the Embassy heard, what David Satterfield heard from the constitution drafting committee – that they expect to give that to the President on December 3rd and then the referendum would be called after that. There has to be a two-week delay between – or prep time between the time the referendum is announced and it’s held, and they’re saying they’re thinking late December.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The expectation is later that month.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, later December.
QUESTION: So can I ask about this idea of stability? Because it sounds to me like you and the Egyptians have a different concept of what stability is and what is required to get there. In their view, stability is we will crack down violently on anyone who takes to the streets and challenges the authority of the military, and please be patient with us if we do so because that is our way of getting to stability.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’ll tell you, in the meeting with President Mansour the Secretary was very clear that stability comes from buy-in from everybody, that that’s how you get – that’s how you get stability. And that’s why he pushed so hard on the inclusivity point and how counterproductive broad detentions are – great – sort of rounding everybody up isn’t going to get you the kind of stability that you’re looking for.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right. And --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s the way he talked about it.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Very consistent message in the al-Sisi meeting as well. He must have used the word “inclusivity,” I don’t know, several times and clearly linked the concept of inclusivity to the concept of stability.
QUESTION: But to go back to her question, I mean, was – there are a lot of people in jail who were not arrested committing violent acts and aren’t charged with committing violent acts. Was there any specific discussion about what inclusivity means from the Secretary’s point of view?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: One thing that he was – he said several times in the meeting with President Mansour is politically motivated detentions are not acceptable as far as we’re concerned.
QUESTION: The Secretary said that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Correct.
QUESTION: And Mansour said in response?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He – well, Mansour, of course, is a judge and he talked about how – that they intend for all of this to be done in terms of the legal process, that there would be a clear legal process that would determine whether criminal acts had been undertaken or not.
QUESTION: What about al-Sisi?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And he cited – he actually cited an example of 16 who had been arrested fairly recently. Their cases had been investigated and been determined that there were no criminal acts and they’ve been released – that 16. But that’s what he cited.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The Secretary in the al-Sisi meeting also raised concerns about politically motivated or arbitrary detentions and arrests as well as citing the importance of trying civilians in civilian courts. And I don’t know that al-Sisi responded on either of those points.
QUESTION: Just to get this on background, the Morsy trial that resumes tomorrow or starts tomorrow was disused or not discussed in these two meetings?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It was not discussed specifically – that trial – in the al-Sisi meeting.
QUESTION: Why not?
QUESTION: Nor in your meeting?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It was – the Secretary kept it to the general point of politically motivated arrests and detentions important for the political – for a legal political process to go forward.
QUESTION: You don’t know if he responded?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sorry. A legal. A legal process to go forward.
QUESTION: You don’t --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Beg your pardon. I don’t – I don’t know that he responded on those points. I think he did not respond on --
QUESTION: You don’t know, or he did not respond?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think he responded. I don’t recall him responding on those points.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion about if and when the delivery of the military equipment would be – would go ahead?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Delivery of?
QUESTION: Military equipment, the Apaches, the jets, the --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: They did not get into any of the specifics on any of that.
QUESTION: Did anybody have a request on that?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No, they talked about the kinds of things that we hope to see from the Egyptian Government but without any specific reference to any triggers for turning anything back on or back off.
QUESTION: And did the Egyptians ask for any of this equipment to be released?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No. And in fact, the Egyptians were similarly insistent that the relationship – at least in the al-Sisi meeting, he was similarly insistent that the relationship was about more than assistance from their perspective. And he was – he also very much underscored the point that the Egyptian military in particular – and he said at least on a couple of occasions that he was speaking as the Minister of Defense and underscored that point – the Egyptian military’s relationship with the United States long predates the recent turmoil and that they were fully committed to it and that commitment was undiminished by anything that’s happened in the last few years.
MODERATOR: And making an evaluation of that wasn’t the goal from either side or the focus from either side coming into this trip, so that wasn’t the expectation coming in.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion about – so far, other than not getting planes to add to the planes they already have and things like that, I mean, they’re pretty much getting what they need. And was there any discussion about how that perhaps is not going to be able to continue when the current money that you have runs out if you can’t get any more, and that they need to show something to make sure that goes through?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Secretary in a number of ways said you need to make progress on the roadmap and on these – on this whole set of rights and that kind of thing with the constitution and the – sort of the international standards on rights. He said there are quite – a lot of questions in Congress, there are a lot of questions in the United States, about – about whether Egypt is making progress; help us help you to get the assistance – to get the – to move the assistance forward in ways that you would like, but we can’t do it without you making the kind of progress that we’re talking about.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think he alluded to some of that in his public comments as well.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right. But he several times said you have to help us help you.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It was not raised specifically at all.
QUESTION: Why not?
QUESTION: Was that the intention?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Neither one --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- that the goal --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the 800-pound gorilla in the room --
QUESTION: Why wasn’t Morsy’s trial raised?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The goal was to talk about the strategic kind of cooperation that we have – that we have going forward, and we talked about inclusivity. He talked about that quite a bit about how important it was to move forward, like all things I already said.
QUESTION: Well, did you, or you two, or anyone make a judgment that it wouldn’t be productive or it wouldn’t – that this might get their back up or it might – raising the case specifically, or do you just not care what happens to him?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Umm --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Are those the only two options? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Other than – I think those are the only two that make sense, no? That would make sense.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We want – we kept it general. We kept it at – to a set of general comments.
QUESTION: But my question is: Why?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not sure --
QUESTION: I mean, this is – in the coming days, I mean, tomorrow is going to be --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. I mean --
QUESTION: -- a big --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- a big-ass test of whether they’re able to deliver on anything that they say that they’re going to do in dealing with the protests. Why --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I’m sorry. They (inaudible)?
QUESTION: It’s going to be a big test as to whether they’re going to be able to --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think we made very clear our commitment to the types of principles that will be – that we’ll be able to observe in the course of those proceedings without making specific reference to an individual case.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But I’m – my question – I’m trying to peel back the onion here to figure out was it a conscious decision on your part that raising – or the feeling that raising it – the most important trial that you’re talking about when you talk about how there should be political –
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There was – so there was definitely no conscious decision not to raise it.
QUESTION: So it was just a (inaudible)?
QUESTION: So you just papered over it? I mean, I just –
QUESTION: I mean, it is significant that it wasn’t raised.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I mean --
QUESTION: Maybe it’s not significant to you, but it will be to about several million Muslim Brotherhood supporters in Egypt. And it’s significant to us --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I think the Secretary made clear, again, his commitment to and the importance of the types of principles that would characterize a just and fair judicial proceeding. Politically motivated trials he talked about, politically motivated detentions and arrests. He did not get into specific cases.
QUESTION: Is it about non-interference in judiciary affairs?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) military, or are they having it in the civil court?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s a civil court.
QUESTION: But in a military barracks or in a security force barracks.
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The same – I’m told it’s the same as Mubarak.
QUESTION: Okay. So the last two coup-toppled presidents --
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s just a – it’s just a fact.
MODERATOR: All right. Thanks, everyone.