Remarks With Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr
Secretary of State
Today, Mrs. Clinton had a very prolonged meeting with the President, and she addressed – they addressed several issues concerning bilateral relations and also the situation in the region and both parties’ visions on these issues. With respect to these issues, the talks were amicable and friendly and frank.
Without much ado, I’ll give you the way to – the chance to speak now, and afterwards we’ll take two questions from both sides.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister. And I want to thank you and President Morsi for a warm welcome and a very thorough conversation about a number of important issues confronting Egypt and the region.
This is, of course, a time marked by many historic firsts, and it is very clear that Egyptians are in the midst of complex negotiations about the transition, from the composition of your parliament to the writing of a new constitution to the powers of the president. Only Egyptians can answer these questions, but I have come to Cairo to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for your democratic transition.
This afternoon, President Morsi and I began a constructive dialogue about the broad, enduring relationship between the United States and Egypt for the 21st century. We discussed the challenges ahead and how the United States and Egypt can work together in a spirit of mutual respect and mutual interests.
First, we discussed how the United States can support the Egyptian people and their aspirations and in particular the economic package outlined by President Obama to relieve up to one billion dollars in Egypt’s debt as its democratic transition moves forward. In close consultation with the United States Congress, the Obama Administration is preparing to provide budget support to help Egypt stabilize its economy and to use debt relief to foster innovation, growth, and job creation. As Egypt takes these steps to shore up your economy, we will support you with international financial institutions and other donors.
We are also focused on increasing trade, investment, and entrepreneurship to create jobs and are ready to make available $250 million in loan guarantees to Egyptian small-and-medium-sized businesses. We are sending a high-level delegation of American businesses in early September to explore new investment and trade opportunities, and we will be creating the U.S.-Egypt Enterprise Fund. We’ll launch that fund with $60 million. We have prominent Egyptian and American business leaders who will run it. It is modeled on what we have done that has worked in other countries before.
Second, the President and I discussed the importance of keeping Egypt’s democratic transition moving forward, and I commended him on his pledge to serve all Egyptians, including women and minorities and to protect the rights of all Egyptians. President Morsi made clear that he understands the success of his presidency and, indeed, of Egypt’s democratic transition depends on building consensus across the Egyptian political spectrum, to work on a new constitution at parliament, to protect civil society, to draft a new constitution that will be respected by all, and to assert the full authority of the presidency.
And thirdly, we discussed Egypt’s role as a leader in the region. I commended the President for going to the African Union Summit to reassert Egyptian leadership in Africa and emphasized the importance of upholding Egypt’s international agreements. More than three decades ago, Egypt and Israel signed a treaty that has allowed a generation to grow up without knowing war. And on this foundation, we will work together to build a just, comprehensive, regional peace in the Middle East based on two states for two people with peace, security, and dignity for all.
We believe America’s shared strategic interest with Egypt far outnumber our differences. And we know that Egypt’s future is up to the Egyptian people, but we want to be a good partner. We want to support the democracy that has been achieved by the courage and sacrifice of the Egyptian people and to see a future of great potential be realized for the nearly 90 million people of Egypt who are expecting that to occur.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Mohamad Soliman from Nile News. You say that the U.S. supports the democratic transition in Egypt, but some believe that some statements made by U.S. officials have a negative impact on efforts to reach consensus among the various Egyptian parties. What’s your comment to that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we do support the democratic transition, but we know that it is for Egyptians to decide your way forward. And what we have tried to do, President Obama and I, is to stress democracy is hard. We have been at this for more than 236 years, and it requires dialogue and compromise and real politics. So we are encouraged, and we want to be helpful, but we know that it is not for the United States to decide. It is for the Egyptian people to decide, and we will continue to support the Egyptian people making these decisions in the best way that we can.
MS. NULAND: On the U.S. side, Reuters, Arshad Mohammed, please.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, do you regret in retrospect that successive American administrations supported the Mubarak government, which for so many years repressed and sought to marginalize the Muslim Brotherhood, including at times imprisoning President Morsi, whom you just met? And secondly, did President Morsi raise with you the case of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the cleric who is in prison in the United States? And if so, what was your response?
SECRETARY CLINTON: The answer to the second question is no.
Answer to the first question is we worked with the government of the country at the time. We work with governments around the world. We agree with some of them; we disagree with others of them. We were consistent in promoting human rights and speaking out for an end to the emergency law, an end to political prisoners being detained. So I think you have to put this in context.
The United States has relations with every nation in the world, and we stand for democracy and human rights, but it’s not always easy for countries to transition from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones. Sometimes it’s very bloody, with great loss. Egypt took a different path, and we now are doing all we can to support the democratically elected government and to help make it a success in delivering results for the people of Egypt.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) It’s two questions. And first one concerns have – has the U.S. or yourself taken any steps to bring President Morsi and Netanyahu together, especially that some people raise the possibility of amending some of the provisions of the peace treaty? And the second question concerns the U.S. position vis-a-vis the Palestinian reconciliation efforts. And there’s an understanding that the U.S. is opposed to that and also opposed to the Palestinians turning to the United Nations. So the question is if you were in President – in the Palestinian President’s shoes, what exactly would you do with regard to this issue?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we – as to the first question, it is up to the two nations and the President and the Prime Minister to make their own scheduling plans. We have done nothing. That’s not our role; that would not be appropriate. Obviously, we think it’s important for all the nations in the region to try to maintain peace and stability, especially with so many economic challenges facing the region. And we certainly support the continuation of the peace agreement, because we think, as I said, it has brought great benefits to Egypt and will continue to do so, enabling the President to focus on the economic conditions and the internal political situation here in the country.
And as to your second question, I’m in very close communication with President Abbas. I met with him last Friday in Paris. Our goal is to help bring about the two-state solution. And we know that it can only happen if there is a negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that can only happen if all Palestinians are committed to seeking a political resolution and renouncing violence.
So reconciliation is up to the Palestinians, and I commend the Egyptian Government for all the work that Egypt has done. But at the end of the day, the factions of the Palestinians themselves have to determine whether they are committed to a negotiation that will result in a state which they deserve and which the Palestinian people have every reason to expect, or whether there will be diversions and other actions that do not promote that. And I personally believe, having watched this closely now for more than 20 years, that it’s imperative there be a negotiated resolution. And I will continue to do everything I can to bring that about.
FOREIGN MINISTER AMR: (Via interpreter.) I would like to add something about the peace treaty. Mr. President has repeatedly reaffirmed, and on all occasions, that Egypt continues to respect all treaties signed as long as the other party to the treaty respects the treaty itself. And today, he once again reiterated this issue and also reiterated that Egypt’s understanding of peace is that it should be comprehensive, exactly as stipulated in the treaty itself. And this also includes the Palestinians, of course, and its right to – their right have their own state on the land that was – the pre June 4th, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
MS. NULAND: (Inaudible) CNN, Elise Labott, please.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam Secretary. You spoke last week about the parties needing to – in Egypt – needing to get together and settle their political differences. And today you spoke about President Morsi needing to assert the full authority of his office. But I’m wondering if you’re equating the SCAF, which seems to have undemocratically overstayed its welcome in the political sphere, with an elected president and parliament that you yourself said was brought to office in a free and fair election. I mean, is there a moral equivalence there, or should the SCAF be kind of pulling back now? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, again, Elise, this is first and foremost a question for the Egyptian people. But the United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails. And we have commended the SCAF for representing the Egyptian people in the revolution, as compared to what we’re seeing in Syria, which is the military murdering their own people. The SCAF here protected the Egyptian nation, and we commend them for overseeing a free, fair election process. But there is more work ahead, and I think the issues around the parliament, the constitution have to be resolved between and among Egyptians. I will look forward to discussing these issues tomorrow with Field Marshal Tantawi and in working to support the military’s return to a purely national security role.
And I would only add that this is not an uncommon issue in these transitions. If you look at Latin America, you look at Asia, you look at the former Soviet Union, other countries have gone through these transitions, especially from authoritarian, military-dominated rule. So I am confident that the Egyptian people, acting in the interest of all the people, can resolve these questions themselves.
MS. NULAND: Translation please.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Can she translate my answer, please?
INTERPRETER: (In Arabic.)
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: You know, this is great evidence of a free press, which is part of democracy. Thank you.