Joint Press Availability With Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry

Press Availability
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Cairo, Egypt
September 13, 2014


FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) Today we had discussions, (inaudible) long discussions during which the U.S. Secretary met President Abdelfattah al-Sisi, and this was an opportunity for them to discuss bilateral relations in details and openly. And they addressed several issues regionally and on the global (inaudible), the situation in Iraq or Syria or Libya, in addition to developments related to the cease-fire in Gaza.

They also discussed the meeting that they held in – concerning terrorism and joint and common action in order to address the phenomena of terrorism in general, and also with respect to the spread of ISIS throughout Syria and Iraq. They also discussed the importance of the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Egypt, and they agreed on the importance of continuing this relationship and further enhancing in the service of the interests of both countries on the basis of mutual respect and also the status of the U.S. as a major global power and Egypt as a regional power. And they focused on the political scene and the ability of each party to positively impact the situation and reach a positive resolution to several issues in the region.

The discussions also addressed the Palestinian question, which is a central problem in the Middle East region, and there was agreement in opinion over the importance of resuming the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations leading up to the founding of a Palestinian state on Palestinian territory with Jerusalem – East Jerusalem as its capital. And there was agreement that resolving this problem will result in stability and the removal of several of the root causes of tension at the regional and global levels.

I would welcome Secretary Kerry, and I have had the opportunity to discuss several issues with him here in Egypt and also through the constant communication that we have together, and I would like to thank him for his cooperation, and I hope there would be certainly more opportunities in the future to continue our joint work in the interest of both countries. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Foreign Minister Shoukry, my friend Sameh. I’m very appreciative for that. I’m very appreciative for the welcome here. And indeed, Foreign Minister Shoukry and I are constantly in touch with each other, and I think we have a very strong working relationship which is now defining itself even in more initiatives that we will be working on together. I’m very pleased to be back here in Cairo and I’m very grateful to Foreign Minister Shoukry and President al-Sisi for their invitation to come back here in order to talk about the coalition that we are building to deal with ISIL, but also to deal with a number of other very complicated and important issues in the region, ranging from Gaza-Palestine to the Iran nuclear negotiations, Libya, and other issues.

I had an opportunity to meet this morning also with Secretary General Nabil Eraraby of the Arab League, and I want to thank the Secretary General for his continued commitment to peace and to security within the Arab world. The relationship that the United States and Egypt share has long been a critical part of the United States relationship with the entire region. And today, I reiterated to President al-Sisi and to Foreign Minister Shoukry the United States commitment and desire to see Egypt succeed in the many transitions that it currently faces. We will support Egypt as it undertakes significant economic reforms, as it holds parliamentary elections at near term, and as it works to follow through on its pledge to protect human rights, which we believe is an essential ingredient of stability.

We also pledged to continue to work closely with Egypt to advance our common strategic interests, a number of which were the centerpiece of our discussions here today. I reiterated to President al-Sisi and to Foreign Minister Shoukry how appreciative we are of Egypt’s leadership in brokering the Gaza cease-fire. Together, our nations and other international partners will continue to discuss the path forward for the two parties to be able to reconvene in Cairo, to work through the critical underlying issues that have stood in the way of an enduring cease-fire, and frankly have prevented it for too long.

We also discussed the clear need to support the elected government next door in Libya. Both Egypt and the United States understand that while our nations must continue to push for a peaceful resolution, ultimately, the Libyan people and their elected representatives are the only ones who can decide that it is time to resolve their conflicts through constructive political dialogue. And we hope they will make that decision as swiftly as possible. What we both know is they had an election, the election had an outcome, and everyone should respect the outcome of that election.

Our conversations also focused extensively on our shared fight against terrorism and extremism. Egypt is on the front lines of extremist threats, particularly when it comes to the extremist groups in the Sinai. And that is why, in an effort to support the Egyptian Government’s work to counter those threats, last month we announced our intention to deliver 10 Apache helicopters to the Egyptian military. The fact is that in today’s globalized world, it’s only a matter of time before the threat of terrorism anywhere becomes a threat of terrorism everywhere.

That has certainly been proven true in the case of ISIL. It is an organization whose brutality and sheer evil knows no bounds. ISIL claims to be fighting on behalf of Islam, but it actually has nothing to do with Islam. It is increasingly clear that its message of hate is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Muslims all around the world. I have heard this loud and clear from leader after leader in Muslim states that I have visited, and it is clear in the pronouncements of religious leaders around the world in meetings that I have had throughout the region this week, including the conference in Jeddah where I met with the leaders from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and the GCC states. And we all met with the sole goal of discussing the global effort to take on ISIL and to continue to fight against terrorism.

As an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world, Egypt has a critical role to play in publicly renouncing the ideology that ISIL disseminates. This was a very important feature of our discussions in Jeddah and again today here in Cairo. And it is something that the Egyptian religious establishments at Al Azhar and Dar al-Ifta – they both fully support and understand.

As President Obama explained earlier this week, we believe the only way to eliminate the ISIL threat is by building a global coalition that will support the Iraqi Government across a number of critical efforts, including by providing military support, but also – importantly, because this won’t be done by military alone – importantly, humanitarian aid, by addressing the illicit funding streams that come to ISIL, by stopping the flow of foreign fighters which all countries can become engaged in, and by repudiating the gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading to whoever will listen.

So we’re very grateful that both Egypt and the Arab League have supported this coalition every step of the way. And in each of the meetings that I had today, we discussed how we could better accelerate the efforts in bringing more nations on board and in dividing up the responsibilities. We also discussed the urgent need to engage our international partners as well as Iraq’s diverse groups in supporting the new, inclusive Iraq Government. And this needs to be at the forefront of every aspect of the global coalition’s work.

Today, we discussed with President al-Sisi steps that Egypt can and will take with respect to Iraq. And I’m very pleased to say that today, Prime Minister Abadi, the new prime minister of Iraq, announced that they are taking some very specific steps to minimize the potential for any civilian casualties as they take on ISIL in populated areas.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Shoukry, Secretary General Elaraby, and I will meet again in Paris for the International Conference on Peace and Security in Iraq. And there, we will continue our work to move the coalition forward. Almost every country has an ability to play some kind of a role in this fight against ISIL, and to join this coalition one way or the other. And we are committed to working with nations in every corner of the globe to figure out in what way they can constructively contribute to the effort to push back against terrorism.

The bottom line is that terrorists like ISIL have no place in the modern world, but it’s up to the world to enforce that truth. Engaging the global community of nations in that effort is our goal in Paris, and it will be our goal at the United Nations General Assembly in several different events that will focus on Iraq and on ISIL and on foreign fighters. And it will be our goal, I am convinced, from our meetings today and over the last week – it will be our goal, in every meeting that we have on the international basis together, working to degrade and ultimately to defeat ISIL wherever it exists. Thank you.

MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible.) My question is to John Kerry. U.S.-Egyptian relations have witnessed perhaps some (inaudible). But what is the future of these relations and what’s the strategic dimension in this relationship?

And my question to Minister Shoukry: There are meetings that are taking place (inaudible) countries and most of the UN. What is Egypt’s vision regarding what’s going on? And also what is its position towards the situation in Iraq and fighting terrorism? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Do you want me to go first now?

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: Please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for the question. As I think you know, I served in the United States Senate for 29 years, and many times as a senator, I came here to Egypt, to Cairo. So for many years, I have had a sense of the importance of Egypt. Egypt is one quarter of the population of the Arab world. And as I said in my comments a moment ago, Egypt is a cultural, an intellectual center as well as a critical leader with respect to this part of the world, and obviously, with its history, carries great importance on a global basis.

Egypt has been going through an enormous transition itself in these last few years. Most importantly, the people of Egypt have had a chance to vote and define their future. And President al-Sisi is now trying to work hard to implement that future, and the United States wants this government to succeed, because its success is important to the region, important to all Egyptians, obviously, and important to the world. Egypt is an ally, an important partner in regional security. Egypt had the courage to make peace years ago with Israel, and that brought great pain and suffering to Egypt, but it was a courageous act. It was the right thing to do. And today, Egypt is helping to broker a cease-fire to make peace a leader for stability and for the region.

So we have great hopes that this economic transition, this cultural, this political transition taking place will grow in its dimensions. And President al-Sisi reaffirmed to me today the commitment of Egypt to hold the parliamentary elections, the importance of moving forward on any number of fronts to stabilize, to attract capital, to bring business in, to create jobs, and to focus on the real business of governing. The United States will work with Egypt in that process because of our longstanding friendship of importance.

And yes, sometimes friends have a disagreement over one thing or another, but friends also understand the roots of their relationship and the reason for continuing to work for those things that are of common interest. That’s exactly what the United States and Egypt will continue to do.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) responsibility with respect to achieving stability in the Middle East and at a global level. This is an immediate interest to Egyptian national interest and reflects the desire of the Egyptian people to create a framework that would respond to its own needs and development and (inaudible), also to build a modern democratic state that would positively respond and react on its regional and international (inaudible).

The (inaudible) have put forward a vision for fighting terrorism and the rise of – and also to fight ISIL because Egypt believes that it’s very important for the world to continue their efforts strongly to fight this extremism and these terrorist actions that take Islam as a cover, when in reality, they seek to realize political gains and use military methods and barbaric methods. This cannot be in line with the (inaudible) of the modern times or the interest of the peoples of the region. We support all international effort to fight terrorism and we support these efforts and we will take all measures that are intended to eliminate this phenomena altogether, whether in Libya or any other part of the Arab world or in the African continent in particular.

With respect to the Libyan issue, on the 13th, we will hold a conference on Libya with the participation of our European partners who also look at the political structure that Egypt has proposed to find a resolution – political solution to the situation in Libya, and to also alert people to the threats associated with the use of military action. We are also considering the interests of the Libyan people and we hope that the conflicting parties would come together for a political solution. At the same time, we will also continue to support the legitimacy of the Libyan Government and parliament, because it’s the only true reflecting, of course, of the desire of the Libyan people who have elected, and that has been recognized also by the international community.

We hope that this support will assist the Libyan people and institutions in restoring their ability to control the future of Libya.

MODERATOR: And (inaudible), Jason from Reuters.

QUESTION: My first question is for Mr. Foreign Minister. Is there any evidence of Islamic states or ISIL linking up with Ansar either through teaching or other forms of cooperation, and is this a concern? And I just have a follow-up: From your perspective, should the coalition against ISIL be brought in doubt – or, sorry, be limited to Sunni Arabs? Should it include Iran?

And, sorry, one last follow-up question for Mr. Secretary: You keep raising human rights issues and Egypt’s leaders keep disregarding you, most notably when three Al Jazeera journalists were jailed a day after you called for their release. Isn’t it clear the Egyptians are disregarding your concerns because they understand you want their cooperation in counterterrorism?

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) With respect to the first part of the question and the relations between terrorist organization, we definitely monitor these relationships between the various organizations, and in the end, this – ideologically speaking, this organization is linked and these organizations share that common vision, and we don’t believe there’s a different – perhaps just in the tactics used by these organizations and the way they depict themselves to the international community.

But we believe that this extremist, exclusionary ideology is common among all terrorist organizations, and the cooperation is something we monitor, and we realize that they cross borders and defeat the idea of the national state, and they want to eliminate these states so that this extremist ideology will prevail. We believe also that this action and the elimination of terrorism is a collective responsibility for members of the international community, and we will take honest and credible steps in order to achieve this goal to prevent any form of funding or communication any (inaudible) between these organizations, and also to fight the ideas of these extremist organization. There should be agreement between members of the international community to eliminate these phenomena wherever they may be.

SECRETARY KERRY: Look, let me be clear. The United States doesn’t ever trade its concern for human rights for any other objective. It is always a concern. It’s an honest concern. And we had a frank discussion today about the concerns that have been expressed. I believe that President al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Shoukry and others are well aware of concerns that have been expressed and are, in fact, working at a number of things, including reviewing the demonstration law and other things that have been expressed as part of those concerns.

Now, just as in the United States, we have a separation of powers, so they have a separation of powers here with an independent judiciary. And I am personally confident that over the course of the next weeks, months, days – on an appropriate schedule that is controlled by Egyptians, not by me or anybody else complaining – that issues will be addressed as they ought to be. And I am confident that this is a concern shared by this government, and let’s just see how things play out in the months and days ahead.