Thursday, June 26, 2014

Kerry in Cairo: Not Our Fault

The following are excerpts from remarks by Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo on Sunday, June 22, 2014, after a meeting with the Egyptian Foreign Minister. On Monday, after Kerry had departed, an Egyptian court sentenced three journalists from Al Jazeera to prison terms of 7-10 years.

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I came here today to reaffirm the strength of the important partnership, the historic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and also to consult on the critical situations that we face in the region – obviously, particularly Iraq, Syria and Libya. After three difficult years of transition, the United States remains deeply committed to seeing Egypt succeed. We want to see the people of Egypt succeed, and we want to contribute to the success of the region.

As President Obama told President al-Sisi after his inauguration, we are committed to working together to fulfill the full promise of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, and to support the political and economic and social aspirations of the Egyptian people as well as their universal human rights. I reiterated that message in each of my meetings today as part of a broad and a very constructive discussion of the issues, including Israeli-Palestinian relations, Egypt’s return to the African Union, and confronting the shared threats of terrorism and extremism.

I want to thank President al-Sisi for a very candid and comprehensive discussion in which we both expressed our deep concerns about a number of issues, but most importantly our mutual determination for our countries to work together in partnership in order to deal with the challenges that we face.

I emphasized also our strong support for upholding the universal rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. We also discussed the essential role of a vibrant civil society, a free press, and rule of law, and due process in a democracy. There is no question that Egyptian society is stronger when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. And I welcome the recent statements from President al-Sisi and his call for review of human rights legislation.

We discussed the economic challenges of Egypt and I made clear President Obama’s and the United States’s commitment to be helpful in that regard.

We also discussed, as I said earlier, the grave security situation in Iraq. Over the next week, I will make the same case with other leaders that I made to President al-Sisi today. ISIL, or DASH as many people call it here, its ideology of violence and repression is a threat not only to Iraq but to the entire region. This is a critical moment where together we must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people.

For Egypt, this is also a moment of high stakes as well as a moment of great opportunity. Perhaps the greatest challenge that the new government faces is providing economic opportunity for Egyptians who seek and deserve a better life, including the millions of young people who have played an instrumental role in their country’s historic political change. Together with our international partners, including friends in the region like the Saudis, the Emiratis, the United States will contribute and work towards the economic support and transformation of Egypt, and work to help provide stability and an economic transformation for all Egyptians.

Egypt and its people have made clear their demands for dignity, justice and for political and economic opportunity. They just had a historic election for president, and there will be further elections for the parliament. And the United States fully supports these aspirations and the efforts of the government to help fulfill its obligations in that regard. And we will stand with the Egyptian people as they fight for the future that they want and that they deserve.

So we have a lot of work to do together. We know that. We talked about that today. And I think we really found ourselves on a similar page of changes that have yet to be made, promises that have yet to be fulfilled, but of a serious sense of purpose and commitment by both of us to try to help achieve those goals.

All of the things that are happening here are happening at a moment of extraordinary change in many parts of this region, and it is imperative for all of us to work cooperatively to try to address these concerns. Likewise, we talked about the challenges of Libya and the challenge that many countries face in this region of the spillover effect of terrorism, extremism that is playing out in various countries. That is true in Libya and that is true in Iraq. And both Egypt and the United States share deep concerns and a deep opposition to the challenge that these threats of radical ideology and extremism and what they present to everybody.

So we will continue to work. We will work hard to augment what is a longstanding and deep partnership between the United States and Egypt, recognizing that we both have things to do that we can do better and that we both will work to do so. But we will do so with a common understanding of the mutual interests that we share in standing up to the greatest threat of all to this region, which is the threat of these terrorists who want to tear apart rule of law and tear away an existing governance. And neither of us have an interest in allowing that to happen. . . .

Toward the end of the session, a question was posed by Mohamed Wadie from October Weekly Magazine:

Mr. Secretary, I’d like to ask you about what’s your comment on the disastrous situation in Iraq and Libya that have led many people to accuse the American administration of being responsible for this situation through its role in exchanging old regimes in the region. People think that led to division of the Arab armies, terrorism, and sectarian disputes and may lead to division of the Arab countries on sectarian basis.

Secretary Kerry:

Let me make this as clear as I know how to make this clear. The United States of America was not responsible for what happened in Libya and nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today.

What happened in Libya was that a dictator was attacking his own people and was threatening to go door to door to kill them like dogs. And the United Nations joined together in a resolution that they would have a mission to try to protect those people. And the people rose up and the people marched all the way from Benghazi, all the way to Tripoli, and they, in their own voices, in their own actions, decided they wanted a different life. And today, the United States is working with Egypt, with Tunisia, with Algeria, with Morocco, with Europe, with other countries in order to try to help Libya to be able to pushback against extremists who don’t want them to have that rule of law and that kind of life.

Let me be also clear about Iraq. What’s happening in Iraq is not happening because of the United States, in terms of this current crisis. The United States shed blood and worked hard for years to provide Iraqis the opportunity to have their own governance and have their own government. And they chose a government in several elections, and they just had another election recently. But ISIL – DASH – crossed the line from Syria, began plotting internally, and they have attacked communities and they’re the ones who are marching through to disturb this ability of the people of Iraq to continue to form their government and have the future that they want. This is about ISIL’s terrorist designs on the state of Iraq. And no one should mistake what is happening or why.

And the United States is prepared, as we have been in the past, to help Iraq be able to stand up against that. The President has made the determination, which is an accurate reflection of the American people who feel that we’ve shed our blood and we’ve done what we can to provide that opportunity, so we’re not going to put additional combat soldiers there. But we will help Iraqis to complete this transition if they choose it. If they want, they have an opportunity to choose leadership that could represent all of Iraq, a unity government that brings people together, and focus on ISIL. And I am convinced that they will do so, not just with our help, but with the help of almost every country in the region as well as others in the world who will always stand up against the tyranny of this kind of terrorist activity. That’s what’s happening in Iraq, and nobody should lose sight of it.

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John Kerry, Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry After Their Meeting, June 22, 2014, U.S. Department of State Mobile

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