11 September 2012

Egypt: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Egypt, Morocco & Somalia


Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:


QUESTION: I'd like to talk about Cairo. Apparently, there's a developing issue at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. There are about a thousand protestors outside the walls trying to attack the Embassy, U.S. guards at the Embassy firing into the air, and there are some photos on Twitter with the al-Qaida flag being possibly waved at the U.S. Embassy. I don't know what that's about, but can you tell us about the situation there right now?

MS. NULAND: We did have reports just before I came down here that we had a protest outside our Embassy in Cairo. We had some people breach the wall, take the flag down, replace it - what I heard was that it was replaced with a --

QUESTION: With an al-Qaida flag, I believe.

MS. NULAND: With a black flag, a plain black flag, but I may not be correct in that. We are obviously working with Egyptian security to try to restore order at the Embassy and to work with them to try to get the situation under control.

QUESTION: I mean - but just in general, I mean, is the situation of what's happening with the public there - obviously, you've been trying to work with the Muslim Brotherhood regardless of what religion or anything like that, but - and it does seem as if there is a growing anti-American sentiment in Cairo, and as evident as our - on our trip with Secretary Clinton. And I'm just wondering how concerning these continued protests are.

MS. NULAND: Well, there have been, as you say, these - there were some protests when the Secretary was there. They've had these protests. But I would hasten - I would urge you not to draw too many conclusions because we've also had some very positive developments in our relationship with Egypt.

As you know, Deputy Secretary Nides was there earlier this week, over the weekend, with some hundred businesspeople from the United States, working with Egyptian counterparts in big business, medium, small to try to support the renewal of the Egyptian economy, to cut new deals. And that was a very, very successful conference that was very much appreciated by the Egyptian business community. We're also working with Egyptian civil society and with the government on a broader package of support going forward.

So obviously, one of the things about the new Egypt is that protest is possible. Obviously we all want to see peaceful protest, which is not what happened outside the U.S. mission, so we're trying to restore calm now. But I think the bigger picture is one of the United States supporting Egypt's democratic transition and the Egyptian Government very much welcoming and working with us on the support that we have to offer.

QUESTION: Well, why do you think, though, that that message isn't getting out? I mean, do you think that you - that the Embassy and this Department need to do more efforts at public diplomacy? I mean, certainly it's true that you have kind of outreached the Muslim Brotherhood; you are doing a lot with the business community, with the debt, helping them with other financial institutions. So why do you think that that message isn't getting through?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think we can always do more. The Egyptians can always do more. But I think the message is getting through, as more and more partners across Egypt want to work with us. It's rarely the case that you please all of the people all the time in any country, and we certainly respect the right of peaceful protest, as long as it's peaceful.


QUESTION: Do you think that Egypt's becoming increasingly hostile towards the United States?

MS. NULAND: I haven't seen the polling data in the recent period, Said, but I don't have any reason to think that this is a dangerous trend, if that's what you're asking.

QUESTION: This breaching of the wall is a serious thing.

MS. NULAND: No, of course.

QUESTION: I mean, remember when, let's say, they did that to the Israeli Embassy. It was an initiative from this building, I believe, that called the Egyptians and urged them to defuse the situation, and they did. So what do you do in this case?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, in this case, we're working with the Egyptian security forces to restore order. It sounds like - and I don't have full details - that this came up pretty quickly, relatively modest group of people, but caught probably us and the Egyptian security outside the Embassy by some surprise.

QUESTION: This was a thousand people. I don't really think that's necessarily modest, do you?

MS. NULAND: Well, as compared to some of the things that we've seen.

QUESTION: Were there any injuries, do you know?

MS. NULAND: Not that I know of, but we'll have to see how it develops.

Please in the back.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: No. Hold on. You said you haven't seen the polling data. Have you commissioned a poll?

MS. NULAND: Well, I don't have it here at my disposal.

QUESTION: You have?

MS. NULAND: There are plenty of - there's plenty of public polling on this issue.

QUESTION: No, no, no. I'm not talking about public polling. I'm talking about when you said you haven't seen "the polling data," so I'm just wondering if "the polling data" refers to a poll that you guys have --

MS. NULAND: No. I didn't mean to imply that we had a new poll of our own.

QUESTION: Change of subject?



QUESTION: Toria, this Thursday the Morocco and U.S. will be conducting a strategic dialogue here in this building.

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: What are you aiming to achieve through this dialogue, and what can you tell us about the U.S.-Moroccan relations?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, the Secretary will speak to this when the Moroccan delegation comes and she has a chance to welcome her counterpart. I think we'll probably have some press that day. But this is a dialogue that was initiated when the Secretary visited Morocco earlier in the spring. It's an effort to look comprehensively at our relationship. There will be the meeting at the level of foreign ministers, but there will also be working groups on the economy, security, civil society. So it's an effort to broaden and deepen our relationship and the support that we're giving to Morocco as it continues its reform efforts.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Somalia?


QUESTION: (Inaudible) meeting. You mentioned that the United States is hopeful that this is the beginning of a new era in Somalia of governance. I understand this gentleman, though, the new President, is somebody who's not terribly well known. Have you managed to be in touch with him? Do you know him already? On what are you basing the fact that you're hopeful this is a new era of governance?

MS. NULAND: Well, this is somewhat interesting, Jo, in the sense that there were predictions that one of the existing leaders would emerge as the President this time, and our understanding is that this is a figure who comes out of civil society and was very much somewhat of a surprise. But he's somebody that we know, that our Special Representative Jim Swan knows, and we look forward to getting to know him better. I would expect that the Secretary will probably reach out to him in coming days. And there is a lot of work still to do in Somalia, so we will continue to invest in Somalia's success.

QUESTION: Why do you think he managed to defy the predictions and win this election?

MS. NULAND: Oh, I can't speculate on that. I would send you to the members of parliament who supported him.

Okay. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)

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