27 November 2012

Egypt: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Egypt


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

QUESTION: Egypt now?

MS. NULAND: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Okay. President Morsi yesterday, through a spokesman, said that he was amending this decree which has caused all the political chaos there. I'm just wondering what your take is on this amendment. Does it go far enough in - it's sort of only partially shielding his decisions from judicial review. Will that in itself be enough to sort of satisfy your checklist of what Egypt should be doing as far as an inclusive constitutional process and all of that?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, we've seen the public statements. It's a little bit unclear to us as yet precisely what has been decided, what the impact is going to be, whether the various constituencies have all felt that they've been heard and had their views taken into account.

So frankly, Andy, at this stage in Cairo, we are seeking further information and trying to understand what's going on. But as you've seen on the ground, the situation remains unclear. We want to see, as we've been saying, a solution to the constitutional impasse which is consultative, which is democratically achieved, which protects a positive, democratic trajectory for this constitution, protects balances of power, protects a voice for all Egyptians in this process.

So again, the situation a little unclear to us at the moment, and we're seeking more information.

QUESTION: Does that mean - I mean, the Egyptians haven't briefed the Ambassador there or spoken to anybody in this building to convey directly what has been decided? You all don't have that from the horse's mouth yet?

MS. NULAND: We are continuing to consult with various parties to understand how they appreciate the situation, and it appears to us that the situation continues to evolve.


QUESTION: Victoria, the IMF indicated that they might leverage the $4.8 billion in loan to Egypt as a way to sort of maybe persuade Mr. Morsi to back down. Would you support such a thing?

MS. NULAND: Did you see an IMF statement to that effect? Because I did not.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, there's news reports saying - suggesting that the IMF is heading in that direction.

MS. NULAND: I saw you guys speculating, but I didn't see the IMF saying that.

QUESTION: Well, let me --

MS. NULAND: Again --

QUESTION: -- form the question this way. Would you coordinate with the IMF and other U.S. allies to make sure that what Mr. Morsi says about this being temporary that it is, in fact, temporary and not long-lasting?

MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this quite a bit yesterday, Said. I don't think our view on this has changed. In general, when the IMF makes an agreement with a government - and they have a preliminary agreement, is our understanding, with the Government of Egypt - the conditionality for an IMF agreement is primarily in the economic arena, it's not in the political arena.

And in the case of Egypt, the idea here is that Egypt has begun some reform measures but will continue additional reform measures and that the support, if it is approved, will be phased based on their continued economic reform. There is usually not political conditionality. But again, this hasn't come forward to the board yet, and there's still some time here, so we'll have to see what the IMF puts forward.

QUESTION: Okay. But you have a voice on the IMF.

MS. NULAND: Obviously, we do.

QUESTION: Okay. So how would you - what would you suggest to them? What would you recommend?

MS. NULAND: Again, we want to see appropriate economic conditionality in this package. We want to see Egypt continuing on the reform path to ensure that any money forthcoming from the IMF truly supports a stabilization and a revitalization of a dynamic economy based on market principles. That's what we look for in an IMF deal. But again, it hasn't come forward for board --

QUESTION: But I mean, political turmoil - would you protest everything?

MS. NULAND: I mean --

QUESTION: So the IMF may change --

MS. NULAND: Again, I don't want to predict where this is going to go, but there's obviously a constitutional standoff in Egypt that has to be resolved.

QUESTION: Just while we're on Egypt --


QUESTION: -- are you guys concerned at all that you may have created a new Mubarak in President Morsi by essentially handing him the keys to the - not to the peace process itself but to security in the area, and that, much like Mubarak did, Morsi will use that and his new gained - newly gained stature to continue to clamp down and do things that are what you would say are not democratic or in support of the values that you think the Egyptian people voted for?

MS. NULAND: I think we've been absolutely clear that the quality and strength of our relationship with Egypt going forward is rooted in our expectation that Egyptian leaders will take forward the goals of the revolution, the goals of the Egyptian people, to have a democratic, open country that respects the rights of all of its citizens, where there are checks and balances. We haven't made any secret of that in our conversations with the Egyptians.

We very much appreciate, and we were clear about this too, the role that President Morsi and the Government of Egypt played in brokering the ceasefire with Gaza. As the Secretary said when she was in Cairo, this is a role that Egypt has historically played. We're pleased to see it continuing under the Morsi Administration. That's important for the region. But other aspects of the transition that the Egyptian people are expecting also have to go forward.

QUESTION: Okay. But based on what your - let's just talk about recent history or 20th century history. We won't go back to the pharaohs. But based on your reading of past Egyptian leaders, starting, I guess, let's start with Nasser, have they carried on the revolution, as you are saying that you expect Morsi to now? I mean, has any Egyptian leader not ended up doing the right thing, or do they turn - become autocrats or they get assassinated? What leads you to believe that Morsi --

MS. NULAND: Are we doing a history class here, or what?

QUESTION: You said in the answer to my first question that you thought and expected that any Egyptian leader would carry through the goals and ideas of the revolution, and presumably you're basing that on your experience with Egyptian leaders in the past. No?

MS. NULAND: We have a situation already in Egypt where, over the course of the last period, there have been decisions taken by one group or another in the Egyptian leadership structure that have been challenged by others, that have been challenged in the street, and the result has been a dialogue among them and working through this very murky legal period. As we called for last week, when confronted with concerns about the decree that he issued, President Morsi entered into discussions with the judiciary, with other stakeholders in Egypt. As I said, I think we don't yet know what the outcome of those are going to be, but that's a far cry from an autocrat just saying my way or the highway.

QUESTION: Okay, okay. Well, maybe I misunderstood when you --


QUESTION: It was this question of what you mean when you used the word "expect." This is an expectation that is not based on anything other than the current situation?

MS. NULAND: Correct.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: After yesterday's meeting between Morsi and the judiciary, there was a statement saying that the decrees stand and nothing has changed. So --

MS. NULAND: Again, we are continuing to gather an understanding of precisely what's been agreed, precisely what the impact is, as are Egyptians who are continuing to try to understand this. So I'm not going to opine any further till we have more information.


QUESTION: So news has been coming over all morning that huge demonstrations are in Tahrir Square, people are sitting in until their demands are fulfilled. Would the U.S. willing to put more pressure on President Morsi to renounce his last declaration if the sit-in continues in Tahrir Square and people demand that the declaration goes down?

MS. NULAND: Again, we're not - this is - these are Egyptian decisions for Egyptians to make on the basis of democratic consultations. Clearly, the situation continues to unfold. There needs to be national unity around a way forward. There needs to be conversation with all of the folks who have a stake in the way this goes forward. So the degree to which there are still sit-ins, demonstrations, et cetera, it may be that the Egyptian people as well don't have a clear view of what's been decided. But again, we are trying to gather more information, we're trying to understand where things are, and we're watching the situation closely.

QUESTION: Toria --

QUESTION: So do you consider that the last declaration is a right step in the process of democracy?

MS. NULAND: Again, we don't have a clear view of what was decided yesterday.


QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you if you are aware of any military-to-military talks or ongoing talks regarding this issue between, let's say, the Pentagon and the Egyptian military. And the reason I ask this is, because potentially this is a very volatile situation. Today, the security forces in Alexandria said that they will not protect Muslim Brotherhood personnel or property.

MS. NULAND: Again, that sounds like a question for the Department of Defense. I mean, we have ongoing mil-mil conversations, we've had a lot of conversations in the context of Gaza, in the context of the security challenges in Sinai, but against the constitutional questions, I don't think so. But you can talk to the Pentagon.

Please. Still on Egypt?

(The briefing was concluded at 2:06 p.m.)

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