13 December 2012

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


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

QUESTION: Yes. Yeah. I will. Just on Egypt --


QUESTION: -- do you have any particular security concerns for your people in Egypt this weekend?

MS. NULAND: Well, with regard to - I think it's less a matter of our people; I think it's simply a question of wanting to see this referendum, assuming --

QUESTION: Okay. That's fine, but wait, wait. No, my question was --

MS. NULAND: You're talking about Americans?

QUESTION: -- specifically about Americans and U.S. officials in Egypt this weekend. You can get into the broader referendum thing. I'm just wondering if there are any specific concerns about possible violence --

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously we have concerns about violence and we would take appropriate precautions with regard to Americans. But why don't I make the broader point? Is that that --

QUESTION: Yeah, you can, but my question was (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: I don't - I mean, we have concerns that the procedure goes forward peacefully. We will obviously be monitoring that. But we - I don't have any particular information about Americans being targeted, if that's what you're concerned about, Matt.

QUESTION: Are you planning to send monitors to monitor the referendum?

MS. NULAND: My expectation is that the Embassy will be out and about trying to watch the polling, as we always do in countries around the world. But I don't know of any U.S. NGOs who are fielding teams, if that's what you're asking.

QUESTION: Okay. So that's kind of what I was getting at. I mean, you are - there are people from the Embassy who are going to be going out to gauge the mood. You're not telling them all to stay home.

MS. NULAND: I think the Embassy will be performing the function that it usually performs at these kinds of times. But more broadly on Egypt, just to make the point that if and as this referendum goes forward as planned - this will be an opportunity for Egyptians to exercise their democratic rights and to do so peacefully and to participate in the future of their country.

It's also the responsibility of the government to provide a safe, transparent, and fair environment for voting, assuming that it goes forward. So we call on Egyptians - Egypt's political leaders of all stripes to make clear to their supporters that violence of any kind during this polling is unacceptable. And we call on the Egyptian people to take all possible measures to avoid confrontation and violence.

At the same time, we call on President Morsi, as the first democratically-elected leader of Egypt, to lead the effort before, during, and after the voting to continue to try to build a national consensus, because otherwise, we're just going to see a repeat of the kinds of tensions that we've seen over the last months.

QUESTION: Victoria --

MS. NULAND: Please.

QUESTION: Now, you said, "if" it goes forward. Do you have any doubt that it might not?

MS. NULAND: Well, the government has made clear that it's going forward. The opposition has made clear that it intends to participate. Again, this is a key democratic moment for Egypt. So all Egyptian citizens should participate and they should do so peacefully.

QUESTION: But also in the tone of what you - follow through - you're encouraging people to participate in the referendum, and you think it's a good thing for Egypt?

MS. NULAND: If it goes forward, assuming it goes forward, sitting on the sidelines is not going to have - ensure that voices and concerns are registered.

QUESTION: So the (inaudible).

MS. NULAND: People have to go out and exercise their democratic rights. It's taken Egypt a long time to have these options, and they should go use them.

QUESTION: So you have faith in those who are actually - who will supervise this effort, or oversee this effort, and they will conduct themselves professionally and in a transparent way and fair and free way?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, that's what we've just called for. Assuming voting goes forward, it needs to be conducted in a fair, transparent, open manner. There needs to be no violence, no intimidation of any kind, no effort to manipulate. It needs to meet international standards.

QUESTION: You have no concern that 40 percent of the public are illiterate and may not understand what is before them?

MS. NULAND: Again, this needs to go forward in a way that builds consensus, that's perceived as fair, that is comprehensible to the public, et cetera.

QUESTION: So by calling on President Morsi, are you saying that perhaps he hasn't made enough efforts previously to try to build this national consensus?

MS. NULAND: Look, Jo, we've all seen what's been going on, and we've spoken about it here for some time. We've spoken about it from - the Secretary's also raised these concerns, as have others, that there are legitimate questions, both about the process and about the substance. And so there has been a question about whether this is going to build consensus, and we call on the President to continue to try to build that consensus.

QUESTION: But you do seem to be putting a stronger onus today on President Morsi's responsibilities and role in this issue than you have done in previous weeks.

MS. NULAND: I think we've been clear all along that as the democratically-elected President of the country, he's got responsibilities to the Egyptian people and he's got responsibilities to Egypt's future.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)

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