2 January 2013

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


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

Please. Egypt, yeah.

QUESTION: Egypt. Last week, you released a statement regarding the referendum and the situation in Egypt. After that statement, many tensions are still there and the relation between the President and other executive or, let's say, legislative bodies are still intense. Do you have - what is your reading or understanding of what's going on in Egypt in the last few days after the releasing of this statement? Because it's like as if the opposite track is going on in Egypt now, and if you have something to say or not?

MS. NULAND: More broadly, beyond what we said after the constitution passed, I think what we are looking for is to now see this constitution implemented in a manner that maximizes the protection of human rights for all Egyptians, that helps to build consensus and build the ability to work together across communities in Egypt. That's what we are looking for, that's what the majority of Egyptians are working for.

But since you raised the issue of Egypt, let me say that we have been concerned by reports in recent days of Egyptian Government efforts to restrict media freedom and criticism within Egypt, particularly by investigating media figures, including Bassem Youssef, and individual media organizations for insulting political leaders and allegedly spreading false information.

A fundamental aspect of a healthy democracy is that people can be critical of their government and that there can be a free press free from prosecution. So we strongly oppose any kind of legal restrictions on freedom of expression, and we continue to urge the Egyptian Government to respect freedom of expression, which is a universal right as one of the harbingers of the kind of country they want to have going forward.

QUESTION: It's good that you raised this issue because I was going to raise it, as a matter of fact, because it's reflecting the kind of suppression of --


QUESTION: -- freedom of expression. Beside that, in Egypt in particular, because you're involved in this helping Egypt economically, this economic situation is getting worse and worse. And there was some talk a while ago about the IMF agreement and it was postponed, and it was said that or reported that U.S. somehow involved in asking Egyptians or Egyptians were asking to say that it is not the proper time to now make an agreement. What is your reading of that IMF agreement and it's - you encourage it? Definitely you encourage it, but I'm not sure if you are - anything - a step is taken recently to go - to make the Egyptians or to ask Egyptians if IMF go back to this - the talks or agreement?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, it was the Egyptian side that suspended the talks sometime before the new year. This isn't a matter to be decided between the IMF and Egypt. We've talked about this before, that whenever an IMF agreement is being considered in a transitioning democracy, there are generally reform steps that are expected, there is a path forward to ensure the future economic health of the country before an agreement is concluded. So our understanding is that they had not yet, between them - the IMF and Egypt - crossed all the Is and dotted all the Ts or however you want to come to that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: (Laughter.) And then the Egyptian side asked for some time. So that's where it stood, but I would refer you to the Government of Egypt in terms of where they are with the IMF.

QUESTION: So just to follow up --

MS. NULAND: But we obviously strongly support them being able to come to an agreement because it would speak to the reform path that the Government of Egypt is on, and it would also unlock our own ability to help Egypt more.

QUESTION: Once a while ago, before even the IMF agreement or postponing of the IMF agreement, it was raised, the issue by U.S., to support Egypt or somehow to fund the 450 million, and you were saying that there is some kind of negotiations are going on or whatever, talks are going on between the State Department and the Congress, and - all these are on hold now?

MS. NULAND: Well, we were able to provide some budget support to the Government of Egypt. There's a secondary issue of economic support funds which we had notified to the Congress, some of which are tied to the IMF agreement, some of which are not. But I think in general there is a conversation that we are continuing to have with the Congress about whether they're prepared to support the release of that money. And some of it, as I said, is tied to conclusion of an IMF agreement.

QUESTION: So I know that two weeks ago, the last U.S. official was - beside the Ambassador, of course - who was there was Assistant Secretary Posner, for Human Rights. Is there any visit is coming up or anybody or is planned, or any visit in the coming days?

MS. NULAND: Let me check on that. I don't have anything to announce today, but let me see who we have going to Cairo next.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks a lot.

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Anything else? In back?

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