28 January 2013

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


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

MS. NULAND: All right, everybody. Happy Monday. We are a little late today because the roads were icy in Washington and we know what that means. We all come in late.

I just have one thing at the top which is to remind everybody to tune in tomorrow at 9:30. The Secretary is going to do a global townterview at the Newseum, and she'll be taking questions from every continent on the planet, both from local audiences and from Twitter, Facebook, and Skype. So that'll be tomorrow at 9:30 livestreaming on our site and live at the Newseum. Let's go to what's on your minds.

QUESTION: Can we start with Egypt? There's been a rash of violence that's continued over the weekend and just wanted to hear your opinions, and also whether you think the government's response has been appropriate. There's been a state of emergency in various provinces and some tough rhetoric from the President.

MS. NULAND: Well, first, just to call your attention to the comments that our colleague Jay Carney just made from the White House. I think he got asked a few questions on this and spoke extensively. But obviously to repeat that we strongly condemn the recent violence that's taken place in various Egyptian cities; we extend our condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who have been injured. We look to all Egyptians to express themselves peacefully and to all Egyptian leaders to actively work to prevent further violence. The Egyptian people want to see the revolution and change that they fought for succeed in a peaceful and democratic manner and that's what we're all looking to see.

QUESTION: And particularly on the government, do you think they've handled this appropriately so far, specifically with the President's comments on TV where he took a somewhat defiant tone and also the state of emergency?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, it's been a very difficult and violent few days on the Egyptian side. Like the Egyptian people, we of course look to the Egyptian Government to bring to justice those who are responsible for deaths and injuries, whether they were sustained by protestors, whether they were sustained by the police. And we obviously look to see this done in line with due process. We're obviously watching how this moves forward. We are watching how the emergency law put in place will be applied given the very sensitive history of this in Egypt. What's most important is that the Egyptian Government respect the rights of all Egyptians to due process going forward.

QUESTION: So you don't - you see this as different from what happened a couple years ago? I mean, optically, when you see a president defiantly refusing to kind of meet protestors half way and then having a state of emergency, it evokes memories of what happened a couple years ago. You see this as a distinctly different situation?

MS. NULAND: Well, I think that the underlying causes here were obviously different. The situation in Egypt is obviously different. That said, the right of all Egyptians, as I said, to due process, is not different whether they are those who are owed due process because they were on the government side, police side, or whether they're owed due process because they're on the protestor's side. I would say that we have been gratified to see the President and his government renew their call for a national dialogue to avoid further violence and to find a peaceful way to move forward. We call on all political forces in Egypt to avail themselves of this opportunity to work together through dialogue to deal with the underlying issues. That's obviously something that would have been unheard of in times past in Egypt.

QUESTION: But Toria, but the opposition or the national dialogue was rejected by almost every other group except for the Muslim Brotherhood. So do you have any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Again, in all of these situations, first of all, concerns about the course that the country is on should be expressed peacefully. There's never an excuse for violence, not on the protestors side, not on the government side. And when national dialogue is offered, it should at least be tried. That is our view.

QUESTION: Okay, so just to follow-up on what you said about the emergency law that has been invoked in the last couple days. So how is that different than, let's say, what was under Mubarak? I mean, considering that the United States is really the benefactor of Egypt and supplied - the main supplier of arms and training and financing of the military, how do you react to that?

MS. NULAND: Again, as I said in response to Brad's question, given Egypt's history with this, we are going to watch very closely how it's applied and the underlying need for it. What is most important is that the Government of Egypt respect the rights of due process of all of its citizens. That's also something that the Egyptian people will be watching, that we'll be watching going forward.

Please, Arshad.

QUESTION: I - forgive me, I might have missed this as I was walking in.

MS. NULAND: But let's do it again.

QUESTION: Why not? But as of now do you have any intrinsic concern about President Morsi's having declared the state of emergency in the cities that he has?

MS. NULAND: Again, I think I said we are watching closely how this is put in place, how long it's necessary given Egypt's history. What we are also watching, as the Egyptians people are, is that due process is afforded to everybody affected by this.

QUESTION: I have a question --

MS. NULAND: Still on Egypt?


QUESTION: On Egypt still.

MS. NULAND: Margaret.

QUESTION: The Canadians have closed their embassy. We've seen pictures of violence outside the British Embassy, people trying to dismantle security cameras. Can you update us on the status of U.S. personnel, any response to some of this instability in the streets?

MS. NULAND: Our embassy closed early today and released people because we did have reports that there would be a lot of people in the streets. We will obviously evaluate this as we always do on a day-by-day basis.

QUESTION: Is the response any different now, given what we have seen back in September with the ability to breach the wall at the Embassy? Is there a read on the level of the threat at this point?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, I'm not going to go to intelligence or other security planning. Simply to say that in the wake of the events that we saw in September, we've worked very well and carefully with Egyptian authorities on our security needs throughout - around our perimeter, et cetera, and at our other facilities, and that cooperation will continue. But in this case, we determined in Cairo that prudence dictated that we let people go home early today.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Are you concerned that the approach of Morsi - the President, Morsi, is more security approach more than a political approach?

MS. NULAND: Again, he's taken both security measures and offered political dialogue, so we have to see how this moves going forward.


QUESTION: Would you update us on the status of the funding that's been held up in Congress for several months now?

MS. NULAND: We had been working with Congress and been seeking about $450 million in economic support for various programs with Egypt, which we had agreed to back in the summer. That money remains on hold, and we are continuing to work with the Congress to get it released.


QUESTION: Don't you see the violence in the street in Egypt as the sign of a deeper malaise in the political scene?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, this began in response to verdicts against violence that happened as a result of a soccer tournament. So I think we have to see how it goes forward. I'm not going to put myself in the heads of the various people who are taking to the streets. As in all such cases, as we've said for a couple of years now, we want to see these things resolved peacefully.

QUESTION: But if all it takes is any - any event that would trigger such big things, it means there's something deeper there.

MS. NULAND: Again, I'm not going to get into the heads of the particular -

QUESTION: (Inaudible) address whether you think there are legitimate grievances at stake here?

MS. NULAND: I think we've said all the way along that, as we've seen, whether it was in the constitutional process before, during, and after the passage of the constitution, there are a lot of different views about how to take the country forward. That's why we want to see the major stakeholders engaged in continual dialogue to take the country forward and continuing to look at what's going to create the greatest unity, the greatest consensus about the fundamental tenets of Egyptian democracy going forward.

QUESTION: At least some of these protesters may have legitimate gripes, concerns that they are trying to express peacefully.

MS. NULAND: Again, we support peaceful protest whether you are protesting soccer verdicts or whether you are protesting the basic tenets of your country's democracy. It's when protestors turn violent, when governments resort to violence that we have issues of concern here. So we want to see all of these issues in Egypt resolved by peaceful means, protestors being peaceful, and folks availing themselves of opportunities for dialogue.


QUESTION: Are you in touch with other factions or fractions besides the authorities?

MS. NULAND: We are always in constant contact with all different groups in Egypt.

QUESTION: I mean, in recent events or just whatever was done before?

MS. NULAND: No, this is a constant dialogue that our Embassy has with all groups in Egypt, particularly when things are sparking.

QUESTION: Victoria, what about navigation in the Suez Canal? I mean, considering that Port Said is a very hot place and they deployed apparently a lot of forces along the banks of the canal. Are you concerned about the security of navigation along the canal?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything particular to say there. Obviously, freedom of navigation through Suez is essential for all of us in global trade.

QUESTION: Okay. It was also announced that the United States Government is providing some F-16s to Egypt. Is this a good idea at this juncture?

MS. NULAND: Well, that's in the context of our military-to-military support, which, as you know, is ongoing. It is - we've talked about this at the time when the Secretary approved the waiver to continue that. It's part and parcel of not only Egypt's ability to defend itself but its ability to maintain its regional security responsibilities.


QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the way that the Egyptian Government is dealing with the demonstrators and demonstrations?

MS. NULAND: Michel, I think I've said six ways from Sunday here that - how we feel about that.

QUESTION: Are you happy with their way or not satisfied -

MS. NULAND: Again, we have to see how this goes forward, and I gave a number of issues that we're watching, including the way demonstrators handle themselves, the way police handle themselves, and the question of how the emergency law works going forward. I think we've really done it on Egypt. Let's go forward.

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