6 February 2013

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


Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing

QUESTION: Sorry, Toria. This is somewhat related. You talk about ending Iran's isolation and this is their chance to do that, but the Iranian President was, yesterday and today, in Egypt, the first time in - not particularly isolated there; in fact, less isolated than before. They're having a meeting with the Turks and the Egyptians and other ones. So I'm just - one, do you have any thoughts on Ahmadinejad's visit to Egypt and what's going on there? But two, more broadly, what - you talk about they're isolated now, but they seem to be getting less isolated despite the fact that you're - that you, the United States, are increasing sanctions.

MS. NULAND: Well, there are many ways to measure isolation. Countries around the world have ratcheted way back their willingness to buy Iranian oil by trade with Iran, in other ways. Banks are refusing to do business as a result of the increasing sanctions pressure, both the UN Security Council pressure and the bilateral pressure that - and the U.S. sanctions that have implications for our larger relationship.

So with regard to the diplomatic efforts that the Iranians are making - as I said, I think it was yesterday or it might have been Monday - we look forward to President Morsi and anybody else who has a chance to see Ahmadinejad underscoring the importance of taking the opportunity that we're offering in Almaty and actually making some concrete progress. So I think that that'll be one of the messages we would --

QUESTION: Do you have reason to believe that the Turks and the Egyptians are actually telling that to --

MS. NULAND: We do, we do.


QUESTION: Can we stick with Egypt for a second?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) conference of the Organization of Islamic Conference in Cairo. Are there any American diplomats present? I know they have attended similar conferences in the past of the Arab summit - the Arab League summit and the Organization of Islamic State summit in past conferences. Is anyone attending this particular one?

MS. NULAND: I'm going to tell you, you stumped the chump, Said. I will take that and get back to you.

QUESTION: One other one on Egypt.


QUESTION: I think I had asked on Monday if you would check to see whether the State Department is aware of any successful prosecutions of either police brutality or violence against female - women protestors. Did you get an answer on that? In Egypt.

MS. NULAND: We have seen a handful of convictions of police officers and former regime officials for violence against protestors since January 2011. We're also aware that the majority of those who were charged initially have not yet completed the judicial process. So obviously, as we have on many occasions, we call on the Egyptian Government to redouble its efforts to investigate these human rights violations with impartiality, with transparency, and with as much efficiency and dispatch as they possibly can.

Please. Still on Egypt? Yeah.

QUESTION: A follow-up on this, please. Today in The Washington Post there is a report about security measures, and it is mentioned that the U.S. Embassy is involved or U.S. is involved with what is called the community policing project or the policing project. Do you have any details about this, which is --

MS. NULAND: This is a project that our Embassy is funding with the Egyptian police; is that what you're asking?


MS. NULAND: Let me check and see what we can give you on that.



QUESTION: Can I ask about Tunis, please?


QUESTION: What - the opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, was shot dead outside his home in Tunis today, which has sparked angry protests on the streets by his supporters and attacks on the offices of the ruling party. Are you aware of the situation? Have you been in contact with the Tunisian authorities? And what is the U.S. comment on it, please?

MS. NULAND: Thank you for that, Jo. I had actually also meant to do this one at the top of the briefing. And as you can see, we had a lot to do so I misplaced it.

We strongly condemn today's assassination of Chokri Belaid, a Tunisian political party leader and a prominent opposition figure. We offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Belaid's family, his friends, and his colleagues.

It's also important to note that a broad base of Tunisian political parties and actors have also condemned this violent act. There is no justification for an outrageous and cowardly act of violence like this. There is no place in the new Tunisia for violence.

We urge the Government of Tunisia to conduct a fair, transparent, and professional investigation to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice consistent with Tunisian and international law. We also call on all Tunisians - because there have been some folks going out in the streets in solidarity over the course of the day today, we call on all Tunisians to respect the rule of law, to renounce violence, and to express themselves about this incident and anything else peacefully.

QUESTION: In general, are there concerns about any perhaps perceived repression of the opposition in Tunisia at the moment?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, these - as another country in transition, this is something that obviously bears watching, that as you know, our support for democratic transitions is predicated wherever they are on strongest possible human rights standards, respect for citizens, et cetera. Despite today's tragic events, as a general matter, we're encouraged by the overall trajectory within Tunisia. These kinds of transitions do take time. There are obviously going to be setbacks. But as a general matter, we think Tunisia is beginning to make some progress.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)

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