Remarks with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry After Their Meeting

By US Department of State
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WASHINGTON, June 23, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Remarks

John Kerry

Secretary of State

Cairo, Egypt

June 22, 2014

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) I would like to welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in his current visit to Cairo. And this visit (inaudible) time. Egypt is taking steady steps to (inaudible) the implementation of the roadmap, and after having fulfilled the second election (inaudible) elections, and the assumption of power of President Fattah – Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after having won a majority that reflects the wide spectrum of voters. These elections (inaudible) closely followed by several international observers, including the United States, (inaudible). I trust that Secretary Kerry, whom I've known personally when I was ambassador to Washington and he was head of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate – we both agree that the working relationship that we've had in the past in which we were used to having candid conversations and very (inaudible) will continue. We will work together to broaden these meetings and cooperation between both countries. This is the same spirit that prevailed once again during this visit.

Secretary Kerry met President Adbel Fattah al-Sisi today and they discussed (inaudible) meetings with him also were all held in a positive atmosphere, and we addressed several regional and international issues of shared concern. And we also agreed that we should mobilize our efforts to confront these challenges and threats threatening the region, and also to address some of the repercussions on international peace and security, and especially the situation in Syria and Iraq and Libya, and the faltering efforts on the peace front between the Israelis and the Palestinians. All these require close cooperation and continued cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt.

Our discussions also addressed bilateral issues on several fronts. And I can say that we have reached an agreement over the need to expend more effort in order to push our strategic relations between our two countries forward, to reflect the longstanding history. And this relationship has been based on shared and common interests and mutual respect in order to enhance the chances for building on the very strong relations between the two countries, and also reflecting the size – the important role of the U.S. and Egypt as a regional power.

We also agreed that we should work at the highest level to push our mutual relationship forward based on solid grounds and to clear it of any misunderstanding, in order to reflect the strategic nature. And we also agreed on the need to work sincerely towards removing any obstacles to its further development in the interests of both countries and both people.

I am certain that Secretary Kerry believes in the importance of the relationship between the two countries and the strategic depth, and I would like to reiterate that he personally is concerned to improve them even further. Once again, I welcome the Secretary John Kerry in Cairo and give him the chance to speak.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Minister Shoukry. I'm delighted to be back in Cairo. And I want to congratulate Sameh on his assuming the role of foreign minister of Egypt. And indeed, we have worked together previously, and I look forward to continuing that and working with him as both of us perform these functions as the ministers for foreign affairs of our countries.

I came here today to reaffirm the strength of the important partnership, the historic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and also to consult on the critical situations that we face in the region – obviously, particularly Iraq, Syria and Libya. After three difficult years of transition, the United States remains deeply committed to seeing Egypt succeed. We want to see the people of Egypt succeed, and we want to contribute to the success of the region.

As President Obama told President al-Sisi after his inauguration, we are committed to working together to fulfill the full promise of Egypt's 2011 revolution, and to support the political and economic and social aspirations of the Egyptian people as well as their universal human rights. I reiterated that message in each of my meetings today as part of a broad and a very constructive discussion of the issues, including Israeli-Palestinian relations, Egypt's return to the African Union, and confronting the shared threats of terrorism and extremism.

I want to thank President al-Sisi for a very candid and comprehensive discussion in which we both expressed our deep concerns about a number of issues, but most importantly our mutual determination for our countries to work together in partnership in order to deal with the challenges that we face.

I emphasized also our strong support for upholding the universal rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. We also discussed the essential role of a vibrant civil society, a free press, and rule of law, and due process in a democracy. There is no question that Egyptian society is stronger when all of its citizens have a say and a stake in its success. And I welcome the recent statements from President al-Sisi and his call for review of human rights legislation.

We discussed the economic challenges of Egypt and I made clear President Obama's and the United States's commitment to be helpful in that regard.

We also discussed, as I said earlier, the grave security situation in Iraq. Over the next week, I will make the same case with other leaders that I made to President al-Sisi today. ISIL, or DASH as many people call it here, its ideology of violence and repression is a threat not only to Iraq but to the entire region. This is a critical moment where together we must urge Iraq's leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people.

For Egypt, this is also a moment of high stakes as well as a moment of great opportunity. Perhaps the greatest challenge that the new government faces is providing economic opportunity for Egyptians who seek and deserve a better life, including the millions of young people who have played an instrumental role in their country's historic political change. Together with our international partners, including friends in the region like the Saudis, the Emiratis, the United States will contribute and work towards the economic support and transformation of Egypt, and work to help provide stability and an economic transformation for all Egyptians.

Egypt and its people have made clear their demands for dignity, justice and for political and economic opportunity. They just had a historic election for president, and there will be further elections for the parliament. And the United States fully supports these aspirations and the efforts of the government to help fulfill its obligations in that regard. And we will stand with the Egyptian people as they fight for the future that they want and that they deserve.

So we have a lot of work to do together. We know that. We talked about that today. And I think we really found ourselves on a similar page of changes that have yet to be made, promises that have yet to be fulfilled, but of a serious sense of purpose and commitment by both of us to try to help achieve those goals.

All of the things that are happening here are happening at a moment of extraordinary change in many parts of this region, and it is imperative for all of us to work cooperatively to try to address these concerns. Likewise, we talked about the challenges of Libya and the challenge that many countries face in this region of the spillover effect of terrorism, extremism that is playing out in various countries. That is true in Libya and that is true in Iraq. And both Egypt and the United States share deep concerns and a deep opposition to the challenge that these threats of radical ideology and extremism and what they present to everybody.

So we will continue to work. We will work hard to augment what is a longstanding and deep partnership between the United States and Egypt, recognizing that we both have things to do that we can do better and that we both will work to do so. But we will do so with a common understanding of the mutual interests that we share in standing up to the greatest threat of all to this region, which is the threat of these terrorists who want to tear apart rule of law and tear away an existing governance. And neither of us have an interest in allowing that to happen.

I'd be happy to answer a few questions.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Thank you. A question from (inaudible) Al Arabiya magazine. And my question is for you, Secretary of State. First of all, you said that the Egyptian relation with the Americans are strategic. And yet, there is maybe a decision to decrease the aid by 26 percent. Don't you think this give (inaudible) message to the Egyptians that the United States is trying to dictate Egypt, trying to pressure Egypt in a certain way which takes the level of the Egyptian-American relations away from being strategic? Your comment about this.

And the second point, you mentioned terrorism as the main actually threat to the United States and to the region, the Middle East. And yet, although you – the United States is saying that they are claiming that they are having efforts to combat terrorism, they are refusing to give Egypt the (inaudible) that the Egyptian are going to use to combat terrorism in Sinai. Don't you think there is a contradiction here between words and actually actions when it comes to Egypt, and why? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you for the question, and I'll – I'm happy to answer both parts of it. On the first part of the question, President Obama and the Administration have proposed providing the full amount of aid, the $650 billion, that comes with the first certification, and the House of Representatives has passed that, and now it's the Senate that had a slight reduction and a different formula. We will work that out, and I am confident that we will be able to ultimately get the full amount of aid for precisely the reasons that I describe – because it is strategic and it is important for us to be able to work together.

So I'm absolutely confident we will get on track there, as I am confident, to answer the second part of your question, that the Apaches will come and that they will come very, very soon. I had a conversation this morning even with Senator Leahy from here in Cairo, based on the conversations that we have had. I am very confident that we'll be able to move forward and there are strong reasons for doing so. Those Apaches are focused on the issue of terrorism, and they will be used in a place where Egypt has been working very, very hard in concert with Israel and others, and with us, in order to push back against these terrorist activities.

So I think that the interests of American legislators – and I can speak to this having been one for many years – are to try and guarantee that the dollars, the taxpayer dollars of the American people that are being spent are being spent on things that Americans will feel is appropriate and meets their needs. It's not an effort to dictate. It's simply an effort to guarantee that that hard-earned taxpayer dollar is going to a purpose that the American people will support, and it's really an issue of protecting that interest, not of trying to dictate to any particular country.

MODERATOR: The next question is from Margaret Brennan of CBS News.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Iran's Supreme Leader this morning accused the U.S. of trying to put yes men in power in Iraq, and said he's opposed to U.S. intervention there. How is Iranian influence and backing of Maliki affecting the efforts to try to create a more inclusive government there? And what will your message be to Gulf leaders who do have influence on the ground in Iraq and may be able to stop some of the funding that is also flowing through to ISIS?

And following that, Minister, if you could tell us – U.S. officials say there are a lot of concerns about this country's mass jailing of journalists, of those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and of an epidemic of sexual violence. Can you tell us if there are any assurances that you can provide that your country will prevent those?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, with respect to the question of Iran and the Ayatollah's comments, let me just say that the United States is not engaged in picking or choosing or advocating for any one individual or series of individuals to assume the leadership of Iraq. That is up to the Iraqi people. We have made that clear since day one. It is up to the people of Iraq to choose their future leadership. But we do note that the Kurds have expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation, the Sunni have expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation, and some Shia have expressed dissatisfaction. And Ayatollah Sistani very recently issued a statement in which he said that it was vital for the leadership of Iraq to be a leadership that did not have – did not continue the mistakes of the past and that was going to represent all of the Iraqi people.

So I think we are completely in sync with the people of Iraq, certainly with the expressed comments of various leaders. The United States would like to see the Iraqi people find leadership that is prepared to represent all of the people of Iraq, that is prepared to be inclusive and share power in a way that will maximize the ability of Iraq to focus on the real danger at this moment from an external source, which is ISIL. ISIL is a threat to all of the countries in the region. Even today in our conversation with President al-Sisi and with the foreign minister, both expressed deep concerns about the impact of a group like ISIL and what it means to the region. No country is safe from that kind of spread of terror, and none of us can afford to leave that entity with a safe haven which would become a base for terror against anyone and all, not only in the region but outside of the region as well.

So that's what we're focused on, and I think that's – that really is a fair summary of not only our position but the position of other people in the region that I've heard.

You had a second part?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) to the Gulf countries (inaudible)?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, the – thank you, yeah. The message to any country from anywhere or any individual from anywhere is that there is no safety margin whatsoever in funding a group like ISIL. And we particularly discourage individuals in the region who may have been sending money through some innocent charity or through various backchannel initiatives under the guise that it's for the general welfare and benefit of people who've been displaced, but then that money finds its way into the hands of terrorists. So we are obviously discouraging any kind of support to entities where it is unsure where the money is going or where it is specifically going to an entity like ISIL. And that goes to any government, any charity, any individual. We must not allow that kind of funding to be made part of the – part of this equation.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter.) (Inaudible) that the Egyptian people, which has come through three years of transition and launched two revolutions in order to fulfill its own aspirations for a democratic state that takes into consideration the interests of its own people and achieve justice and prosperity.

Now it's important that after having completed the second point on the roadmap and the approval or ratification of the constitution and the election of the president, it's important now that we move forward to establish a state of – that respects the rule of law. And the Egyptian people fully respect and trust its own judicial system and its ability also to deal with transparency and full neutrality to deal with all the issues and make things right, and also to preserve rights. Therefore, anybody who's being accused has the opportunity to have fair trial and a strong defense to prove his or her innocence. And we are moving within the framework of upholding the laws that would give people the sense of stability that they need in this regard.

With respect to violence against women, we believe this phenomenon has attracted great attention here in Egypt. And following some of the most painful events that have taken place recently, there has been a law that has particularly targeted this issue. There's also been – civil society has strongly also opposed it and the government is working in order to preserve the place of women in society and to protect them against harassment. Women are an important part of society and it's important for them to enjoy full protection.

MODERATOR: (Via interpreter.) This is Mohammed Madov from (inaudible).

QUESTION: Thank you. This is Mohammad Madov from October Weekly Magazine and the (inaudible) website.

Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask you about what's your comment on the disastrous situation in Iraq and Libya that have led many people to accuse the American administration of being responsible for this situation through its role in exchanging old regimes in the region. People think that led to division of the Arab armies, terrorism, and sectarian disputes and may lead to division of the Arab countries on sectarian basis.

(Via interpreter.) With respect to the American – U.S.-Egyptian Strategic Dialogue, is there any intention to further activate it?



FOREIGN MINISTER SHOUKRY: (Via interpreter) With respect to the Strategic Dialogue, this is very important initiative supported that further enhance U.S.-Egyptian relations, and we have discussed this issue during our negotiations. And we are in the process of making special arrangements to activate this initiative. This initiative will definitely positively contribute to (inaudible) the appropriate framework for this relationships in the interest of both countries in various fields. This dialogue covers all areas of cooperation between the two countries and the economic and social and also political front in the interest of the Egyptian people, and also will further enhance understanding and deepen shared interest between the two countries and get it to a point which – according to which our relations can move forward, and it also allows for the exchange of opinions on issues which require further dialogue.

MS. PSAKI: The final question --

SECRETARY KERRY: No, let me answer that if I may.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Let me make this as clear as I know how to make this clear. The United States of America was not responsible for what happened in Libya and nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today.

What happened in Libya was that a dictator was attacking his own people and was threatening to go door to door to kill them like dogs. And the United Nations joined together in a resolution that they would have a mission to try to protect those people. And the people rose up and the people marched all the way from Benghazi, all the way to Tripoli, and they, in their own voices, in their own actions, decided they wanted a different life. And today, the United States is working with Egypt, with Tunisia, with Algeria, with Morocco, with Europe, with other countries in order to try to help Libya to be able to pushback against extremists who don't want them to have that rule of law and that kind of life.

Let me be also clear about Iraq. What's happening in Iraq is not happening because of the United States, in terms of this current crisis. The United States shed blood and worked hard for years to provide Iraqis the opportunity to have their own governance and have their own government. And they chose a government in several elections, and they just had another election recently. But ISIL – DASH – crossed the line from Syria, began plotting internally, and they have attacked communities and they're the ones who are marching through to disturb this ability of the people of Iraq to continue to form their government and have the future that they want. This is about ISIL's terrorist designs on the state of Iraq. And no one should mistake what is happening or why.

And the United States is prepared, as we have been in the past, to help Iraq be able to stand up against that. The President has made the determination, which is an accurate reflection of the American people who feel that we've shed our blood and we've done what we can to provide that opportunity, so we're not going to put additional combat soldiers there. But we will help Iraqis to complete this transition if they choose it. If they want, they have an opportunity to choose leadership that could represent all of Iraq, a unity government that brings people together, and focus on ISIL. And I am convinced that they will do so, not just with our help, but with the help of almost every country in the region as well as others in the world who will always stand up against the tyranny of this kind of terrorist activity. That's what's happening in Iraq, and nobody should lose sight of it.

MS. PSAKI: The final question is from Jay Solomon of Wall Street Journal.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. Secretary Kerry, I was hoping if you could give us a sense of your meeting with President Sisi today. And did you obtain any assurances from the Egyptian leader that he's committed to building a more inclusive government and providing more political space for Egyptian journalists, political activists, and the Muslim Brotherhood? As you probably know, more than 100 members of the Brotherhood were sentenced to death in recent days, and the trail of the Al Jazeera journalist is expected tomorrow, I believe.

And for Foreign Minister Shoukry, I was hoping you could describe in some bit your meeting with the Secretary on the situation in Iraq today. And is it the Egyptian Government's position that Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq should resign because of his inability to reach out to the Sunni minority in that country? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, I had a very comprehensive discussion, Jay, with President al-Sisi about precisely those issues you've just raised and about many others. We talked specifically about Al Jazeera journalists. We talked specifically about the court system and death sentences. And I think it's more appropriate for President al-Sisi to speak to those at such time as he deems fit and as is appropriate within the Egyptian process and system over the course of the next days and weeks.

But I will say to you that he gave me a very strong sense of his commitment to make certain that the process he has put in place, a reevaluation of human rights legislation, a reevaluation of the judicial process, and other choices that are available are very much on his mind, and that he's only been in office for ten days, but he indicated to me that we should work closely, as we will, and stay tuned to what he is going to try to implement over the course of these next days, weeks, and months.

And as you know, that we think it's important for the president to be given the opportunity – only ten days in office – to begin to get his cabinet moving and begin to focus on these issues. We have time to make that measurement and we will in the days ahead.


MODERATOR: (In Arabic.)