Today we appreciate Secretary Kerry as a friend for Egypt, and we are very happy to welcome him here, and we are actually very optimistic about his ability to push matters further. The visit of His Excellency, Secretary Kerry, the Secretary of State for the United States comes at a very important time after the Revolution of the 25th of January in Egypt. It comes as the first visitor to Egypt of – first Secretary of State visit after the election of a civil president that is elected through fair elections in Egypt.
During his meetings here at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we will discuss the relationships between the United States and Egypt. It is of course, as you know, a very strategic relationship. The relationship between the United States and Egypt is a strategic relationship, and it is also a multidimensional relationship that does not serve only the interests of the two states, but the interests of the whole region. It is a relationship that is based on equality and also mutual respect.
Of course, we expect from friends and this particularly from the United States as a strategic partner of Egypt to stand before Egypt during this very (inaudible) period and economic arena. Of course, as you know, there are various other issues that will be discussed of the region. There are a lot of changes happening in the Middle East region. There is the Palestinian issue, which is really the first issue for Egypt and for the Arab countries, and the situation in Syria as well.
Of course, one of the important subjects is to rid the Middle East area from nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction in general, and this, of course, the United States will have a great role in this issue. I will not take any more time, because we have a very heavy schedule. We have a lot of discussion, and we are also late, and it pleases me now to give the podium to His Excellency, the Secretary of State.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much. Shokran. Thank you very much, Mr. Foreign Minister. It’s a great pleasure for me to be back here in Egypt. And I thank you and President Morsy and the Egyptian people for a generous welcome. Thank you.
As you know, I’ve been to Egypt many times over the course of some 29 years. And I had the privilege of being here only a few weeks after the events in January in Tahrir Square. Then I came back with Senator McCain when we tried to help with some of the economic issues shortly thereafter. And each time that I’ve come here, I’ve tried to make it clear, and I make it particularly clear now on behalf of President Obama and the American people that we come here as friends for the Egyptian people, not for one government or one person or one party or ideology, but for the Egyptian people.
The Foreign Minister and I have just had a very constructive first meeting in which we have discussed a number of the issues of importance: Syria, the Mid-East peace process, and we agreed to continue those discussions over dinner and other topics. And we will certainly discuss in some depth how the United States can continue to help the Egyptian people achieve their aspirations for democracy and for opportunity. As your long-time friends and partners, the American people support Egypt’s political and economic success and want to help work for that success.
And I emphasize again as strongly as I can, we’re not here to interfere. I’m here to listen. We’re not here to urge anybody to take one particular action or another. Though we have a point of view, and certainly I will express that. But what we support is democracy and the people and the nation of Egypt. And we look forward to working with listening to all of the Egyptian people as we work towards their path, what they choose to do to move forward to economic strength, to a vibrant democracy, and to a regional peace and security.
We do believe that in this moment of serious economic challenge, that it’s important for the Egyptian people to come together around the economic choices and to find some common ground in making those choices. It is important, even urgent, that the Egyptian economy gets stronger and that people have jobs and have opportunity and that the energy of this country can be focused on a more prosperous future.
So on behalf of President Obama and the American people, I’m here to listen and to better understand how we can help, because the health and strength and the future of Egypt is something that America cares deeply about. And when I visit with President Morsy tomorrow, I’ll be speaking with him about the very specific ways in which we would like to be able to help – more economic assistance, support for free enterprise and small business, growing Egypt’s exports to the United States, and investing in Egypt’s young people through education. And I say to my friend Mohamed, who I’ve gotten to know pretty well, we would of course only do these things in the consultation and in the conjunction with the decisions of the government, whichever government it is.
I was pleased to meet today with a cross-section of political and business leaders, and tomorrow I will meet with representatives of nongovernmental organizations. And today, I listened very carefully to the extraordinary passion and commitment of some of the opposition and their concerns about democracy, human rights – all values that we share in the United States. Each of the groups I talked about – business leaders, opposition, different political personalities, and the nongovernmental organizations – all of them, together, are vitally important to the health and strength of the democratic system. A vibrant democracy stimulates business, it supports a vibrant NGO sector, it encourages full political participation, and universal freedoms, and respect for the rights of women and for people of all faiths.
I listened carefully to their views about how to strengthen Egypt’s democracy, its economy, and its security, and I conveyed to them a very simple message: The best way to ensure human rights and strong political checks and balances in any democracy in Egypt, just like in the United States, is through the broadest possible political and economic participation.
There are many ways to demonstrate that activity. You can do it in protest or you can do it in participating, they’re all part of the mosaic of democracy. But we believe that being active, engaging in peaceful participation is essential to building strong communities and a healthy democracy. And we believe that it is vital to protect and to advance the universal rights that are in Egypt’s constitution: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of association, and equal rights and protections under the law for all Egyptians regardless of their gender, their faith, their ethnicity, or their political affiliation.
And I say there with both – I say with both humility and with a great deal of respect, that getting there requires a genuine give and take among Egypt’s political leaders and civil society groups, just as we are continuing to struggle with that in our own country. There must be a willingness on all sides to make meaningful compromises on the issues that matter most to all of the Egyptian people. You have upcoming elections and we are very pleased that the Egyptian Government is committed to welcoming Egyptian and international monitors to guarantee the transparency, accountability, and fairness of that election.
And finally, I want to thank the Minister, I want to thank Egypt and its leaders for being valuable partners in the pursuit of peace in this region. I appreciate enormously, and I want to share with you President Obama’s attitude for the role that President Morsy and Foreign Minister Amr played in reaching the Gaza ceasefire and their commitment to ensuring that it is honored. And we are very grateful for Egypt’s willingness to host the Syrian opposition as well as many of those people who are fleeing the violence and the oppression.
So the road ahead is long, there are tough choices to be made, but what is clear is we are confident that if all Egyptians stay focused on achieving the economic and the political opportunity that your people deserve and demand, this great nation will have the promising future that it deserves. Shokran. Thank you.