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Remarks With Visiting Egyptian Democracy Activists Before Their Meeting



SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am so honored to receive this group here at the State Department. This is a group of young men and women from Egypt who are committed to improving the lives of the Egyptian people, providing more economic opportunity, greater growth in democracy, respect for human rights. They come from a variety of backgrounds. Each of them brings a special experience, an expertise to their interests and their efforts.

I am excited about going to Egypt next week with President Obama for his speech. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities that I have had to work with my Egyptian counterparts on how we’re going to deepen and broaden our relationship between our two countries. But the most important part of that relationship is between the American and Egyptian people. And I think that a number of our visitors have made their first trip to the United States with this trip. So it’s wonderful to have you here and to be part of this.

I’m going to take a question or two, and then we’ll go this way and have a chance to talk. Okay?

QUESTION: Madame Secretary?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes.

QUESTION: What progress has Egypt made toward democracy and human rights? Is it the main stumbling block, this emergency law that’s been enforced for decades? And finally, how much of an issue will it be on your trip and the President’s trip next week?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we always raise democracy and human rights. It is a core pillar of American foreign policy. And I think that there is a great awareness on the part of the Egyptian Government that with young people like this and with enhanced communications, it is in Egypt’s interest to move more toward democracy and to exhibit more respect for human rights. And so we’re going to continue to engage in that dialogue.

Under Secretary Bill Burns will be going to Egypt soon to put in place a framework for a comprehensive discussion between our two countries on the whole range of issues. We’re very appreciative of the strong role that Egypt is playing in looking for a way to bring Palestinians together. We appreciate what Egypt has done to try to support counterterrorism efforts which threaten Egypt and threaten many other countries.

And we are very committed to doing what we can to promote economic opportunity inside Egypt. We consider that a key part of our providing assistance to Egypt. We’ve spent, as you know, many billions of dollars over the last years promoting NGOs, promoting democracy, good governance, rule of law. And I want to stress economic opportunity because out of economic opportunity comes confidence, comes a recognition that people can chart their own future. So this is all part of what we will be discussing.

QUESTION: You had some very strong words yesterday about settlements and that the Israelis are going to have to play their part in this. Could you please tell us how your dinner was last night with President Abbas? Do you feel that you’re making progress? And what are your expectations sort of in the near term of how to push the process forward? How are you going to get the Israelis to do what they need to do, plus the Palestinians?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We had a very productive dinner last night with President Abbas and other officials from the Palestinian Authority. We discussed a full range of concerns. Senator Mitchell reported on his recent discussions with Israeli officials as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit.

We believe strongly in the two-state solution, and we are committed to doing all that we can to work with Israelis and Palestinians and others, like Egypt, to try to push that forward. We have laid out some ideas that we’ve shared with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. And as you know, President Abbas will be meeting with President Obama this afternoon in the Oval Office.

This is a difficult, complex undertaking. But we are committed to it, and we think it’s in the best interest of both Palestinians and Israelis. We think this effort to obtain a two-state solution is the best way for Israel to have the peace and security that they are seeking and deserve, and we think it is the best way for Palestinians to have a sense of empowerment and authority over their own lives and to give them the chance to raise their families and to have the kind of future that the children of the Palestinians deserve. So we see this as very much in not only our interests and the interests of the region, but of Israel and the Palestinians as well.

Thank you all very much.

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