Ambassador Margaret Scobey: January 2009 Webchat on Egypt-U.S. Bilateral Relations

29/01/2009 03:02:37  
Moderator : Hello and welcome to today’s webchat with Ambassador Margaret Scobey. The topic of today’s chat will focus on Egypt – U.S. Bilateral Relations. Ambassador Scobey will lead this discussion and answer your questions. 

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for joining me today. I am very pleased to be able to have my very first webchat with you. It has become something of a tradition for the U.S. ambassador to Egypt to chat directly through our website with people interested in the Egyptian-U.S. relationship. It is my pleasure to carry on this tradition. I know there are already many, many questions and I promise to answer as many as I can in the next hour. So, without further delay, let’s begin the conversation.

29/01/2009 03:08:07  
mohamed abdou : dear Mrs. Scobey, i just asking for to reopen an American consulate in city of Alexandria, there are more than 5 million person living there. it’s very loading for one consulate in Cairo to serve 80 million person.

another question,  as united states working hard to promote better image to egypt people. why also the embassy enhance working to promote positive Egyptians individuals to American people. i do know that there’s programs for this , but it’s not still enough. i do appreciate reading my message .thanks for you and all your team in cairo that working hard for both countries relationships. 
Mohamed Abdou .
Fontana , Ca92337

Ambassador Scobey : Mohamed, thank you for your invitation. I have already had the pleasure of visiting your wonderful city and look forward to coming back soon. You are right that Alexandria is a large and important city and that is why we have an American Center there. Our center is very active and organizes a full range of activities, including lectures, workshops, exhibits and cultural offerings. In addition, AMIDEAST’s student advising center on U.S. colleges and universities and its English Teaching Program are located at the Center. The Education USA Center also offers briefings on U.S. educational programs. Finally, a U.S. Consul is available at the American Center in Alexandria the last Sunday of each month to provide American Citizen Services such as passport applications, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, voting assistance and other routine service inquiries for the American community in Alexandria. I hope you will stop by and see what the Center offers. 
On your second question, I think you are very right that we all have much work to do to promote mutual understanding and mutual respect between Egyptians and Americans. It is a need that our new president addressed directly when he said earlier this week that his “job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people who simply want to live their lives and see their children live better lives.” But this is a job for all of us who desire a future of peace and dignity, not just those in government. One area where I think we are seeing positive developments is in the area of educational exchanges. The number of Egyptian students studying in the United States increased last year by 6% last year. Right now, there are almost 1800 Egyptian students in the U.S. Another interesting statistic is the number of American students in Egypt has tripled in the last three years to 1100. Egypt is now the number one destination among Arab countries for U.S. students. These are very positive trends because I believe we have to see each other in person, seek to understand each other and develop a true respect for each other if we are going to effectively work together to harness these forces of change for the greater good. 

29/01/2009 03:11:33  
Fatma Badawy - Masaeya : What are your expectations regarding Obama’s foreign policies in general, and relations with Egypt in specific?

Ambassador Scobey : President Obama has been clear that his approach to foreign policy is based on mutual interests and mutual respect. I anticipate that U.S.-Egyptian relations will prosper during the upcoming years and I think that it is no accident that President Mubarak was one of the first world leaders contacted after his inauguration. President Obama has also made clear that in the first days of his presidency he intends to be active and aggressive in pursuing a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

29/01/2009 03:13:08 
Sam Mihara : I am planning to visit Egypt. This is my first trip to Egypt. In light of recent developments in the mid-east, are the risks of a visit increased, decreased or about the same as before?
Thank you,
Sam in California

Ambassador Scobey : Sam, May I be the first to tell you “Ahlan wa sahlan!” Welcome! I am so pleased that you are coming to Egypt. You are part of a trend – the number of U.S. tourists to Egypt is growing. Last year, more than 300,000 Americans visited Egypt. That is an increase of17% over the previous year. This big increase doesn’t surprise me at all. This is a wonderful country for a holiday. From the antiquities of one of the oldest civilizations in the world to the beautiful beaches of the Red Sea, the warmth and generosity of the Egyptian people will ensure you have a memorable vacation. One job of my embassy is to assist American citizens who reside in or visit Egypt. We regularly update information for travelers and post it at http://travel.state.gov. We also publish warden messages as necessary on our website and post them at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/consular/travpubl.html. The information is quite extensive so instead of repeating it here, I will simply suggest you review these sites before you travel. I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip. I am sure it will be a wonderful experience.

29/01/2009 03:15:27  
AP : Several countries, including the US, are now offering their expertise to help thwart smuggling between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Recent reports, however, suggest that past US efforts in this regard have met with very limited success. Can you indicate how the US approach this time will address past shortcomings?

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question. At the request of the Egyptian government, the U.S. has been sharing its technical expertise and knowledge in tunnel detection since late 2007. The project is led and managed by the Egyptian government and predates the recent violence in Gaza. I don’t have anything specific to share with you about the project going forward, but I can say it will be the policy of the Obama administration to actively and aggressively seek a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as Israel and its Arab neighbors. The President has also said that part of the outline for a durable cease-fire is a credible anti-smuggling and interdiction regime. However, lasting peace requires more than a long cease-fire. The U.S. will sustain an active commitment to seek two states living side by side in peace and security. Special Envoy Mitchell will carry forward this commitment, as well as the effort to help Israel reach a broader peace with the Arab world that recognizes its rightful place in the community of nations.

29/01/2009 03:17:30  
Sarah Topol : Ambassador, 

  • What is the United States doing to assist Egypt in its efforts to control smuggling across the Rafah/Gaza border? 
  • How are the US Army Corps of Engineers proceding? 
  • What will the US do to assist the Egyptians and Israelis? 
  • How confident are you in the US efforts?

Thank you,
Sarah Topol

Ambassador Scobey : The United States understands that Egypt will protect its borders and is not in need of foreign participation in this responsibility. However, the United States, as have other countries, has offered technical assistance to support Egyptian efforts if such assistance is requested. My previous answer had more details on existing programs related to tunnel detection.

29/01/2009 03:23:56  
Mohammed A. Gomaa : Hi MRS Scoby, I’m Dr. Mohammed A.Gomaa, Assistant director of Minia University Hospital and Associate professor of Otorhinolaryngology- Minia University. I spent a couple of years at Oklahoma (1996 – 1998) studying head and neck cancer at Oklahoma Health science center. I beleive in American Value, Democracy and Freedom.I help in correction of USA picture in my community.My qestions are:- I want to ask about USA -Egypt partenership in Healthcare sector and how this partnership help Egyptian people in Healthcare development?
Second,How can USA, Egypt and Isreal help in Healthcare development in middle East as they are Leaders in the region? Lastly, I welcome you in Minia next weekend and hope to meet you.
Dr. Mohammed Abd Elmotaal Gomaa

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your warm welcome, I am very much looking forward to visiting Minya for the first time. You are absolutely right that the U.S. and Egypt have a long partnership in the health sector. The government of Egypt has taken the lead in improving the capacity of health care professionals and facilities in Egypt. Through USAID, the United States has contributed nearly $1 billion to this effort. The results have been dramatic. Polio has been eradicated and Egypt has seen a 63% decline in infant mortality rate since 1990 – the largest such decrease in the world. We are looking forward to continuing this partnership. I should also mention that through the US-Egypt Joint Science and Technology Cooperative Agreement, we offer small grants to assist Egyptian and American researchers to work together on a joint project. To learn more and find contact info, you can go tohttp://egypt.usembassy.gov/usegypt.html.

29/01/2009 03:28:18  
Gamal Essam El-Din : My question is: Ambassador Scobey served in many Arab countries, the last of which before coming to Egypt was Syria. How ambassador Scobey as an American diplomat and citizen compare the democratic situation between Egypt and Syria in terms of freedoms of speech and the press, respect of human rights, political openness, freedoms of civil society organisations and cultural diversity and richness.

Thanks a lot
Gamal Essam El-Din
Political Journalist with the Al-Ahram Weekly

Ambassador Scobey : Hello, Gamal. Thank you for your question. I am happy to see that you are participating in this webchat. 

You are correct; I have served in many Arab countries. Besides Egypt and Syria, I have had the privilege to work in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. My career has given me the opportunity to learn and understand the diverse nations, cultures and histories that make up the Middle East. It has also taught me that it is very difficult to compare countries because so many different factors have contributed to development and progress in the many countries of the Middle East. 

It would, perhaps, be like comparing Canada and the United States. While the history of these two countries may have some commonalities, very unique forces have shaped their development. 

For example, my country’s path to democracy has been different than in other countries, and it has not been easy. Only in my lifetime did the United States guarantee all citizens the right to vote. Our laws, institutions, and the people who make them are imperfect. But America’s founders had a vision of what an ideal government could be—a government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is the people who move institutions closer to the ideal that suits a country’s unique history and culture. 

This fact is being played out very dramatically in the United States. For the first time, an African-American, Barack Obama, has been elected president of the United States. When I was your age, it just did not seem imaginable that my country would come so far. When I grew up, segregation of society was the norm. Today, I think we can finally say equality and tolerance have won. I think every American, regardless of who they voted for, is proud of this moment in our democracy.

The same – and unique — process of political evolution and systemic change have happened over the course of modern Egyptian history. Egypt has taken important steps over many years in opening its society. Egypt’s press, including independent newspapers and television stations, engage in serious political debate, and Egyptian civil society, with countless NGOs and civic groups like yours, provide Egyptian citizens the opportunity to address the problems facing Egypt and to help shape your nation’s political future. There are certainly further steps that Egypt can take as it continues with its process of political reform. Egyptians are the best judges of the appropriate path to political reform that reflects freedom and democracy, as well as your culture and traditions. As your friends, we stand ready to support you as you shape the democratic future you desire.

29/01/2009 03:31:44
Noha : Madame Ambassador, what is the biggest obstacle to economic growth in Egypt and how can the US and Egypt cooperate to overcome this? 

Ambassador Scobey : Well, let me start by saying that the Government of Egypt under the leadership of Prime Minister Nazif has embarked upon an economic reform program that has generated very high rates of economic growth in Egypt over the past four years. We are seeing that in our own bilateral trade with Egypt which grew to a record $7.9 billion in 2007 and which has increased 75% over the past four years. At the same time, there is work to be done to reduce barriers to newcomers entering the market that remain a business impediment in Egypt. 

We have been working with the Government through USAID and other bilateral assistance programs to address these concerns. Also, we have a very active trade promotion program through which we regularly organize trade missions from Egypt to the United States and also host trade missions from the U.S. in Egypt to expand our bilateral trade. 

29/01/2009 03:34:13  
Yasser Khalil : Dear Mrs. Ambassador 

  1. President Obama said in his inaugural address: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist”. Do you think Egyptian regime has unclenched its fist? And, in your expectations, how the new administration will balance between its interests and US principals of freedom in its mutual relation with a country like Egypt. 
  2. I quoted that quotation from article titled ” Revolution, Facebook-Style” published at New York Times Magazine: 

When I spoke to Wael Nawara, a 47-year-old Ghad activist who is a co-founder of the party, he explained why, for him, getting on Facebook was such a big eye-opener. If you look at Egyptian politics on the surface, he said, you might think that the Muslim Brotherhood is the only alternative to the Mubarak regime. But “Facebook revealed a liberal undercurrent in Egyptian society,â€‌ Nawara said. “In general, there’s this kind of apathy, a sense that there is nothing we can do to change the situation. But with Facebook you realize there are others who think alike and share the same ideals. You can find Islamists there, but it is really dominated by liberal voices.
Do you think such that analytic, if it’s a fact – can affect US policies towards the current Egyptian regime that many people – including myself – believe in that you support it to avoid capturing the power by the Muslim Brotherhood?

Thank You
Yasser Khalil, Researcher and Journalist

Ambassador Scobey : Hello, Yasser. Thank you for your questions. It is interesting to see you are a reader of the New York Times. It is another reminder to me of how small our world is becoming and how much easier it has become to exchange views and learn about and from each other. 

It is just the second week of this new administration so it is just not possible to give you an exact answer to your questions. However, I want to draw your attention to some of the things President Obama has said in his very short time in office so far. I think you can then draw your own conclusions about what to expect from the new U.S. administration in terms of our relations with Egypt. 

On his first full day in office, he called President Mubarak of Egypt, Prime Minister Olmert of Israel, King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. In those calls, he communicated his commitment to active engagement in pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace from the beginning of his term, and to express his hope for their continued cooperation and leadership. 

Then this week, as you probably know, President Obama was interviewed by al-Arabiya in his first week in office. He decided to do this interview – his first with foreign press – because he wanted to start a dialogue with people in the Muslim world, a dialogue he intends to conduct forthrightly and respectfully. 

It is his view that the United States must seek a new way forward in our relations with the Muslim world, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. This applies to Egypt and to every country in the region. He believes that central to this new way forward is active U.S. engagement and cooperation in areas like education, creating opportunity and, of course, peace because this is consistent with American ideals and interests. In his interview he said, “ In all my in all my travels throughout the Muslim world, what I”ve come to understand is that regardless of your faith — and America is a country of Muslims, Jews, Christians, non-believers — regardless of your faith, people all have certain common hopes and common dreams.” 

It is important to also note that President Obama has said he does not expect full agreement, and will always stand strongly for American interests, but he believes that disagreements can be handled through respectful dialogue. He also said of himself, and I think this is very important, “you will see somebody who is listening, who is respectful and who is trying to promote the interests not just of the United States, but also ordinary people who right now are suffering from poverty and a lack of opportunity.” 

I would also like to point out that he is demonstrating his commitment in deeds, as well as words. He has signed executive orders closing the Guantanamo Detention Facility and providing new guidelines on interrogation. He has also appointed George Mitchell as Special Envoy for Middle East peace. He has been engaged with the Middle East from day one and he has made clear clear that the country’s goals and objectives will be consistent with American values and the rule of law. As the President said, “we are not going to continue with a false choice between our safety and our ideals.” I think this will apply in Egypt-U.S. relations as well as in the relations with every other country.

29/01/2009 03:39:27  
Aslam Mohammed Salim : Dear U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey , Egypt 
Please read my letter to the importance of; I am Aslam Mohammed Salim. i live at cairo > Qalubia 
I want to know more information about your green card offer . i want to certain about true of this offer . 
i am still study at thebes academy ,at 3rd year . My ambition is complete my study in america .
Please attention to the importance of this subject Because yours is the embassy of the most important and most places as possible to get to the information and I’m awaiting a reply to my letter

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question Aslam. The green card lottery or Diversity Visa (DV) program is one that we as Americans are most proud of because it offers 50,000 permanent resident visas to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Egyptians have consistently been some of the most enthusiastic participants in the lottery. However, because the DV program is so popular, unscrupulous people sometimes pretend that they can assist people to win. This is not true. It is easy to enter program and you can do it online and entry is free. You don”t need to pay anyone to assist you with entering the DV program and the only time you should pay any money for the DV program is on the day of your visa appointment at the Embassy if you are selected as a winner. Please visit the official website for applying for the DV program at www.dvlottery.state.gov

If you are interested in completing your studies in the United States and returning to Egypt, I encourage you to visithttp://educationusa.state.gov or join our “Study USA Egypt” page on Facebook. There you will find information on scholarships, AMIDEAST student advising sessions and a forum in which you can ask questions to other Egyptian students on their experiences of studying in the United States. I wish you the best of luck.

29/01/2009 03:45:12  
Gaser G. Mohamed : Dear Maam Iam U.S Citizen cam to Egypt to applay to my wife of 6.month for imigrant visa I discoer that the rulles has change I have to stay in egypt for 6.month befor I can applay for her how can I leave every thing in the U.S and stay her for 6.month I contacted imigration low firm in the U.S they told me that the embassy interpt the low weong my wife is 6.month pregnent and she need me with her so please help me to applay for her petition her now if its posible and maybe I can take with me even on temprary nonimigrant visa keep the american spirit alive &keep family together your effort is appriciated thank you very much in advance,tel#224180029.cell#012-312-1247,E.maill.H_K@verizon.net

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question. You are correct that in order to file an immigrant visa petition at the Embassy in Cairo, you do need to be resident in Egypt for six months prior to the filing of the immigrant visa petition. This is a worldwide requirement from the State Department. An American who does not reside in Egypt needs to file the immigrant visa petition at the nearest office of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) in the U.S. To locate the nearest USCIS office to you, please visit their website at www.uscis.gov

As your wife is an intending immigrant, she should not apply for a visitor”s visa. 

I hope this information is helpful to you.

29/01/2009 03:51:38  
iman ewais : i woud like 1st to theank the embassy for sharing this opportunity with us.
my question for you, is how do you see the cooperation between Egypt & the United States in the feild of improving the education, specially in designing programs for the University students & University teaching Stuff as well.
thanks in advance,

Ambassador Scobey : The Government of Egypt has made a commitment to improve the quality of higher education in Egypt and the United States through USAID has supported these efforts. In higher education, the United State supports university partnerships, collaborative scientific research programs and scholarship programs. Specifically, USAID is supporting six partnerships between Egyptian and American universities to strengthen the capacity of select Egyptian public universities to deliver quality professional education in business and commercial law. In the last decade or so, USAID also financed over 300 grants to Egyptian universities to partner with 80 US universities to strengthen their capacity in a range of areas. Finally, the United States supports at least 25 different programs of educational exchange with Egypt, including the Near East and South Asia Undergraduate Program and the Fulbright Program. I encourage you to learn more about the many Fulbright programs in Egypt by visiting the website of the Egypt-U.S. Fulbright Commission at www.fulbright-egypt.org. My embassy also has a Facebook group dedicated to providing you with information about studying in the United States. Students from all over Egypt are in the group, and I invite you to join them. You can find “Study USA Egypt” on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Study-USA-Egypt/32397000072.

29/01/2009 03:56:32  
Magdy El Samman – Al Sherouk : Egypt denied that agreement you signed with Israel in that regard. Do you have any plan to spread international forces on the Egyptian Israeli borders?

Ambassador Scobey : The MOU signed by Israel and the United States is bilateral only and concerns only the actions of the parties to the agreement. The United States has no plans and is not aware of any plans to place international forces on the border. However, the United States does believe that the opening of the Gaza border crossings should be consistent with arrangements contained in the November 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access that did place EU observers, alongside PA officials, on the Gaza side of the border.

29/01/2009 04:03:34  
rehab ali : your honour,, thank you for offering this chance to express my opinion about the american-egyption relation,,my question is about hoW you see the future of egyption Women and girl in the present time?and What you can do to help us in having our choices in life ??despite the nature of being a Women or even young?.for sorry i have to say that no action from the american side to support us – young Working Women -depend on ourselves to prove equality.simple example is my rejection by the american consuler in the embassey When applied to tourist visa and he said that im a perfect candidate to visit the united states but ” you are still young” he said!!!! and i’m 26 years old?im a Working dentsit With enough ties to come back to egypt?does my age has any thing to do With it to prevent me from getting a great vacation after a long Working year ?or my nature being a Women?i think the american egyption relation should open a true Way With actions to help Women here to get their perfect chance in life in egypt as in america and encourage them to do better in every feild..as american Women really can get their chance.as you ,your honour, is a very good example for Women and What they can acheive in life..thanks for your time and your patient

Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question and your interest in visiting the United States. I have been in many countries in the region and I have been very impressed with the participation of Egyptian women in all aspects of their society. I have met female Egyptian ambassadors, doctors, lawyers, teachers, scientists, civil society leaders, members of Parliament, ministers, businesswomen, and artists. So I believe that you are fortunate in having many opportunities. I also know that Egyptian women are working very hard together to further expand to opportunities for all Egyptian women for health care, educational opportunities and training to help them take care of their families. The United States also funds a number of programs to support women’s empowerment through microfinance programs and a number of Egyptian women receive scholarships for university education in the U.S. and in Egypt. One thing that the Ambassador does not do is issue visas, but I hope that you will have the opportunity to visit the United States in the future.

29/01/2009 04:04:04  
Moderator : Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s webchat and thanks to Ambassador Scobey for joining us.

Ambassador Scobey : Thanks to everyone for the excellent questions. In my speeches I often stress how dynamic and vital the Egyptian-U.S. partnership is. I think this chat affirms just how much people are interested in and care about the success of our relations and the importance of furthering mutual respect and understanding between our two great nations. I have, unfortunately, not been able to answer each question individually but I hope that I have covered the topic or issue about which you asked. I also hope that we will have keep the conversation going through our website, our events, our Information Resource Center and our Facebook group for students (add link). Thank you for joining me today. I enjoyed chatting with you.

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