Ambassador: Welcome, it’s nice to see you all here. And I think we can always say that it is an interesting time. We have had some interesting developments. We hope you were able to follow a little bit last week’s Summit of Entrepreneurship that President Obama hosted in Washington.
There was a large Egyptian delegation – I think they were 15 or 16 people. And what we found in the months leading up to it was that many Egyptian organizations and business groups and government and civil society are already working in this area. Because they share our belief that economic growth and development really depend upon the development of new ideas and encouraging people to take their ideas to the marketplace.
So, as I said, Egypt really has a very well developed network already, and we are looking forward to doing more. We will be posting here an Entrepreneur-in-Residence through a program sponsored by USAID. We hope to get an experienced businessman or woman who is familiar with the region and the United States, who will be able to help contribute to these networks, both working with groups in Egypt as well as resources in the United States as well. So we are very excited about that.
We also had, I think the previous week to that, the Nuclear Security Summit, where President Obama brought together a number of heads of state and a senior delegation from Egypt as well, to share and to join together in identifying the potential problems in securing nuclear materials for the future and felt we made great progress there and in raising attention to this in planning for follow up meetings the following year, and to simply heighten the international cooperation on this area. And I think this week of course the Nonproliferation Treaty review conference is underway.
So it has been a very busy time. We are also looking forward, we hope, to the resumption of proximity talks. I think the Palestinian Authority Executive Committee still needs to meet to review this, but hopefully we would be able to. We were happy that the Arab League recently endorsed this concept again, and hopefully the parties will begin to engage again, even if indirectly at first, in addressing the issues that need to be addressed to be able to move this peace process forward. And now I am happy to take your questions.
Q: The American news website published a report which said the Central Intelligence Agency gave money to key Generals in the Army and officials in the Intelligence in the Media in Egypt. I am wondering if I could know your comment on this.
Ambassador: This is the first time I’m hearing about any such thing and of course, it doesn’t sound very solid to me. We never discuss intelligence matters anyway. But what the U.S. does do in Egypt is we have a $1.3 billion military assistance program that we think benefits Egyptian security. We work very closely with the Ministry of Defense and in developing the Egyptian Armed Forces, and we work very closely with Egyptian security officials on countering terrorism. But I haven’t even seen this report.
Q: This website also said the CIA is preparing, grooming generals for the Egyptian Presidency.
Ambassador: I think this does not make any sense whatsoever to me and I would discount it thoroughly. The United States believes that there is only one road to the presidency in Egypt, and that is through free and fair elections conducted by the Egyptians for Egyptian people, period. We have no role whatsoever in identifying persons for any political office in Egypt, much less the Presidency.
Q: We heard recently the United States wants to do a kind of engaging with Syria. Would you shed light about this approach?
Ambassador: President Obama, when he came to office, made very clear that he saw engagement with other countries not as a reward, but as a tool used in pursuit of diplomatic goals and objectives.
The issues between the United States and Syria are very well known and have been. We have a number of issues about which we do not agree. We have raised with them recently concerns about their transfer of weapons to Lebanon, to militias in Lebanon to Hezbollah, which would be in contravention of the U.N. Security Council resolution. We have had concerns about support for terrorist groups acting in this region. We have had concerns about allowing the Syrian border to funnel foreign fighters into Iraq, so we have had a number of issues with them.
But we believe that engagement, diplomatic engagement, is a tool, and that we have had any number of direct conversations with the government of Syria, and believe that is the way to confront these matters – through direct discussions with them. So, while it may have had some people for or against it, I think President Obama and his administration, the Secretary, are very clear that we think our diplomatic efforts would be enhanced by such engagement. President Obama said his hand was open and it was up to others to take that hand.
Q: Some NGOs and institutions in Egypt are accusing you of taking the part of the government after the Embassy declaring not giving them any assistance except when the government agrees, only the Solidarity Ministry.
Ambassador: I think there has been some confusion and misinformation out there. The United States, as you know, supports very strongly the role of civil society in human development, in economic and social matters and political matters.
It is a key element. I think most development experts and many in our leadership have said; you look at any society or any country and there are three legs to it. First you have the government, you have the private sector and businessmen, and you have civil society. And all three are important and necessary for a stable and prosperous society.
So we believe very, very strongly in the role of civil society. And our support has not ceased. We support some types of Egyptian civil society organizations through ESF money. This the Economic Support Fund, it is bilaterally organized process. We consult very closely with the government of Egypt and through that we fund a great deal of civil society activity.
In addition, there are other sources of funding for civil society that may be for legal activities, but they may not be necessarily by organized NGOs, and we have funds for that from the Middle East Partnership Initiative, and through our own Democracy and Human Rights Bureau in the State Department. There is a National Endowment for Democracy as well, which is another funding entity that is an independent organization but funded by the U.S. government. So there are a number of sources and we actually believe that we may be funding more Egyptian organizations now than we did before.
The numbers change, the numbers go up and down. The overall funding was cut by over 50 percent between 2008 and 2009, which led to reductions in funding overall. But the ESF funds, we believe, are broadly targeted towards the needs of the Egyptian people. In addition to funding civil society, we work with the government to address important health and education needs, to support economic reform activity. So, it is a broad program, and civil society and support for civil society is a very important aspect of it.
Q: First question is on the mission of President Obama. In June last year, he came and said (inaudible) the impression is that nothing has been done since then. So can you explain what he has done? Because it seems very little. I just spoke with people in Syria, we cannot judge by what he said or what he did. People at the Arab League also say similar things. This is one.
Two, I want to ask you on your stance on the development from the national scene in Egypt, how you see the current political view, including Baradei and I know that your stance is for the Egyptian people to choose their President. But I want to know if you have any thoughts as to the transformation.
Ambassador: These are two very different questions. Let me start of with the first one. President Obama came here to begin, it was a new beginning. And he sought to broaden engagement with Muslim majority countries around the world. He outlined a number of areas where we could increase that engagement. One of them was the area of working together better to support and to encourage entrepreneurship. Another area was in education and in science and technology. And I think that we have moved toward these goals. I know that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation for one, created a large fund and they announced this several months ago, that would finance entrepreneurial activities and new ideas and startups in the Middle East. It is not Egypt-specific, but it is a multi-million dollar investment support program that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation will do. We hope that Egyptian elements will be successful in applying for and receiving financial support from that source.
As I said, we just had the Entrepreneurship Summit. USAID is creating an opportunity to bring an Entrepreneur-in-Residence here. He’ll have a small office here. We hope the office will be up and running sometime this summer. The goal is to increase the value of partnerships and to help pull resources together. The new beginning that we were talking about was not the U.S. only. The ideas, our hands are open, we are looking for Partnerships, we are going to build on what is already there and see if by working together more closely we can get more bang for the buck. We can get a greater impact on this.
And I think we will be seeing really very high increases in activities with this Entrepreneurship program that is going on. We are in close conversations with other Ministries here to figure out ways to increase, and I am hoping that before the end of the month we’ll have some announcements we can make on science and technology.
Again, these are partnerships. These are not sort of U.S. stand-alone activities, but how do we create greater opportunities for the U.S. and Egyptian scientists to work together. And I think I’ve even said this before, we are working closely with the government to reorient our assistance program, this ESF money, really, toward the area of developing human capacity. So I think that we actually are moving fairly quickly in all these areas. I agree that we don’t have anything right now to date to say “this was built as a result.” But I think that these efforts are underway and I am certain we will see more concrete things in the near future. But there is a lot of effort and activity and investment in this area.
In addition to which I think the President talked a lot in Cairo about his hopes for peace in this region. And it is an area that I know this is an issue that always comes up, because it is the highest, the most desired end result that we share in this region. That we will once and for all conclude too many decades of the state of war between Israel and many of its neighbors.
Egypt has worked very, very closely to support efforts to restart negotiations. The United States has not backed away from its commitment. The President has made very, very clear that he is in this one hundred percent. He cannot impose a solution. There always seems to be in the back of some people’s mind the idea that the United States can just say “here, do it.” We have never felt that to be the case.
But Senator Mitchell hopefully will be back in the region soon. Once the Palestinians make a final decision on this, hopefully they will. And we believe there is a way forward. We have been very, very clear with the Israelis and what they need to do, in terms of our concerns about settlement activity, and we think they have taken some positive measures, some not so positive, but we’ve had very, very frank discussions with them.
So we think there is reason to be cautiously optimistic that we can restart, get the parties back in a forward direction. There are many, many other areas that we have been working on around the region; areas related to proliferation and the threat of nuclear proliferation in the region.
So, I think that there is actually a lot going on and I am very confident that we will be seeing more concrete things.
Q: (inaudible) Iran..Israeli nuclear ambiguity.. document that you…. proposed to the Egyptian Delegation in New York, what is the stance of the U.S. on this matter, and are you not concerned that by trying to protect the Israeli nuclear ambiguity you are in fact creating the (inaudible)?
Ambassador: I certainly wouldn’t use those terms that you’ve chosen. But I am happy to express my views. The United States looks at the NPT as a key element of global security and it is our hope that the parties to this treaty coming together in New York this week will reaffirm their commitment to it and look for ways to strengthen it.
While it may not be a perfect instrument, I think we believe that over the years it has definitely served to encourage many most countries to respect their obligations that they took on voluntarily under the NPT, and it has discouraged, to some degree, proliferators.
The United States very much believes in a universal adherence to the NPT, that everyone should join the NPT. We also have very much supported the 1995 Middle East Resolution, which has its aim a nuclear weapons-free Middle East. We believe that it is very difficult to do that overnight. We want to work very positively with all countries, including countries where we may not agree in every single aspect, but we believe that we are all better off working to find a common ground that will continue to deter proliferators. And it is hard to see making much progress toward the Middle East weapons free zone when countries such as Iran which has signed up to the NPT voluntarily, is now, it is the only country that I am aware of that has been identified by the IAEA as being out of compliance with its treaty obligations.
So, we are working both in New York this week and we are simultaneously working toward what we hope will be strong UN Security Council Resolution that will make clear to Iran that there is, that they have a choice to make and that we want to make that choice very sharp and clear. Hopefully that they will conclude that it is in their national interest to return to the negotiating table in a serious way to address issues relative to their non compliance towards the NPT obligations.
Q: My second question. (The national scene in Egypt.)
Ambassador: Well, look, the United States has very clear concepts here, which are that every country, every citizen should have a right to express themselves and to participate in free, fair and transparent elections. The United States does not identify particular candidates, we don’t support particular parties. We support a fair and open process. And that is for Egyptians to determine. We encourage everyone to think about how best to assure you have a level playing field with free and fair and transparent elections, and we simply have no interest or reason to begin to say who is who and what’s what in all of this. It’s the process that we are most concerned about. The current state of political debate is, I would say, healthy. I mean this is a good thing when citizens are able to express their points of view. The ultimate choice will be up to the citizens of Egypt to decide what they want to do.
Q: Do you think that Egypt became a democratic country?
Ambassador: Well, I think that is a question only the Egyptians can decide for themselves. We have a Human Rights report every year that has identified in number of challenges and pediments to certain aspects of democratic government. But we also see in some areas where you know, for example, in some areas, greater respect for human rights.
We just saw last week the Parliament pass a comprehensive anti-trafficking law. That’s real progress and we congratulate the Egyptian people in achieving that. But I look to Egyptians to tell me what they think needs to be done. I think that the contribution of Egyptian civil society and NGOs to preparations for the Universal Periodic Review is a very comprehensive one.
We know that the National Council for Human Rights has identified a number of areas including for example the issue of the state of emergency, where they – the National Council for Human Rights in Egypt – have said that they would encourage the government to find a way to lift this.
So, I think Egyptians themselves have to find an agenda for reform. The United States hopes to support free speech,lawful activities and free expression, and free and fair and transparent elections.
Q: Regarding the last report of the United States on Religious Freedom, they mentioned that in 2009 that the American Ambassador sent a letter concerning few issues, religious issues in Egypt.
Ambassador: I sent a letter?
Q: No, they sent you a letter.
Ambassador: Oh, who sent me a letter? The Commission?
Q: Yes, the Commission. Regarding a few religious issues.
Ambassador: I think they sent a letter to the government of Egypt. Did they do that?
Ambassador: I have received a lot of letters on these issues over the last year. So, I may have, I don’t know. I am not exactly sure which correspondence you are referring to. I have received correspondence from a number of parties on this issue. But what is the question?
Q: I wanted to know exactly the issues and how did you react to them.
Ambassador: I am not exactly sure which piece of correspondence that you are talking about. The United States, the Embassy itself contributes to the preparation of the report published in Washington every year on religious freedom worldwide. This is an obligation that we have been given by the U.S. Congress and we do our best to make a very fair and factual accounting of what has happened in every country around the world.
In Egypt, there were certain concerns expressed in the report about when sectarian violence broke out. And the concerns, to make sure that the government use not only reconciliation, which is an important process, but also pursues anyone who has broken the law, or participated in violence.
So, for example, the issue in January in Naga Hamady, I think it was important that people were arrested and that there will be a trial, and people will be held accountable. I don’t know what the outcome of that trial is going to be and I don’t prejudge it. But I think it is the pursuit of justice equally that is important in this case.
Q: They criticized too, the role that US policy is playing in the region, they are not prioritizing the issues of democracy and human rights.
Ambassador: I think that the President, the Secretary of State and certainly this Mission pay a lot of attention to these issues along with many other issues. I think there is no question in my mind that it is a high priority of our President and our government to promote and encourage the respect for human rights and the development and the progress in democratic practices around the world.
I think that you heard President Obama speak to this issue when he was in Cairo. In a way, that we hope, I am certain that it was very respectful. We know that the United States cannot impose an agenda of the United States’ own on any country. But we certainly do support and encourage those who are active in the promotion of human rights and development of democratic practices around the world.
This is not an Egypt specific policy, but it is a policy we pursue in Egypt as well as every other country.
Secretary Clinton has made very clear that when we look at the issues of democracy and human rights we see a couple of things. I think she tried to talk about it in three terms. First of all want to be guided by universal principles. I think the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is as good a place to start as anywhere. We hope to hold everyone to the same standard including ourselves.
I think that this administration, President Obama, has even looked very clearly at the United States practices. One of the first things he did in taking office was announce his intention to close Guantanamo, and to make clear that certain types of interrogation practices that may have been used in the past were not acceptable. He wants to recommit ourselves to this, it was the first – in this year’s report that we are doing on human trafficking, for the first time we will examine ourself and publish our own self assessment in this report.
The third element of this is we simply want to be guided by the facts, and you know we do write a human rights report every year and I invite anyone here and sometimes people do tell us, if we got something wrong, if it is factually incorrect, please let us know and we will correct it.
But we do our best -we talk to government, to civil society, to journalists. We try to find out what really happens and that is what we try to use to guide us in our approach.
Q: On protests and demonstrations every day, there was a protest here and at the People’s Assembly and in Tahrir Square. How did you see this protest?
And as America’s concerns about human rights issue, did you discuss with the Egyptian government the way security forces deal with protestors?
Ambassador: I’m not going to go into the details of what we do or do not discuss with the government of Egypt. But certainly we do have a respectful dialogue on a variety of issues including human rights and democracy, as they do with us. This is a two way dialogue. And we believe as I said, in the right of citizens peacefully to express their views. And as I said the healthy self expression, whether it be in person or in blogs or in the press or on television, contributes to the kind of full and open debate that societies need to be able to make decisions about their future.
Q: But about the security forces how they deal with protestors on the street, they beat them, they arrest them. How did you see this?
Ambassador: I have not personally witnessed this. I certainly heard these reports and I think we would express concern in any country if there is a disproportionate use of force. We do not believe that that is necessarily what you want to do with people who are simply peacefully expressing their views. They should be allowed to peacefully express their views.
Q: You said that the United States want to invest the American aid in human development in education, so I want to know more details.
Ambassador: This is very much a process that we engage with the government of Egypt. Your Ministry of International Cooperation and our Agency for International Development put their heads together every year and come up with a joint plan for what is needed to be done.
They have ideas, we have ideas and I think by and large we are able to agree on what we want to do. I think that we will be looking at the increase in the number of some scholarships to the United States. We also want to invest in education in Egypt. We will be looking at programs that have vocational training.
I visited, when I was in Aswan a few weeks ago, an agricultural vocational college, which tries to bring modern skills and even some business practices to young people going to these agricultural technical colleges. They were learning how to become assistants for veterinary doctors.
So it was giving some practical marketable skills to young people and that’s part of the USAID project. So we will be looking to expand these programs as well. The focus is in human capacity, in training and in education.
And as I said, Egypt’s economy has grown enormously over the last 30 years. So what we try to do I think is to fine tune in the assistance program, to focus on areas where we can still add value to what Egypt needs.
Q: Would you please assess the situation now in Gaza? What do you think about measures undertaken by Egyptian government to protect borders in Gaza Strip, and I want to know more about the relations between the U.S. and Israel after the recent Israeli activities in the West Bank?
Ambassador: First of all, we believe that sovereign countries have every right and obligation even to secure their borders against illegal smuggling. And I would refer you to the government of Egypt as to what exactly what kinds of programs they are doing. But we can only respect the country who is taking solid measures to assure that their borders are not being used for the transfer of illicit materials one way or the other.
As some have said to me now that if you can smuggle something into Gaza, you can smuggle it out of Gaza. We fully respect Egypt’s security concerns of its own, that they know what’s coming in and out of that border. But that is something as I said we fully respect. The situation in Gaza is very difficult. We have encouraged more humanitarian and reconstruction equipment to get in. We hope that we will see more of that.
I think Egypt is doing a good job, both of securing its border and we realize the Egyptians themselves demonstrate a very healthy concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza. I read every few days and about every month or so, for humanitarian reasons they open the border for that, and I think we understand that.
So I think Egypt faces a difficulty on its border and seems to us to be doing the right things.
Q: About the Israeli and the U.S.
Ambassador: The U.S. and Israel have an unshakeable relationship. That said, yes, we have had some disagreements over issues. The issues of settlements have been an area where we have had these issues, that has been demonstrated. The United States has consistently said that we do not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity.
These are issues where we will continue to express our point of view. We will continue to do everything we can to persuade the government of Israel to do what is the appropriate thing to create the right atmosphere for peace talks to be successful. The United States believes in the two-state solution and believes that the parties should be moving in that direction, because it is in the national security interest of Israel, we believe of the Palestinians, and in the rest of the region in the world.
So we simply believe that we need to do everything we can to create the right atmosphere here and clearly these settlement activities have been very, very disruptive of moving this peace process forward. And we have very very, I think that you can see from what the press has covered, there has been a very frank exchange with the government of Israel.
Q: With regards to the political movements, how does political movements in Egypt affect the American investors?
Ambassador: I am not sure I have seen any data one way or the other on that issue at this time. We just had out here a visit of U.S. Trade Representative Kirk, who hopes to work with his counterpart, Minister Rashid, to encourage and develop increased volume of trade between the United States and Egypt.
Both countries, both Presidents, have asked their governments to increase exports by one hundred percent. So we know that in order to even get close to this goal we have to work together. And we recently had the first meeting of a bilateral Egypt-U.S. Business Leaders Forum, which is private sector.
They met together and they developed I think a very pragmatic agenda of areas where they can work together. This has to do with working on issues of IPR, working of issues of non-tariff barriers to trade. They want to work together, I think, on some educational activities to benefit Egypt and the United States. So I think we have a very sort of practical agenda of items.
With regard to investment, investors made their decisions based on where they think they have the lowest risk and the highest return. Egypt, like every other country in the world, competes for foreign investment. But I don’t have any figures at this point that would point one way or the other to the question you had. But obviously investors want to know that their investments are going to be in a good place.
Q: I know that OPIC is part of the State Department…
Ambassador: OPIC is not part of the State Department at all. It’s the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. It’s a stand-alone U.S. federal government agency.
Q: Yes, yes, does the U.S. encourage investors to achieve ..?
Ambassador: On OPIC, we can get you some more information exactly on OPIC’s mandate. I mentioned earlier a special loan financing facility that they have set out. I probably have the data on it here, but it is specifically to support emerging ideas from Middle East markets. But at any given time, potential investment can be aided by OPIC. It does not have to be a special thing. But the idea is that it helps, it provides certain financial backing, to help support investment.
Q: You said US wanted to see fair and free Egyptian elections but in light of article 77 and article 76, constitutional articles were amended, (inaudible)
Why does the U.S. express (inaudible) on this matter, under the Obama Administration and it refused to do under Bush Administration?
Ambassador: Well, I am not sure that the Bush Administration expressed a clear position on these actual constitutional elements. But what I can tell you is that we support very much the debate within Egypt on the future of Egypt. This is strikes me as a very healthy element of political life to allow people to discuss these matters.
We support broadening political participation in general; making it easier to run for office, making it easier to create political parties. It’s just the nature of American policy anywhere. So to that end we are naturally an ally of creating more political openness around the world. The specific elements of this are up to Egyptians to pass.
As I said, I have been struck by the coincidence of issues that the Egyptian National Human Rights Council, which is appointed by the President of Egypt, has come up over the years and the issues that we have raised in our own Human Rights Report. So I think there is a very strong Egyptian agenda for which there seems to be a fairly broad consensus. And I think that strikes me as good a place as any for Egyptians to focus.
But we support broadening political participation, free expression. This is the American point of view.
Q: And you have a specific stance on the emergency law, which is due to be reviewed?
Ambassador: I think we have said in our Human Rights Report, we said in our Universal Periodic Review as a recommendation we made, yes, we would hope to see Egypt lift this and move away from it.
Q: Is there any plan for President Obama to visit Egypt soon?
Ambassador: I am not aware of it.
Q: Did it happen in the past that the American Embassy made appointments or meetings with political players in Egypt like the Muslim Brotherhood? Have you requested to meet with Mr. Mohamed Baradi?
Ambassador: All I am going to say is that the United States Embassy, much like the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, believes that we ought to get out and know everyone in this country that we can meet. We don’t distinguish between political parties and who is in the government and who is not in the government. That said, I don’t publish a list of who I meet with every week, nor would I do that. But I look forward to meeting a broad variety of Egyptians.
Q: Egypt has a project of nuclear-free Middle East. Is there any cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt in this?
Ambassador: We enjoy what we have both decided to call a strategic dialogue primarily between our two foreign ministries and we engage in a lot of discussion in these matters. But I don’t go into the details of who says what when. But we very much respect Egypt’s leadership in international bodies. We don’t always agree on what we do but we respectfully engage with the government of Egypt and we have found in many occasions where we can work together very, very well.
We think, we hope that our bottom line interests converge in some of these key critical issues of nuclear security and trying to move toward the day when we can have a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone.
The United States goal is to have a world without nuclear weapons. And it is one step at a time, but we do very much value their engagement, the consultation of the government of Egypt.
Q: What is your opinion about Israeli recent threats against Lebanon and Syria?
Ambassador: I am not sure they are threats. There have been concerns raised about the transfer of weapons to Hezbollah, but I have not heard a threat. We strongly believe that all countries should respect Security Council Resolution 1701, that says no one should be transferring any kind of weapons into Lebanon outside of what is ordered by the only duly armed forces in the country which is the Lebanese Armed Forces in the government of Lebanon.
Q: The State Department Assistant Secretary who was here to discuss the water issue in the region, could you tell us why she was here, was it the Nile Basin talks?
Ambassador: We had a visit a couple of months ago of Undersecretary Maria Otero, who is our Undersecretary for Global issues. She follows many, many different issues around the world, one of which is water. She did not come here specifically because of the Nile Basin Initiative Talks. She happened to be here at the same time.
I think we are still looking at the results of this. We have very much been supportive of the Initiative in the past and believe that one of the great values of this is that it brings the riparian countries together in a way that encourages them to manage resources and development in a way, a consensual, cooperative way and that’s what we think the value of the Nile Basin Initiative.
Q: You mentioned that you do not mention who you meet on weekly basis but has Mr. Baradi requested to meet with you?
Q: How do you think Egyptians see America today? Do you think the Presidency of Obama has helped and what would you do to improve the image of the U.S.? Lift security measures around Embassy?
Ambassador: I can tell you that I would love to see the day when we do not need all this security measures. But the sad truth is, it only takes one crazy person to cause tremendous damage. I don’t know when we will get to the level of confidence to think that that is unthinkable and sadly it is thinkable still.
Look, I have been here now for two years. I like to travel around Egypt. I don’t get out of Cairo as often as I would like, because we always it seems having high level visitors, who we like to have visit. We always take our senior government visitors to see their counterparts in the Egyptian government, but I always like as well to introduce them to civil society, to Egyptians working on issues that they may be interested in. So, I find issues of how do Egyptians feel about the United States – I suspect that it is very mixed. We know that some policies are not fully understood, and may be if they are understood, maybe you just do not agree with them.
But what I seek to do, and hope to continue to do, is to, as President Obama said, let’s just deal with us out of our mutual interest and mutual respect. We may not always come to agreement on every issue, but I certainly can listen to you respectfully and offer my points of views and hopefully you will be equally honest with me. And I think that’s what most Embassies and Ambassadors do.
It is a constant challenge for us, with the resources of information so multiple. I mean, you pick up information on blogs and posts and material coming at all of us 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How do you sort it out? How do you address things and clarify things? It is nonstop. But I think that notwithstanding all this new media, the face to face, people to people activities remain the bedrock of a relationship.
I mean, there was probably a day 500 years ago when you would send a diplomat to the court of a visiting King and he would sit in the court and just talk to the King every once in a while. But that has not been the case in the world for a long, long time.
What is so special about Egypt is that I have found that I can visit just about any place in the country I’ve ever wanted to see. I always find someone at the other side of town that is doing interesting activities. And Egyptian hospitality remains second to none. So even if they don’t agree with what I’ve said, they are always very friendly and hospitable to me which I very much appreciate.