SECRETARY CLINTON: Good afternoon. General Cartwright and I and Under Secretary Burns have just come out of a bipartisan classified briefing with senators, where we talked about recent events in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East. General Cartwright, Under Secretary Burns, and I wanted to come up to Capitol Hill to let our Congressional colleagues know what we’re doing to support Egypt as it works toward an open, accountable, representative government.
It’s very clear that there is a great deal of work ahead to ensure an orderly democratic transition. It’s also clear that Egypt will be grappling with immediate and long-term economic challenges. The United States stands ready to provide assistance to Egypt to advance its efforts. I’m pleased to announce today we will be reprogramming $150 million for Egypt to put ourselves in a position to support the transition there and assist with their economic recovery. These funds will give us flexibility to respond to Egyptian needs moving forward. Under Secretary Burns and David Lipton, a senior White House advisor on international economics, will travel to Egypt next week to consult with Egyptian counterparts on how we can most effectively deploy our assistance in line with their priorities.
In today’s briefing, we also discussed the lessons of the recent events in Egypt and the broader Middle East. These events demonstrate why the United States must remain fully engaged around the world. In Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and so many places, the men and women of the State Department and USAID are working to advance our interests, our values, and most importantly, our national security. This work is vital and it needs proper funding. I told our congressional colleagues that the FY – Fiscal Year 2011 spending bill that is on the House floor right now would have serious negative consequences for America’s national security. The 16 percent cut for State and USAID in that bill would, for example, force us to scale back dramatically on our missions in the frontline states of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
I certainly realize that these are very tough budget times, and we must justify every single penny that we ask for. But as General Cartwright told our Senate colleagues, diplomats and development experts are working side by side with our military troops in those countries to secure the gains we’ve made, and we cannot do the job with two of our three hands tied behind our back.
As the events of the past month have shown, protecting our country and advancing our interests takes constant and coordinated effort from across our government. Congress is a crucial partner in this work. And I look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues here to continue strengthening America’s national security.
General, would you like to say anything?
GENERAL CARTWRIGHT: Thank you. To reinforce how important it is, everybody sees the soldier out there in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with every soldier, there is an element associated with either the State Department, our diplomatic corps, USAID. And they’re absolutely essential, and as we make the transition in Iraq, even more essential to not lose all of the gains and all of the treasure that we have sacrificed by not recognizing that that mission is going to be picked up by the civilians. And it must be resourced.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, could you comment specifically on the recent developments in Bahrain, the crackdown on the protesters? And then also, I’d like to ask you if you would, please, to reflect on a comment when you were there that you made 10 weeks ago? You said, quote, “I am impressed by the commitment the government has to the democratic path that Bahrain is walking on.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: And I am very happy to respond because, as we have said repeatedly, the United States strongly opposes the use of violence and strongly supports reform that moves toward democratic institution building and economic openness.
I called my counterpart in Bahrain this morning and directly conveyed our deep concerns about the actions of the security forces. And I emphasized how important it was that given that there will be both funerals and prayers tomorrow, that that not be marred by violence. I stressed the need to seriously engage all sectors of society in a constructive, consultative dialogue to meet the way forward in accordance with the aspirations of the people.
And there have been reform steps taken, which we want to see continue, we want to see strengthened. We believe that all people have universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly. And Bahrain is a friend and an ally, and has been for many years. And while all governments have a responsibility to provide citizens with security and stability, we call on restraint. We call on restraint from the government to keep its commitment to hold accountable those who have utilized excessive force against peaceful demonstrators, and we urge a return to a process that will result in real meaningful changes for the people there.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, can you explain the UN Security Council statement on settlements at this point, and will the U.S. support sending an envoy on behalf of the UN Security Council to the Middle East conflict?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first of all, there already is a Quartet mechanism, of which the UN is a member, along with the European Union, the United States, and Russia. And we do not see any reason to add anything to the Quartet process. There already is a Quartet envoy that represents all four members.
Our focus is on doing what is best to advance negotiations between the parties that will lead to a two-state solution. And we have consistently, over many years, said that the United Nations Security Council and resolutions that would come before the Security Council are not the right vehicle to advance that goal. So we are working with our partners in the Security Council, with our friends in the region, to find a consensus way forward that is consistent with our overall approach.
There are a lot of rumors flying around, and I’m not going to get into any specifics at this time. The President spoke – our President, President Obama, spoke with President Abbas this morning about the peace process and the broader regional context. I don’t want to get into the details of that call, but our goal is absolutely the same as it always has been – two states living side by side, the Palestinians having a state of their own to realize the aspirations of the Palestinian people, Israel with secure borders and normalized relations with all of their neighbors. That is what this Administration is working toward and that is what we are going to continue to pursue.
Thank you all very much.