DCSIMG

Secretary Clinton: Briefing for the Traveling Press



Special Briefing
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Flight from Munich to D.C.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Did you get the read-out from my interview –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) grappling a little bit with trying to figure out what Wisner said (inaudible) yesterday is whether those two things are actually (inaudible) Wisner, in a slightly less diplomatic way, basically setting out reality as it exists today.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we all respect Frank and his service for many years, and appreciate his travel to Egypt. But he does not speak for the Administration (inaudible). So you would have to ask him what he meant, and how it fits into his view of what’s going on.

But I really want to just take a step back here, and point out that we have been very consistent from the beginning with this situation. We have said consistently, publicly and privately, we do not want to see any violence, we do not want to see violence from the security forces. We want to see peaceful protests. We want to see a process begun that will lead to an orderly transition that has milestones and concrete steps that lead us toward free and fair elections that install a new president who reflects the will and wishes of the Egyptian people. That has been our position. We have said it over and over and over again.

And the fact is we cannot and would not try to dictate any outcome. That is up to the Egyptians. They are the ones who have to work with this new reality that they are facing. But we know what kind of outcome we would like to see for them, for the region, for us. Egypt has the chance to, once again, lead the way. It’s the largest Arab country. It led the way on independence, Arab nationalism. It led the way on peace with Israel. I mean it has a record of being in the forefront of change in the region. And it now has an opportunity to open up politically and economically in ways that will meet the needs of the largely young population that is not only a reality inside Egypt, but the principal voice of the protest.

So there are lots of specifics that people are debating back and forth. They’re being debated within Egypt. And that, I think, is appropriate. But the facts are, as we have laid out, what we think needs to happen and what we hope will.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Yesterday, you know, they (inaudible) Vice President Suleiman leading that transitional (inaudible) see his role (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, I mean I’m not going to comment about it. I am just going to refer you to (inaudible). He announced he wouldn’t run again. He announced his son wouldn’t run again. He announced he was resigning his position of the national party, and his son was resigning his position at the national party. He installed a vice president for the first time in 30 years. Those are significant actions.

Now, they do not constitute an orderly transition and the process leading up to it through dialogue and constitutional reform, creating a new approach to political parties, setting up an election, but I think they have to be viewed as a very important set of steps being taken to keep the movement going in the direction that we seek.

QUESTION: But, Madam Secretary, it does seem that, given all these kind of administrative hurdles that you’ve been talking about these last few days, that it does seem that there seems to be a kind of movement, an inevitability, that he is going to have to — in this transition, that he is — you know, we would like to see this sooner, rather than later, but he is not going anywhere. And that just seems like there is an — there is this reality on the ground, if you will, that dictates that he is going to have to play some role.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That has to be up to the Egyptian people. They have a constitution which, as I understand it — and I am no expert on the Egyptian constitution, never gave it a moment’s thought, really, so now I am trying to play catch-up — as I understand the constitution, if the president were to resign, he would be succeeded by the speaker of the house. And presidential elections would have to be held in 60 days.

Now, the Egyptians are the ones who are having to grapple with the reality of what they must do. And maybe I misheard it, but on CNN this morning, when one of your commentators was interviewing one of the leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Baradei, they were saying, “Well, it’s going to take time.” Now, that’s not us saying it, it’s them saying it.

Because once the protests have gotten the attention of the government — and we’ve seen what the government has done in response — I think there is an effort underway within the civil society, the opposition, the political parties, to say, “Okay, what comes next? And how do we get from where we are to where we want to end up?” That’s a really hard issue. And I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be sitting thousands of miles away saying, “Well, this is what you should do, and that’s what you should do,” and, “Oh, everybody knows that’s self-evident.”

You have a country of 80 million people, 80 million people with a very complex political, economic, and in every other way society. So, what I have been saying is, “Here are our principles. Here is what we want to see at the end of the process. Here is what we are encouraging.” But we’re not directing this. We are not reaching in and telling people what to do. We are sharing what we believe will work, what is most effective. But this is up to the Egyptians. They have to make these decisions.

And I know you guys are under so much pressure. “What does this mean? What does that mean? Who said that?” But take a deep breath. We are making a very clear statement of what we believe, as Americans. And it’s the same message that we have delivered for 30 years. We think democracy works better. We think open economies work better. We think cracking down on corruption works better. We believe all of that, because we think it is in the best interest not only of the Egyptian people, but of everyone else.

Now they are doing — they are taking this, and they are working on it, and they are making their own decisions, and we have to respect that.

QUESTION: Secretary, do you think that the Muslim Brotherhood needs to be a part of the dialogue in the transition?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s up to the Egyptians. But what I heard this morning was the Muslim Brotherhood was going in to meet with the vice president. So, clearly, they have made a decision to participate in the dialogue. How that goes, how long it lasts, that’s for them to decide.

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)

QUESTION: (Inaudible?)

SECRETARY CLINTON: That — I am not going to be pre-judging who should participate in their political process. They have to decide who is going to be eligible to run. What we want is to see an inclusive process.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) Vice President Suleiman and President Mubarak. And a lot (inaudible), at least publicly, two elements of the opposition (inaudible). Are you going to — I mean (inaudible). Are you (inaudible) –

SECRETARY CLINTON: First of all, that’s not true. There has been outreach to a lot of the opposition and civil society leaders. But again, a lot of what we are doing is private, because we do not want to be perceived by anyone as somehow influencing, directing anything. If you’re an opposition leader in Egypt right now, you’re talking to everybody. You’re not only talking to government officials. A lot of the leaders in Egypt are talking to not only different governments around the region, but also to private contacts they know and have trusted. And so there is a lot of that going on.

And to be fair, they are also calling and saying, “How do we do this? What is it that you think would work?” And when I met with all of the leaders I met with yesterday, particularly Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Lady Ashton, everybody has had contacts from a broad cross-section of Egyptian society: the business community, the academic community, and everybody else. And a lot of people are saying, “What can you do to help us? How do you form a political party? How do you prepare for elections? What kind of assistance can you offer to us?”

And I think, as the enormity of the organizational challenge is confronted by responsible leaders of the protest and the opposition, they are saying, “Okay, we’ve got work to do.” I mean that is what you would want them to say, because they do have work to do. There is — there are economic changes, constitutional changes, so much that has to be properly organized. So there is a lot of that going on. There will be even more of it in the future, because we are going to try to work with a lot of like-minded countries around the world to offer whatever assistance we can.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I would say what matters is credibility in the eyes of the Egyptians. And they are the ones who are going to have to resolve that. And there are organizations and individuals whose participation will give credibility in the eyes of some Egyptians, and concerns in the eyes of other Egyptians.

So, I think that this is — we are at a stage in this process where, clearly, dialogue is going on. People are meeting. They are talking. They are reaching out. And we just have to wait and see what decisions are. Because different countries go about designing their electoral systems differently, determining who is eligible to run. And again, this is an Egyptian-led process that we are going to respect.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not talking about the election, I’m just talking about the transition process, and the dialogue.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean I think, to me, without answering specifically as to any organization, what I have urged in my public and private statements is that the process be as broadly inclusive as possible, and that there are people who are already organized and people who are not organized, and people in the business community and other parts of society, all of whom, together, have a contribution to make, as to giving the process credibility in the eyes of Egyptians.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, we are at a stage now where we want the process to be credible, and to set a time table with concrete steps going forward. We always reserve the right to decide, at the end, whether the outcome is one that is or is not immediately in the interests of the United States. But at this point, it’s a very important moment in Egyptian history, and it holds great promise. But, like anything else in life or in politics, there are downsides. We have to see how all of that plays out.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in the region there has been a lot of nervousness from allies, in terms of (inaudible) yourself and President Mubarak feeling (inaudible). What does it mean, American loyalty — what does it mean to be an American ally? Are you concerned that this (inaudible) other foreign policy interests, like Iran and Middle East peace? Because that’s what some leaders are saying.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I understand the concerns of everybody in the region. And as you remember, what I said in Doha last month — I could not have been clearer. I did not honestly foresee either Tunisia or Egypt, but I could not have been clearer about our concerns for all of these governments. And, as I said, it appeared as though their foundations were sinking in the sand, because too many of them have not opened up political and economic space to answer the legitimate concerns of their people.

And in the — 2011, with so many young people, so few jobs, so much conductivity in communications technology, what worked in the past is not likely to keep working. So I feel that we have been a good friend and a good partner over many years in raising issues that we thought needed to be addressed. And as I said earlier today, my job is to advance the values and the interest and protect the security of the United States of America. And we are very clear about our values, and we try to define our interests, and we are adamant about our security. So that means that we often deliver messages to countries and governments that we don’t agree with and see eye to eye with on every issue.

We just had — with Jintao in Washington we made it very clear we don’t agree with China on human rights. So we send those messages all the time. And the fact that both Tunisia and Egypt have had this outpouring of frustration by predominantly young people — as far as we can tell, unorganized, undirected — should send a clear signal to everybody in the region. They have to do a better job of meeting the needs of their own citizens.

QUESTION: Do you see the changes that are underway as making a case for reaffirming the commitment to a peace agreement (inaudible) Palestinians, or do you (inaudible) those in Israel (inaudible) who say that, at a time like this, the last thing we want to do is think about (inaudible) concessions?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I know the argument. I know that it’s being argued inside Israel right now. And I would say two things. Number one, our commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and will continue. In fact, this Administration, under President Obama, has done more in two years for Israel’s security than any administration in the past. So we not only talk about Israel’s security, we have delivered and will continue to deliver.

At the same time, we are persisting in our efforts on the peace process. We had a Quartet meeting yesterday. We set forth an agenda of continuing meetings. And George Mitchell and I and others will press that case, because we continue to believe that it is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinians, and the region. But ultimately, as with all of these (inaudible) issues, it’s up to the parties themselves.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I am not going to put any value statement on it. I am going to say that we are unalterably, unequivocally committed to Israel’s security, and will continue to support, and believe that the peace process is in both Israel’s interests and the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can you give (inaudible) what you mean when you say (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first one, I think that the facts speak for themselves about what we have done to help buttress and support Israel’s security. Some of it is unclassified, some of it is classified. I will give you the unclassified in detail.

But also, with respect to reaching out, we are all reaching out. Jeff (ph) is doing a heroic job. His whole bureau is. Bill Burns is on the phone constantly. I am reaching out, I spoke with (inaudible) just the other day. The President is reaching out. We are on a constant outreach campaign.

QUESTION: Has anyone spoken to (inaudible)?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Everybody has spoken to everybody. Everybody has spoken to everybody. And at different levels, but everybody has spoken to everybody. And our message is the same. “Look, we are absolutely clear that every country be asked to provide more space, more openness.” And each country may be different about how to proceed with that (inaudible) backgrounds, cultures, situations, et cetera. But I think that everybody can do more.

QUESTION: And what kind of response are you getting?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, this is a very traumatic event. And it took a while even to accommodate — what did it mean, and was it going to last, and how would it be responded to. So, you get different responses, Mary Beth.

But I think that as it sinks in, there is a lot of soul searching going on about what more governments can do. And I hope it is, because there is no one-size-fits all. And — right? A formula that applies to every country in the region. But every country in the region (inaudible) says, “What more can I do to stamp out corruption, because it is a cancer that eats away at the hopes of young people looking for jobs?” I mean the young man who set himself on fire in Tunisia, which sparked their protest, apparently not only couldn’t get a job, even though he was a college graduate (inaudible), but was sick of paying for protection from government officials. I mean at some point, stop it. Open your economy. Make jobs available for young people. Give them a ladder of meritocracy and mobility that will begin to answer their needs.

I mean there is so much that could be done. And I mentioned a lot of that in my Doha speech. There is just so many impediments. This is not my conclusion. I mean there was a very important report a few years ago by Arab economists including all of this. This is not just coming from Americans, this is coming from the region from people who know that there is so much talent in the Gulf, in the Middle East, in North Africa, and it has not been given an outlet. So –

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: A lot of the people, they’ve heard it before. They’ve heard me say it before, and they have heard everybody say it before.

QUESTION: Yes, but that’s sinking in the sand.

SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s — well, but I really set out to try to get their attention. I really intended to get their attention, because, look, it’s not in our interests to see upheaval, uncertainty, all that goes with these changes that are occurring. We want to see a move toward democracy, an open economy. We believe it’s so much in the interest of the region.

But there are a lot of governments and people, not just in this part of the world, but around the world, who aren’t very happy with where they are and how they see things, and they begin to see everything through the prism of their own experience. And then you come in as an American, you say, “But this and this and this,” and they go, “No, you don’t understand. No, no, no.” And that kind of is the end of the conversation. You keep going back, you keep trying to push. So –

QUESTION: When you talk about (inaudible) –

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it is complicated in every different place. It depends upon the historical circumstances, the leaders. And it is striking that in Tunisia Ben Ali had been in power for so long — got out of town. I mean he didn’t even have a depth of support within the institutions of his own government that would enable him to even attempt to hang on.

In other places, people feel that they have got a good relationship with their citizens, but maybe they need to do a little more to keep them happy. It just goes from one extreme to the other. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: In the case of Egypt, (inaudible), like a date certain or –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Like, for example — okay, this is just eye observations. Here is what we need to do to amend the constitution to bring it more in line with the kind of democracy and political system we are seeking. So we are going to begin that process, and we hope to have it concluded by date certain.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Here are the laws we’re going to pass to repeal all that is unworkable and oppressive, and here is what we’re going to put into place by date certain. And here is what –

QUESTION: (Inaudible) –

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I mean — yes. I mean, but that’s the — I mean there needs to be an approach which kind of does a very, very clear-eyed look at what exists now, and where you want to get, and what are the lawful mechanisms of reforming a constitution, passing the laws, putting in place an electoral system. There are so many aspects of that. Are there electoral rolls? I don’t know. I don’t know that about Egypt. But I do know, from my long experience, if you do not have good lists of who is eligible to vote, you are asking for trouble in the elections.

So, there is a lot that — and experts from around the world can come in and — “Here are the 10 things it takes to run a credible election. Here is what it will take you, given your present situation, to do to get there. So let’s begin it, and here is how you do it.”

QUESTION: Is the state right now such that (inaudible) –

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know. That’s why I say to you I don’t know what kind of voter rolls exist in Egypt. I have no idea. But I do know that one of our biggest challenges, for example in Iraq, was we had to do a –

QUESTION: But (inaudible) was 99 percent –

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but you’re making my point.

QUESTION: Are you already talking to them about these kind of things? Like, “Let us help you with election law, lists” –

SECRETARY CLINTON: A lot of people are talking to them. A lot of people are. But they are the ones who have to make the lists and ask for the help. I mean we stand ready, as does the European Union, as does so many others, to say, “Look, we have experts in (inaudible) elections. We have experts in holding credible elections. We have experts in writing constitutions.”

We have — I mean we, Europe, other countries, we’ve done this in many places. We just, against all the odds, (inaudible) a peaceful referendum in south Sudan. And three months people didn’t think we could do that. But after a lot of effort, we got there.

And so — and like Kenya, we worked really hard. They had a terrible election when they last had a presidential election, and it caused violence, and it was awful. And we came in, and others came in, and said, “Let us give you a system, if you will take it, that will help you have a credible election.” So we helped them put in place a foundation for the constitutional election. It was held, nobody protested, because it was credible.

So, this is important, to kind of look over the horizon. So you don’t want to get to September, have a failed election, and then people feel, “What did we do? What was the point of all of this?” You want to help set the stage for the kind of credible, legitimate elections that is going to produce winners that people will believe, whether they voted for them or not, “Okay, they represent Egyptian” –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: I think — well, look, I think –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: It is up to them. But I think, with a concerted effort, with the kind of time lines and concrete steps I am calling for, it could be done. But it will take enormous cooperation, not just on the part of the government, but on the part of civil society and political actors. Because we will have to have a buy-in.

If you say, “We are going to amend the constitution by April 1st,” and people say, “Well, that doesn’t give me enough time,” it doesn’t have to be — it could be for many — you’ve got to reach a consensus so that people say, “Okay, we would like a little more time to study (inaudible) do it.”

All of this is painstaking. And the — it’s much easier, ruling by (inaudible). And democracy takes a while to become a familiar institutional experience for people. So removing from one to the other can — when I was talking to Chancellor Merkel, and she was talking about what it was like having grown up in East Germany, totally authoritarian, oppressive, Soviet system until the wall falls, and then all of a sudden people look around and say, “What do we do now?” And she said, “I mean it took six months for people to get their bearings. And all of a sudden, the people who had been the brave, heroic protestors against the East German authorities were looked at like, “Okay, you’re a good protestor, but are you a good leader? Are you somebody who can move from protest to government?”

QUESTION: (Inaudible) difference is that regime (inaudible). There was no regime (inaudible).

SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s not different. I mean it’s different in the way it happened, but it poses some of the same problems.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY CLINTON: And there is no doubt that a lot of the former Soviet republics were left totally confused. What does democracy mean?

I remember going to a lot of the former Soviet states after the fall of the wall in the early and mid-1990s, and I tell you how many of the leaders said to me, “Well, what is this — how does this work? What do you do?” And it sounds funny, but you have one political party, the Communist Party, and that was your only political experience. Then, all of a sudden, you’re in a democratic environment, what does it mean?

And most — we look at the transitions. In most of Europe, with the exception of Belarus, where we just saw, in the midst of Europe, a disastrous election because an authoritarian leader will not give up power, and we’re going to have to pressure him and sanction him. When — with those of you who went with me to Central Asia, their experience has nothing to do with democracy. They are countries that have been struggling to try to figure out. So Kyrgyzstan had an election. That’s all — I mean I just want to put this into a broader context.

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) last question.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about aid question, because I’ve been a little bit confused. You had the White House come out and say aid can be reviewed, depending on events as things play out. You went out last Sunday and said we’re not currently deliberating cutting aid to the Egyptian military.

But let’s say that in three months this process is faltering, or paralyzed, or you see backsliding. Is aid ever part of the equation? Is that a lever the United States can invoke at some point?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let’s go off the record. Nice try. Off the record. Okay, turn all your little machines off.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing about Suleiman, then, before we go off the record? Suleiman — I know you say (inaudible) running a transition is not the same as enforcing it. But you did say yesterday he is running a transition.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes (inaudible) –

QUESTION: Here is my question. The guy is the head of the secret police. These people that are being beaten up by his (inaudible)? Not true?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Off the record.

QUESTION: Why not?

SECRETARY CLINTON: We will go off the record, okay? We will go off the record.

QUESTION: Why is that not true?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Turn off –

QUESTION: Okay.

Disclaimer: The Office of Policy Planning and Public Diplomacy, in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, of the U.S. Department of State manages this site as a portal for international human rights related information from the United States Government. External links to other internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.