Statements to the Press by Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman following his meeting at the Arab League

Cairo, Egypt

Question: Would you please brief us on the meeting.

Assistant Secretary Feltman: I am delighted to be back at the headquarters of the League of Arab States. It was an honor today to meet with his Excellency the Secretary General of the Arab League Nabil el-Araby in order to compare notes about the developments in the Arab world. We discussed a number of issues. Of course, the Secretary General raised the issue of the Israeli/Palestinian talks. We also discussed the various political issues in the region. I also took the opportunity again to affirm the strong United States support for the initiative that the Arab League has taken on to try to stop the violence against the Syrian people. In our view, the Arab League has assumed a very difficult but extremely important responsibility in trying to find ways to assure verification of the Syrian government’s acceptance of the Arab League initiative back in November. The Arab League is playing an extremely important role in Syria today, and we look forward to the results from Sunday’s meeting.

Question: (inaudible – related to NGOs)

Assistant Secretary Feltman: I had the opportunity to discuss the issue of the NGOs with Egyptian officials. Since this is a bilateral issue between United States and Egypt, we didn’t discuss it here but I did have the opportunity to talk with his Excellency the Foreign Minister of Egypt, for example, about the question of NGOs. There is a very exciting transition underway in Egypt that has been going on throughout 2011 when Egyptian people went out into the streets and demanded some basic rights and dignity, to have a say in how they are governed, to be able to play a role in how Egypt is governed in the future. We see this taking place now in the elections in Egypt, for example. It was exciting for those of us in the United States, to watch Egyptian voters go out, in such force, with such enthusiasm, to cast their ballots for parliament, but what these NGOs have been doing is helping provide some of the basic tools, for the Egyptians to meet some of their own aspirations, things like voter education, media training. It was an opportunity today to compare notes with Egyptian officials, on what are the facts in dealing with the NGOs.

Here at the Arab League, my discussions with his Excellency the Secretary General were much more focused on the regional issues in which the Arab League has such insights.

Question: Will the Syrian regime agree with the efforts of the Arab League?

Assistant Secretary Feltman: As I understand it from the Arab League officials, the Syrian regime agreed back at the beginning of November to accept the Arab League initiative. It took six weeks after that for the protocol to be signed on how the moderating mission would operate. Now the moderators are in Damascus from the Arab League to verify compliance or non- compliance of what the Syrian regime agreed to back at the end of November, so all of us who have an interest in seeing the violence stop look forward to what the Arab League will decide after their meeting on Sunday.

Question: (inaudible; related to Iraq, withdrawal of US troops)

Assistant Secretary Feltman: The United States continues to want a strong partnership with the government and people of Iraq. We believe it is in our interest to maintain a strong partnership and we believe that the Iraqis also agree that it is in their interest to keep a strong partnership. We have been renewing and strengthening that partnership based on ties between our civilian institutions, because as you point out, the military has withdrawn, in compliance with our security agreement. Regarding the political tensions in the last couple of weeks, Vice President Biden has talked to a number of Iraqi politicians, our Ambassador on the ground has been doing rotations by Iraqi politicians, to talk to them about our hope that the partnership among Iraqi politicians, a partnership on behalf of Iraq unity, Iraq’s stability will be able to transcend these tensions, and we know there is a lot of contact between the Iraqi politicians themselves right now and frankly what the Iraqi’s are saying to each other; how the Iraqis are working with each other is far more important than what we can do right now.

Question: (inaudible)

Assistant Secretary Feltman: The Security Council is very concerned, as is the world, about the ongoing violence inside Syria, and the Security Council members have had regular briefings from the Secretariat of the United Nations about the developments in Syria. Right now, we are all waiting to see what the Arab League will be saying after their meeting on Sunday, and what the interim report is from the monitors. The Arab League, as I said before, has taken on an incredibly important responsibility, and we want to defer to that meeting on Sunday and let the Arabs have their own discussions first.

Originally posted by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt

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