Good Evening and welcome to our celebration of the 234th anniversary of American independence.
I am particularly happy to welcome:
–The Diplomats, coming to us from Naples, Italy, the rock band component of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band. Their mission is to spread goodwill and enhance the spirit of cooperation—I believe they are in the right place tonight.
–Later this evening, we will enjoy hearing Suzan Abo El Hassan—who began as an instrumentalist, but who’s vocal talent has made her a popular entertainer.
–Finally, I would like to thank Sharon Daves for her beautiful rendering of our National Anthem. She is also the Deputy Director for Global Disease Detection and Response at the Naval Medical Research Unit here in Cairo.
Two hundred and thirty-four years ago, the Second Continental Congress sitting in Philadelphia issued a Declaration of Independence that began the longest, most remarkable experiment in self-government ever undertaken.
This experiment began with a simple, but forceful justification of the decision to declare independence from Great Britain. The declaration drew its primary justification from universal values that the founders of the United States held to be self evident: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among them are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .”
The values upon which the United States established its government remain firm and ever present in our national identity, but the implementation of these values, their interpretation over time has continued to evolve and grow. The citizens of the United States seek constantly to perfect our union and to expand the application of the principles upon which our country was founded.
Most political science classes that examine the American model of government cite the importance of the balancing of power among the various branches of government as security against a reversion to monarchy or the threat of mob rule.
Equally, if not more, important were the first ten amendments to the Constitution—introduced before the ink was dry. The amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, set the course of American history. The history of the United States has been the history of an empowered and protected citizenry who would challenge the government, criticize the government, and demand redress of grievances without fear.
The First Amendment alone guarantees to all Americans: the right to religious freedom, the right to free speech and a free press, the right of the people to assemble peacefully, and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
Had these freedoms not been embedded from the beginning of our history, one can only wonder whether the course of our history would have been the same.
While the U.S. has enjoyed its share of distinguished presidents and other political leaders, most change and development has been led from the bottom up. Civil society—individuals working alone or together—have been the most reliable source of change. It is this restlessness, this continual demand from American citizens that we live up to our ideals, that has driven our progress.
Change has often come amidst great controversy, discord, and sometimes violence. But, with the exception of our Civil War—which I grant is a major exception—the United States has managed to preserve its unity and resolve its disagreements through essentially non-violent debate and compromise.
The abolition of slavery, the enfranchisement of women, universal suffrage, enactment of civil rights and environmental protection legislation, the advancement of rights for the disabled, the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively – all these reforms and advancements were first advocated by committed individual and groups, by an energetic free press, by citizens who demonstrated peacefully but persistently and in large numbers to support the demands for change. Without the role of civil society, one cannot know whether or not government and those elected would have overcome the vested interests and default to the status quo that often impede change.
So, why I am talking about all of this American history on a hot night in Cairo? Because our Independence Day reminds us that the United States is a nation founded on ideas and principles. We have at times in our history fallen short of them in practice. But we always turn back to them for guidance. They have steered us through 234 years of history, and they continue to anchor our identity as a people. They also form the lens through which we see our foreign policy, and our engagement with the rest of the world.
When President Obama came to Cairo last year, he set out to reset the agenda for U.S. engagement with the Muslim world. He spoke to the areas of persistent misunderstanding and sought to clarify U.S. objectives in the region; he outlined areas where he hoped to broaden engagement—in increased cooperation in education, science, technology, and the development of entrepreneurship.
He also spoke to the United States commitment to support the advance of democracy and respect for human rights around the world.
He made clear that the U.S. did not seek to impose a specific system of government on any other country; he recognized that each nation would realize the principle that governments should reflect the will of the people in its own way, grounded in its own traditions.
He echoed the universal principles contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrined in our own founding documents when he expressed his “unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose.”
He pledged U.S. support for these principles everywhere in the world.
I am happy to report that we have been hard at work over the past year, both in Egypt and in the region, to make this vision a reality. I think everyone standing here today understands this is no easy task, and it can’t happen overnight, but I do think we are beginning to see results.
– We continue, in cooperation with many nations, to pursue our goal for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, supporting Iraqi efforts to restore stability and good governance in their country. In Afghanistan, we will defeat Al Qaeda and help the Afghan people resist the influence of the Taliban.
–We are increasing support to education in Egypt; we have increased funding for post-graduate education in the U.S. as well as for training and education in Egypt.
–We are expanding scientific cooperation: by doubling our contribution to the US-Egypt Joint Science and Technology Fund, by focusing on support to science education, and look forward to 2011—the US-Egypt Science year
–We are piloting our efforts to expand support to entrepreneurship in Egypt. We have energized numerous U.S. and Egyptian partnerships aimed at developing entrepreneurial success in Egypt, and will establish an Entrepreneur in Residence in Cairo later this year. In addition, in response to the President’s promise last year in Cairo, the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation has just approved a $455 million in financing to support the establishment of five private equity investment funds designed to catalyze private sector investments that promote technological growth in the Middle East and North Africa. These funds could potentially catalyze more than $2 billion in new investments.
–And we are focusing our support to democracy and human rights in Egypt through support to Egyptian civil society that can be the source of social and economic and political innovation that will benefit all of Egypt.
Thank you for coming tonight and I hope you enjoy your visit to our Embassy.
Good evening. Thank you so much for inviting me here this evening. I feel deeply honored to address Governor Labeeb and feel honored by his presence tonight. I would also like to thank very much the President of Rotary and wish a happy birthday to our friend and to all the members of the Rotary here. Thank you so much for all that you do to provide services and to help others throughout Egypt and the world.
I would especially like to thank the Rotary Club Cosmopolitan of Alexandria, which sponsored this event and Mounir Shehfe, our Master of Ceremonies for this evening.
It is wonderful to be back in the beautiful city of Alexandria. My last visit was too long ago — in September — and I keep telling myself I need to get back much more frequently. Every time I come, I remind myself of how much more I want to see and do in this great city. Whoever wrote this said I was happy to be back among “the refreshing breezes off the Mediterranean and for the warmth and friendliness of the people here.” Well, the people are very warm and friendly, but I have to say it was a little chilly here today amid the raindrops, but I did have sunshine as well. I thank you very much for your hospitality this evening.
This evening is, in my view, part of an opportunity that I want to take advantage of to participate in a dialogue with the citizens of Egypt who want to talk to us. I thought I would start by sharing with you my thoughts on the Egyptian-U.S. partnership and then open up the floor for a discussion. I am eager to get to know you and listen to your ideas on how we can expand and strengthen the ties between our countries. As our new Secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, has said, “Actively listening to our partners isn’t just a way of demonstrating respect. It can be a source of ideas to fuel our common efforts.” I also think that this is what marks and characterizes a relationship between good friends.
And I can think of no better friends than Rotarians. Rotary is one of the oldest, 104 years to be exact, most effective, and well-known initiatives. You are committed to international understanding, goodwill, peace and community service, and you demonstrate this commitment every day.
Rotary started in Chicago in 1905 — and today, there are well over a million Rotarians around the world, with 32,000 clubs in 200 countries, all united in this ideal of community service.
Egypt joined this community very early, in 1929. You have grown from one club with about a hundred members in Cairo to a network of 72 clubs and thousands of members all over Egypt. The first Rotary Club in Alexandria was established in 1930, and you now have 17 clubs in the Alexandria area and the Delta region with more than 500 members.
As you and the Rotarians of Egypt celebrate your anniversary of service to your country, I congratulate you for your work and your contributions to your society. You have much to be proud of and the list of Rotary accomplishments continues to grow.
Thousands of children will benefit from the projects you have done in the past year alone: the Rotary Club of Alexandria Cosmopolitan built the first kindergarten for the deaf and the mute; the Rotary Club of Alexandria Metropolitan funded heart operations; the Rotary Club of Alexandria Pharous built the Childcare Center for children suffering from cancer and the Rotary Club of Alexandria Ramleh furnished it.
You don’t just fund programs for children. You also introduce the next generation to community service through your young “Rotoractors,” who have actively participated in programs at our American Center, including raising awareness of HIV/AIDS, communicating with American counterparts via video conferences, and assisting us with the “Cultures in Harmony” program here in Alexandria, which brought music into the lives of underprivileged children.
These are just a few examples of the hundreds of projects initiated and carried out by individual Rotarians and Rotary Clubs throughout Egypt. Your commitment and success are inspiring to me. You identify the problems, you develop effective partnerships, and you create the solutions that have an immediate impact. You are making a better life for your communities.
And that’s what I want to talk about today – how the Egyptian-American partnership can expand, become more vital and contribute to making life better for people in both our communities. With a new administration in Washington, this discussion is especially timely. President Obama said in his inaugural speech to Americans and to the world, “we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Under President Obama, the United States is beginning a new era of diplomacy and cooperation in which we seek partners with a common commitment to work together, to build together and stand together. The United States cannot solve the problems of the world alone, and the world cannot solve complex problems without America. We are ready to engage governments and civil society to strengthen the foundations needed to support good governance, to promote private investment and development, a free press, wider educational opportunities, stronger healthcare systems, tolerance and human rights.
For over three decades, the United States and Egyptian Governments have been proud partners in a common goal of strengthening peace and mutual understanding in the region. Together, we have worked to help the Palestinians and Israelis agree on a just and lasting solution to their conflict. Egypt’s role is vital and valued, and we very much support the mediation efforts of President Mubarak. The United States is grateful to Egypt for its leadership in seeking a durable ceasefire, and we support Egypt’s continuing efforts in that regard. The United States is committed to vigorously pursuing lasting, comprehensive peace and stability in the region. The decision by President Obama to dispatch Special Envoy George Mitchell to this region less than a week after his inauguration is clear and tangible evidence of this resounding commitment. And I believe that this commitment will be an opportunity to further strengthen the partnership that the United States and Egypt have worked so hard to develop in pursuit of a fair, comprehensive regional peace.
As we strive toward a permanent and sustainable cease-fire, we remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The United States will undertake, maintain, and continue to support humanitarian efforts, and the United States strongly supports Egypt’s call for an international donors’ conference in Egypt next week to facilitate Gaza’s recovery and strengthen the Palestinian economy. Both Secretary Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell plan to attend this event, and we are urging members of the international community to show similar support for the Egyptian initiative.
We see this conference as an opportunity to address, along with other donors and international organizations, both immediate humanitarian suffering in Gaza and support the Palestinian Authority’s plan for the reconstruction of Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian state.
We also work together with Egypt to try to resolve conflict in Sudan that has displaced and destroyed the lives of so many. We are working closely together against the dangers of extremism throughout the region. As a model of moderation and stability, Egypt plays a vitally important role in leading the fight against extremist ideologies and actions throughout the Middle East.
We also partner together to create a more prosperous future through sustainable economic growth, based on free economies and free trade. Over the past three decades, the American people have invested $58 billion dollars in economic and military assistance in Egypt. We support with this assistance Egyptians’ own efforts to build and secure a brighter future. Together, we have built roads and hospitals. Together, we have provided electricity and clean water to the Egyptian people. Together, our partnerships in the area of education have supported the construction of over 2,000 schools, trained thousands of teachers, and delivered high quality libraries to Egypt’s nearly 39,000 schools. We also support microfinance projects for entrepreneurs and small businesses to give Egyptian youth opportunities for rewarding futures. Even as the population has doubled over the last 30 years, life expectancy has soared, infant mortality has plummeted, and literacy has spread throughout the country. Egypt is now a richer, healthier, and better-educated place than it has ever been before in its modern history.
At the same time, Egypt reformed its economy and worked to integrate itself into the global market. As a result, trade has become perhaps the most important aspect of Egyptian-American economic relations. The United States is proud to be Egypt’s largest single trading partner, buying 33% of everything Egypt exports to the world. Between 1985 and 2007, the U.S. and Egypt conducted bilateral trade amounting to more than 88 billion dollars. And the most impressive part of this story is not the size of the trade, but the speed at which it has been growing. In 2008, trade between Egypt and the United States was more than 8.4 billion dollars and over the past six years, this has represented a growth of about 124 percent.
We now face the challenges of ensuring that the blessings of trade and economic expansion spread more broadly so that all members of society have a stake in — and benefit from — these reforms that have taken place.
Despite strong economic performance, 17 percent – this is a World Bank estimate — of Egyptians, mainly in rural areas of Upper Egypt, live on very, very limited resources. I think we can all agree that economic growth that leaves out many people is not sustainable. This sustainable economic growth is related to, and dependent upon, sustainable political and social growth, which includes the growth of the institutions of a democratic and open society as well as all indices of human development, such as health, education and standards of living.
I think this becomes more urgent for all of us. In recent decades, revolutions in communications and information technology have broken down barriers that once kept countries and markets apart, creating now a single, global economy that is more integrated than ever before. In this economy, companies can plant their jobs wherever there’s an internet connection, and the capital goes to the best idea – wherever that may be. In our interconnected world, it is no longer a question of whether things are going to change. It’s only a question of how fast.
One area where I think the Egyptian-American partnership is playing a key role in our globalizing world is educational exchange. Today, we have over 25 programs that foster educational exchange between our two countries, from high school students to advanced doctoral research. In Alexandria, your leading academic institutions are on the forefront of this effort. I made a visit today to Alexandria University to visit one such educational partnership, the Flagship Program, which is designed to accelerate and incorporate the learning of advanced hard languages such as Arabic into the curriculum of US university students. There are also programs there that bring US educational opportunities to Egyptian students. Both the Arab Academy and Alexandria University have partnered with Virginia Tech to offer doctoral programs in engineering. Egyptian students are earning American legal degrees at Alexandria University through a partnership with Indiana University. And at the same time, Alexandria has become a real destination for U.S. students. Middlebury College and U.S. Government’s National Security Education Program have partnered in Alexandria to bring American students here each year to study Arabic, understand Egyptian culture, and enhance cooperation between our peoples as a down payment, I think, for the future.
Academic institutions are just a few of the organizations in Alexandria seeking to promote enhanced international education and exchange. The Bibliotheca Alexandria has partnerships with Stanford University, the University of Maryland, the University of California, Virginia Polytechnic and the University of Minnesota, and they currently have two of their staff on Fulbright grants in the United States.
Let me close by saying that today, and every day, this region is changing, the world is changing, but the need for a strong and vital American-Egyptian partnership remains. And I want to let you know that I am not the only one who thinks this way. I want to share with you something that President Obama recently said. It came from a message that I had the honor of delivering two weeks ago to the American University in Cairo as they celebrated the opening of their new campus. Even though it was written for that occasion, I think it is highly relevant to all aspects of our partnership and friendship. I would like to share it with you.
He wrote, “As Americans and Egyptians representing many different backgrounds, philosophies and faiths, we can and should enjoy a productive and close relationship. We can and should work toward common goals and interests. Together, we can and should work for peace, better educational opportunities for our children, and more opportunities for all.”
So I will end and offer you my firm commitment to working with you and our friends in Egypt to continue to strengthen our cultural, educational, philanthropic, political, and economic partnerships. I hope you will join with me. I think we have, together, over the last 30 years, created numerous channels for this partnership that we can continue to use to strengthen and to invest further resources that will sustain our bilateral relationship in the future and make it stronger. All of us, Americans and Egyptians in both our great countries, like those of you here in Rotary, in the private sector, in academia and in civil society, have an important role to play. And let us commit ourselves to providing the kind of partnership that will lead not just to better understanding, but to really positive actions that will improve the lives of people in Egypt, the region and all across the world.
Thank you again for inviting me here this evening, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, observations, and answering the easiest questions that you have for me.
Ambassador Margaret Scobey
Rotary Club Cosmopolitan Alexandria
February 22, 2009, 7:30 p.m.
Question: Thank you Madam Ambassador for this interesting speech. It does inspire hope. And we’ve got some interesting questions. [Arabic]
Question: The questioner would like to know your vision, or your ideas, your thoughts about what effect the international monetary crisis will have on the United States and the other economies that have a surplus, such as China, Russia and Iran, over the next ten years.
Ambassador Scobey: Someone said before I began my remarks that they look forward to hearing my thoughts about the future – I have to warn you right away that I have no predictive powers about the economic challenges before us. I think one of the elements that I referred to in my remarks and I think that certainly I have experienced in my life and career is how over the last, over the last 20-30 years, certainly our planet has shrunk. Our, as we talked about, our communications technologies have only gotten greater, we literally live and work in the same economic marketplace, we live and work in the same intellectual marketplace, and my prediction is, that is not going to change.
We have some great financial challenges in the United States and we have learned that what happens in one major economy certainly has effects in other places around the world. The United States is committed to addressing our own domestic economic issues and to working with others around the world to assure that we can do the best to assure that our individual national actions are cooperative and that don’t work at cross purposes and that we look to the future to develop perhaps better systems and better ways to avoid problems in the future. But it will be a very interesting time I’m sure for those economists here as they look at the situation. It is one that certainly is difficult currently and I think we can all only gain by the hopes that our governments and our economic thinkers work together to figure out, as I said, how best to maximize our individual efforts for a common improvement. But I don’t have any great predictions on the next ten years on the world economy.
Question: Thank you. Mrs. Ana Gadowi is asking when you expect the US will get out of its present economic crisis and will the present crisis affect US investments in Egypt?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, I think that you have seen a remarkable series of efforts by the United States to respond to this crisis. Last fall, during the last few months of the last Administration, the US Congress took some emergency measures to attempt to stabilize the banking system and the financial sector in general in the United States. And President Obama and, well, the US Congress just passed, I think it was a little over a week ago, the largest economic stimulus bill, certainly, in our history, with projected spending over the next two years of close to 800 billion dollars. The President has also announced his intention to announce details within the next several days of a plan to help our very troubled housing industry. The United States will do everything that it must do to address our economic problems. As I think we all realize that, as I said, what affects one major economy affects other major economies as well, and I know that Egypt, while you have been mercifully insulated somewhat from the financial problems because of a very solid, and perhaps conservative, banking system, certainly the downturn in global trade in general affects Egypt, like every other country around the world. So we will continue, the United States will continue, to do what we can to address our own individual problems and, as I said, to work with other countries around the world, and I know Egypt is doing the same.
Question: Okay, let’s change the topic. Madam, can we hope for a reopening of the US Consulate in Alexandria? Dr. Samir Helmy Assad, President of the Rotary West.
Ambassador Scobey: Well, it’s something that I’ve thought of a lot. I think that I would love to see the US Consulate open in Alexandria. I can’t guarantee I can produce it, but I can promise that I will certainly look at it and try to decide what it takes to get this done. A city this large, this important, in my view it would be fully appropriate. So, I will look for a way to see if we can do this. [applause]
Question: Can we move on to some politics, then?
Ambassador Scobey: Sure.
Question: Okay. Do you think that in the near future, we will see the US act more fairly in the Arab-Israeli conflict without blindly supporting one party over the other? Past President Assem Abdel Azin.
Ambassador Scobey: I think that US policy over the last several decades has been based on several principles that really are fair, and most recently, the United States’ vision and declared goal is a two-state solution, where Israel and the Palestinians each have their independent state, living side by side, each in security, each in prosperity. And that remains very much the US goal for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States also realizes that it is part of a larger historic conflict and that we would hope to be able to look toward comprehensive solutions. The United States has not announced any new initiatives yet, but I think it is important that President Obama announced, within a week of his inauguration, the naming of a very distinguished statesman with a long history of very balanced, fair, hardworking, dedicated efforts towards peace in Northern Ireland to take on the job of his Special Envoy to the Middle East. So he has turned to a very experienced and distinguished American. He already has the support and assistance of Secretary Clinton. He has a team that I think is going to look very, very actively and energetically at what the United States can do to advance a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians and to advance a comprehensive peace. So I think very much that we can look forward to a very active US policy that seeks these goals.
Question: Thank you. We have a comment, Madam Ambassador. The comment says, procrastination, with regard to solving a problem is equal to more suffering, more loss of life, more destruction, and a waste of resources. This is a major factor in national depression and anxiety. What do you think?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, I think that the United States, along with every other country in the world, looks forward to the day for a comprehensive peace in this region. No one, no one can look at what has happened over the last several years and not regret every single loss of life, every single injury, every single day when people in this region have been fearful for their lives, instead of being more concerned about building their businesses, educating their children. So, the United States shares deeply the sense of urgency and the sense of forward motion desired to resolve these issues. So, yes, we think it’s time to get a peace resolved, and hopefully there will be partners throughout the region to do this.
Question: That’s good. The American people and nation are the most generous nation in the world, while at the same time, anti-American feelings are growing worldwide, mostly in the areas where US money is flowing. What’s wrong in this equation?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, it is disturbing, I think. No American citizen likes to hear about polls, or opinion polls around in any country of the world, which reflect negatively on the United States. But I think the United States consistently dedicates a lot of effort to trying to explain our point of view, not necessarily always realizing that we’re going to come to an agreement on certain aspects of our policy, but I think the United States devotes enormous resources and attention to trying to communicate clearly what we’re about and to trying to listen respectfully to the opinions of others. I can’t explain to you everything that has happened over the last 10 or 15 years. I think there have been many, many changes both in the region and around the world, many of which have been very, very positive in terms of developing communications abilities and new technologies, and many that have been very unhappy and unfortunate in terms of what has seemed in some cases like a growth of misunderstanding between cultures and people. I think we always have an opportunity, however, to re-look at these things, to look around us at our fellow inhabitants of this planet and to figure out ways where we can talk to each other with, as President Obama said, mutual respect and mutual interest. And that is a pledge the United States will make. I hope that it improves opinion polls, but at the end of the day, I don’t think any country really governs itself based on opinion polls. We do it based on our interests and our own view of what we need to do to secure ourselves economically and physically and in all ways.
Question: Thank you. I think this answers part two of the question, which was what is needed to be done to correct this, and which areas need to be addressed to make it better. Thank you for answering this. We’ve got a series of questions about the Ayman Nour issue. Would you like to go into that?
Question: Do you see a link between the closing of Guantanamo and the release of Ayman Nour in Egypt?
Ambassador Scobey: No. That had not occurred to me, no.
Question: We have questions from the press in Arabic, I will read this in Arabic if you will allow me. [Arabic] From Al Masry Al Youm. Did the American Administration have an influence on the release of Ayman Nour and what is the understanding of the liberties in Egypt? How do the Americans see the situation for liberty in Egypt and has Egypt reached a balanced level in this respect?
Ambassador Scobey: The United States welcomed the release of Mr. Ayman Nour, and we understood it was done by the Government of Egypt out of concern for his medical situation. And we think this was a very positive step. With regard to what is the state of the situation in Egypt, I think that that is a question, in many, many ways, most ways, best answered by the citizens of Egypt. The United States has a long-term interest in the promotion of human rights and democratization, but we also know that each country has its own way forward, has its own culture and traditions, and our goal is to be supportive of political and social development, as we have tried to be supportive of economic development and reform in Egypt and other countries around the world. We publish every year reports on human rights, religious freedom, among other things, and I think it says very clearly what we believe the factual situation has been. It’s a report we take seriously, we invite people to read and to comment upon, and to correct it if we’re wrong. But we also see that it is up to the citizens of Egypt to develop their own agenda for reform according to their own interpretation of their interests. We support, as I said, the United States supports democratization, we support the respect for human rights and we always have, and I think we always will continue to do so.
Question: Thank you. We’ve got a whole series of questions about Ayman Nour, which are all similar, so I suppose this covers the subject. How does the US intend to improve the situation in Gaza and Palestine in general, in a fair and impartial way?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, I think we talked about this earlier. The United States is committed to a two-state solution that will have Israelis and Palestinians, each in their separate states, living in security and prosperity. The United States has expressed very, very deep concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and has endorsed very much, I think the United States has already this year released over 120 million dollars to go toward Gaza relief, primarily through international organizations like UNRWA and the Red Cross, and the Secretary of State and Senator Mitchell will come to Egypt next week with other donors to consider additional pledges of support. This is what we can do for Gaza right now. There is much that Egypt is doing to try to support a recovery of Gaza politically as well as physically, and I think these are important steps that Egypt is trying to take. There are many things that the Palestinians must do for themselves, of course, as well. We believe in trying to support, as I said, a durable cease fire, and to support Egyptian efforts in that regard, as well as their efforts to promote reconciliation and the reconstruction of Gaza.
Question: Okay. Who or what defines US policy and is not affected by the change of Presidents?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, our system is, like most large countries, we have many voices, many sets of interests, and, fortunately, we have the institutions that help us balance those voices and institutions. The Constitution of the United States allows the President to set out policy, to set out a direction. He gets to decide what is going to be our foreign policy, what is going to be our economic policy, what laws would he like to see passed. But our Constitution also gave us a balancing factor, which is the US Congress, and the President does not have the authority to fund anything. So any idea that the President has must be presented to Congress and they, and only the Congress, can agree to fund US policies and initiatives. So it is easy to say who makes policy, but it is, in fact, a very complex process that has to take a lot into account. As I said, our Congress is the one that acts on recommendations for laws, that has to come up with the money to fund policies and initiatives, and if you follow our political system you would realize that the Congress itself, before making important decisions, makes a great deal of effort to reach out to citizens, to have hearings, at which they invite not only witnesses from the government, but also witnesses from civil society and non-governmental organizations, to give their opinions on what this law, or what this spending package, or what this policy means for them. So it is, our system is one that has very clear constitutional separation of powers, but one that also really tries to draw in a great variety of voices and a great variety of interests and to figure out the way forward for our country.
Question: Thank you, I think that answers your question, Tarek. In the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, what would the situation be for Jerusalem?
Ambassador Scobey: Well, we have always maintained this is one of those issues that the parties to the conflict have got to resolve on their own.
Question: And the last question – I think the Ambassador has been more than generous with her answers – [Arabic] what is the situation with the free trade agreement between Egypt and the USA?
Ambassador Scobey: There really has not been a lot of discussion of that aspect of the President’s policies in the future. The Cabinet is mostly named, but there are still some economic positions still to be filled. There have been no new announcements or initiatives on that front right now, so we’ll have to stay tuned and see what the policy on this is going to be.
Question: Thank you. I believe we have answered most of the questions that have come forward. There has been a lot of repeats. If you haven’t heard your question it’s because it was covered elsewhere or covered in the interesting words of her Excellency the Ambassador.
Ambassador Scobey: Thank you all.
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.
Ambassador Margaret Scobey: Towards a Culture of Sustainable Communities, Economies and Environment Conference
Good morning, and thank you very much Dr. Nadia Ebeid and Dr. Laila Iskandar, for inviting me to join you this morning with very distinguished Egyptian and international guests.
As a guest myself in Egypt, I can also warmly endorse Dr. Nadia’s invitation and recommendation that while you are visiting Egypt you take advantage of one of the most fascinating set of cultural and historic opportunities that you will ever have. I know many of you come from places also with deep and long of histories, but certainly a visit to the Pyramids or the Egyptian Museum is well worth your time.
It is an honor to be here to participate in this conference. It’s a good chance, obviously, for national and international organizations to share their experiences, identify common needs and approaches, and plan a way forward around the theme of sustainable development.
And I think that, as Dr. Nadia said, sometimes it seems that international cooperation can be improved in this area. And I suspected that is much of what we will focus on today.
Back in January of this year, President Obama used his inaugural speech to make a pledge to people all around the world. He said, “we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”
Today, we are gathering for the United States side to help turn those words into deeds. Over the next three days, you will discuss and think about broad topics like globalization and its impact on urban and rural development, health, water and sanitation, environmental degradation and conservation, alternative livelihoods systems, economic justice, and civic participation.
I hope that the discussions here will also move us collectively forward to finding common ground as partners and common solutions to challenges that we all face. Secretary Clinton said, our work together reflects a commitment to people “in the rural villages and distant cities where people strive to live, work, learn, raise families, contribute to their communities, and grow old with dignity. These are universal dreams that we seek to make a reality for more of the world’s people.”
- The U.S. government is proud to have worked in partnership with the Egyptian government and local partners for over thirty years to make these lofty words a reality in Egypt. Over the past thirty years, the United States people have contributed $28 billion in economic assistance to Egypt, including $2 billion in the last five years.
- Our collaborative efforts and partnerships have produced tangible results. Now I will just give you a few examples taken from what this partnership has produced in just the past five years:
- We built more than 30 water and wastewater facilities in Fayoum, Beni Suef, and Minia governorates, benefitting more than three million people;
- We have placed 24 million new books in 39,000 Egyptian public school libraries,
- We have helped to increase child immunization rates to 92%,
- We have worked together with local partners to decrease lead pollution levels in Shoubra El Kheima by 75%,
- We have helped again to support the establishment of the Child Protection Committees in all 29 governorates across the country, produced a nationwide human rights education campaign and distributed 180,000 children’s books on human rights,
- And we have contributed to the conservation of major historic sites at Bab Zuweyla in Islamic Cairo.
I could go on, but I just cite these few examples to make a point: our work together advances progress, peace and prosperity. But our work is far from finished. We have much work to do, starting right here at this conference.
This conference is part of the USAID-funded Education for Sustainable Development Project, which has worked across a range of development areas in order to help communities in Egypt sustain their own development in the future.
For the past two years, the project has introduced the concept of Education for Sustainable Development to communities across the country. The project aims to help people develop the attitudes, skills and knowledge necessary to make informed decisions for the benefit of themselves and others. The project’s activities have assisted people to better understand the world in which they live and have empowered them to act for positive economic, environmental and social change.
Becoming better informed about sustainable development begins with an understanding of the global realities we all face, including our interdependence with one another. Connecting those global realities to local circumstances is the key to empowering people to make a difference through their own actions.
This project has brought learners and teachers together to think about and discuss a broad range of topics including health, water and sanitation, environmental degradation, and conservation. It has raised awareness and promoted civic participation and inclusion. The project has also provided NGO’s and schools with the training and tools they need to play a vital role in the transition to sustainability.
Socially responsible, environmentally sensitive, and economically viable communities are crucial as we work towards a sustainable future in the 21st century.
Being here in Egypt, a magnificent country with unprecedented natural resources – the mighty Nile River, the pristine mountains of Sinai, the unspoiled beaches and coral reefs, and the seemingly endless deserts – we are constantly reminded of both the splendor and fragility of the world we all share. The U.S. government is proud to be your partner and to work alongside you to fulfill President Obama’s vision of a future in which farms flourish, clean waters flow; bodies are nourished and every child has the opportunity to learn, thrive and prosper.
Thank you for inviting me to join you here today.
Good afternoon. I am truly overwhelmed at the warm welcome that I have received on my first trip to the Modern Sciences and Arts University of Egypt. I cannot express fully my thanks to Dr. Nawal El Degwi, or Mama Nawal as I understand that she is referred to throughout Egypt. The founder of this institution and a great leader and visionary in education in Egypt, I thank her for the introduction and for the invitation to see this beautiful campus and meet the students and professors, if even for a short period of time.
I have had the chance to take a brief tour of this very large, impressive campus, meet with some of the senior faculty administrators, and look at some of your graduation projects and the performance of your fellow students. I visited the dental clinic and was so impressed to see not only the state-of-the-art lab, but also the state-of-the-art leadership of the faculty and students who give back to their community and their country by providing free dental services to people who need it.
My reaction to this university is… the first reaction is of course, is “wow, what a beautiful campus!” These building are beautiful: they are marble, they are beautifully decorated. But I think that is probably the least important element of any great university. They key elements of a great university are leadership and vision, and the coming together of students and faculty and leaders who are all excited at learning and at teaching. I think you find that here in this university and it is what explains the amazing success you have had in a very short period of time to turn an idea, a paper plan, into reality, and that clearly does not happen without an enormous commitment and desire not only from students, but from the founders of the university, to the board of trustees that direct it, and the senior faculty and staff that everyday interact with the student population. So, I congratulate you all, at all levels, for your amazing achievement.
It’s an honor to have the chance to talk to you today and I thank you for taking a little bit of time from your studies and work here to meet with me. I’ll just make a few remarks and then I look forward to hearing from you and answering any questions you might have.
My message today is really quite simple, and it’s a message that I’m happy to deliver throughout Egypt, which is that the the United States enjoys having been a partner to Egypt over the last 30 years and looks forward to continued partnership and developing our relationship. We want to be your partner in education and economic growth; in science and technology, as well as in sports, culture, and civil society. We want to be your partner in peace and join together with you, as people and as governments, to secure the region and our world for the peace, the prosperity, the human rights and the dignity that is the birthright of every woman, man and child.
When President Obama came to Cairo and gave his historic speech at Cairo University last June, he said he came to Cairo “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive. They need not be in competition and need not fear each other. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — such as justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all mankind.”
These principles do not belong to any one nation. They are universal and represent the dreams and hopes of people around the world. They are also at the heart of the Egyptian-American partnership. They guide our official relations, and they shape our cultural exchanges, our trade relations and our personal friendships. They are also our compass for expanding and sustaining our efforts to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek together, and to respect the dignity of each other, and as I said, of all human beings.
We invite you, the students and faculty at MSA, to join in this partnership and in this new beginning.
One obvious area where we can partner is education. Since I have been in Egypt for almost 2 years now, the one constant element that Egyptians all speak about to me and to each other, is a common belief that the future greatness of Egypt depends upon its ability to educate its citizens for the future. In the United States, we look at Educational exchange as perhaps one of the most effective means that we have of broadening dialogue between our countries and creating the mutual understanding and respect that promotes cooperation and nurtures open-minded, thoughtful leaders, in the U.S., in Egypt, and around the world.
More and more Egyptian students are studying in the U.S., either through organized exchange programs or independently. Last year, more than 1900 Egyptians were enrolled at U.S. universities. That is an 8.4% increase over the previous year, and marks the third year in a row that the number has increased significantly. They joined over 671,000 other international students in the U.S., which is the biggest number of foreign students ever to study in our colleges and our universities.
We welcome and are glad to see more Egyptians studying in the U.S. and we want to do everything that we can to create even more opportunities for Egyptians to have a U.S. educational experience. To that end, the United States government supports more than 25 different educational and cultural exchange programs with Egypt each year targeting high school students, university students, professors, graduate students, and other professionals. There are opportunities designed especially for undergraduate students like you. One program is called the Near East South Asia Undergraduate, or NESA, program. It provides an opportunity of one year of study at a U.S. university. There are also five to six week summer programs, such as the Study of the US Institutes for Student Leaders and the Middle East Partnership Summer Program for Student Leaders.
These programs usually begin accepting applications in November. This year we have received a record number of applications for our undergraduate programs – including a large number from MSA students, we are proud to say.
We would be happy to keep you updated on all our programs through our Embassy website and encourage you all individually to be our guests to join our Facebook page. Don’t ask me for details, I don’t know how it works that well, but I suspect all of you do. If you join us there, we will make sure you know when and how to apply for NESA and other programs.
Another program that I hope you think about for the future, if you are an undergraduate , is the Fulbright Program. It has sent over 5,000 Egyptians on scholarship programs to the United States since 1949, and has also brought American scholars to Egypt on a wide range of research projects in the sciences, arts, history, political science, and language studies. I am proud to point out that among these 5,000 Fulbrighters, 6 are members of the MSA faculty, and I am a Fulbright Alumnus myself.
This program has celebrated its sixtieth anniversary last year and is the oldest Fulbright program in the Middle East. It is a terrific program and as I said, I had my first overseas experience on a Fulbright when I studied in Spain in the 1970’s.
I mention this program in particular because next week the Fulbright Commission will announce a call for applications for their Egyptian Student and Scholar Programs. So I hope that you look at that. The Student Program will accept recent graduates of Egyptian universities to study in the United States for up to two years in a master’s program and will select bachelor’s and master’s degree students for Fulbright Science and Technology Ph.D. programs. Details of these programs can be found on our website and on our Facebook page, if you join us there.
Besides these exchange programs, I also want to let you know about the EducationUSA advising program. Together with our partner, AMIDEAST, we support EducationUSA advisors in Cairo and Alexandria who arrange seminars for Egyptian students on topics such as “Choosing a U.S. University,” and “How to Finance Your Education.”
These advisors also offer sessions for specific majors, like pharmacy and engineering studies. For example, today at 5 p.m. there is a session for students interested in studying business in the U.S.
These sessions are all free and are offered several times a week. You can get the schedule and sign up for these sessions through our EducationUSA Facebook page. If you are thinking about exploring opportunities to study in the U.S. this is a good place to start: at an EducationUSA advising session.
In addition to educational exchange in the U.S., we can be your partner right here in Cairo. Just as you have so kindly opened the doors of your university, I want you to know that the doors of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo are open to all Egyptian students, too.
In our consular section, we take great pride that student visa applications always receive next-day appointments. In our Information Resource Center, students and scholars enjoy free access to more than 7,000 books, databases, magazines, journals and digital collections on our Internet stations. Our cultural programs, both at the Embassy and at venues across Cairo, promote debate and dialogue through video conferences, musical performances, lectures and workshops. For example, next Wednesday, February 10th, at 4 p.m., we will host a video conference with Sonia Sanchez at the Embassy. Sonia Sanchez, a leading American poet, will read from and discuss a selection of her work addressing the evolution of African-American society since the middle of the 20th century. We would be happy if you could join us for this session next week.
I also wanted to mention that we are doing more and more to bring American students and faculty where we can to Egypt, these exchanges in order to live up to their concept, is to bring people both from directions. We have, for the first time this year, brought about a dozen or 20 or so, American high school students to live with Egyptian families, pursue a year in an Egyptian high school and we sponsor a number of other language programs, Fulbright and other programs to bring American students here, to help work on their Arabic primarily, but also for scholarships, as well.
In addition to what the U.S. government does, there is an enormous interest in Middle East Studies in the U.S. and many private and public universities offer special programs for their students to study in the Middle East. Cairo is often at the top of the list, and I gather you have a number of American students here, as well as faculty, some of whom I’ve met.
Again, I invite you to join and look at our Embassy Facebook page, where you will get the latest information about what we are doing. This is how we keep our doors open 24 hours a day. We try to keep it constantly updated with information on events as well as videos, podcasts and stories about American culture and society. Please join us so that we may keep in touch with you and make sure you know about the ways we can expand and strengthen our partnership as countries and as people.
I thank you so much for giving me this opportunity to talk with you. And to bring to your attention the opportunities for educational exchange and study in the United States. I hope I will be running into you, either during the rest of my time in Egypt or (who knows?!), in the U.S., as you pursue your education. Thank you very much.
I’m happy to take questions from you or listen to comments.
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 : Welcome, everyone. I’m delighted to answer your questions today. One of things I most enjoy about my job is the opportunity to meet and speak to Egyptians from all around Egypt. Just this week, I was in Gharbiya Governorate and learned about the economic dynamics of the area. I visited a school and learned about their science and reading programs, and met some of the outstanding students there. The president of Tanta University and I discussed possible areas of future cooperation, and I had the opportunity to meet and hear from women from the Governorate who would like to stand as candidates in the next local election. At the end of the day, I was graciously hosted by Mr. Sayed El Shazly, of Shazly Commercial Dairy, and I learned about the productive relationship they have with the US Grains Council and the American Soybean Association, and saw their herd of American Holstein cattle. I’d especially like to thank General El Shenawy, Governor of Gharbiya, for his kind hospitality during my visit.
My hope is that I can visit every Governorate in Egypt, because I find that I learn so much more about Egypt and Egyptians when I’m out of my office and talking directly to people from all over Egypt. Your stories and our shared history have created a strong connection between Americans and Egyptians for more than 150 years. To document this longstanding partnership, we recently published a collection of photographs owned by the US Embassy in a book called “The United States and Egypt, 150 Years of Friendship.” This pictorial history highlights different aspects and phases of the relationship, from political and diplomatic relations through war and peace, to our enduring cultural and historical ties. We hope to have this online soon so that everyone can have a chance to see it.
With that, let’s begin with your questions.
Abdallah Abu Enaja : Hello Ambassador Scobey, First, What realistic plans do the USA government have to persuade Muslims that the war against terrorism isn’t a war to terminate Islam ?
Second , in case you have these plans , do you touch effective co operation in carrying out these plans on the side of the governments of The Islamic countries ?
Finally , thank you and the USA government for every helpful hand given by you to the peace , prosperity and welfare of every part on Earth.Thank you.
Ambassador Scobey : Abdallah, thank you for your question and your kind words.
In President Obama’s speech in Cairo, he reminded us that Islam has always been a part of America’s story. He said that our second President John Adams wrote: “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.” And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, they have stood for civil rights, they have started businesses, they have taught at our universities, they have excelled in our sports arenas, they have won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers – Thomas Jefferson – kept in his personal library.
There are nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.
Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the United States government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.
The Embassy manages a range of exchange opportunities and cultural programs aimed at exposing Egyptians to life in America and in particular, the fact that America is in no way at war with Islam. In fact, one of our International Visitor programs provides opportunities for graduates from the Faculty of Islamic Studies at Al Azhar University to study and conduct research in the United States. In terms of cultural programming, the Embassy invites speakers to discuss the situation of Muslim-Americans in the United States and how Muslim-Americans are actively engaged in the political sphere and civil society.
Walid : hello sir , i walid student . i want study in usa . so what can i do to travel and study – walid
Ambassador Scobey : Walid, I’m delighted you want to study in the U.S. Please take a look at the Embassy website and at our Facebook Study USA- Egypt page. There are opportunities for all types of students and teachers, and we welcome Egyptian students in the U.S. Through our partner, AMIDEAST, we offer information sessions on how to apply, and even how to obtain financial aid. The number of Egyptian students enrolled in U.S. institutions of higher education has been increasing for the last 3 years, and last year, it reached 1,900 Egyptian students.
Martin : Dear Sir or Madame: My fiancé and I will be saying our wedding vows in front of the pyramids [2-14-2010] and would like have the ambassador Margaret Scobey (or a US representative) to be the officiate. We will have the marriage legalized the day we fly out to Egypt in California. We are an adventurous couple and would like to have a exciting way to say our vows to each other. The ceremony will only consist of the wedding couple and photographer and will not take too long. We would appreciate any assistance you may have to offer. email@example.com
MARTIN C-H NGUYEN, ESQ.
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Martin, Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials (and on your creativity too!) I think you will have a memorable time in Egypt if you celebrate your marriage here. Unfortunately, Ambassadors, unlike a ship’s captain, do not have marriage authority, so I can’t officiate. But I do encourage you to visit Egypt and recommend that you consult the Egyptian Embassy in Washington regarding your desire to be married in front of the pyramids. I can’t think of a more magnificent symbol of an enduring relationship than the Great Pyramids of Giza.
yoeseph al : since jan 23 of the year 2008 till now i see the realtion between usa and egypt is realy great in all topics what i need from you honor is to make sure that all the help that usa give to egypt goes to real public of egyptain people if is it possible i will be under your service the rest of my life and thanks alot for all any way u r such great person
Ambassador Scobey : Thanks for your question. I am proud of the way USAID programs are designed to improve the quality of life for ALL Egyptians. A quick glance at some of the accomplishments that have resulted from the work we have undertaken with our partners in Egypt over the last five years will show you how our programs reach a broad range of the population:
Libraries in all 39,000 Egyptian public schools, totaling over 24 million books;
A 216 percent increase in the number of microfinance borrowers, many of whom are women who are the sole family provider;
A 26 percent reduction in the infant mortality rate, a 31 percent reduction in the children under five mortality rate, and a 16 percent reduction in the mortality rate for women during, or soon after, pregnancy;
Improved drinking water service for more than five million people living in Alexandria;
Farmer incomes have almost doubled for members of horticultural producer associations set up with USAID assistance; and
Lead pollution levels have been reduced by 75% in Cairo’s densely populated Shoubra El Kheima area.
I think these statistics, a small sample of our achievements, speak for themselves and clearly demonstrate the wide reach of our programs in Egypt. And let me assure you that we have audit offices in USAID whose full time job is to ensure that our money is well spent and that it reaches the targeted people. We do have a strong monitoring system on all our money and activities.
KHALID METWALY : Ambassador Margaret Scobey , I apreciate your conference today , i wanted to meet with you at the embassy one day but i guess its hard .
I am an Egyptian American , Currently in Egypt , I won a foundry for steel , The foundry is currently not operating however , my question is , The American Aid to Egypt , Can i have a chance in getting a part of this Aid that will help me run the foundry and make it a successfull place?
we estimate the number of Egyptian workers will be 600 workers and that will provide good living for all these workers . Please advice how to apply to get this Aid.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question, Khalid. A major portion of USAID assistance has focused on strengthening Egypt’s private sector. USAID does not invest, however, in individual business enterprises. I would be happy to have someone in the Economic section of the Embassy contact you to see if we have any ideas that may be of use to you. You can send your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will call you.
Gamal Essam El-Din : My question to her excellency ambassador Scobey is that how does she see the impact of the US State Department’s annual reports on human rights and religious freedoms on the relations between America and Egypt? The Egyptian foreign ministry’s spokesman Hossam Zaki harshly criticised these reports, wondering who gave a certain country the right to judge the situation of human rights in another country? Not to mention that Mr Zaki said that most of the information cited by the reports of US state department’s on human rights and religious freedoms in Egypt are entirely unfounded. How do you respond?
Gamal Essam El-Din
Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper
Ambassador Scobey : The US believes strongly that all individuals should be allowed to exercise freely the human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This belief is central to our value system and to our foreign policy. One of those fundamental freedoms is the freedom to practice a religion without a state interfering or oppressing that practice. These are not just American values – these are agreed to be universal values. Respect for these values are cornerstones for every healthy society, fostering tolerance and respect among different communities and allowing nations to become more stable, secure and prosperous.
Two days ago, Secretary Clinton outlined the US Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century. She said, “A commitment to human rights starts with universal standards and with holding everyone accountable to these standards, including ourselves.” She pointed to President Obama’s executive order on his second day in office prohibiting the use of torture by a US official. She also noted that next year’s State Department annual report on human trafficking will include the US for the first time, and we will participate through the UN in the Universal Periodic Review of our own human rights record. So yes, it’s important to hold ourselves accountable to the same standards. As Secretary Clinton said, “Often the toughest test for governments, which is essential to the protection of human rights, is absorbing and accepting criticism.” The American experience shows how we’ve struggled with this, from internment of Japanese Americans in the 1940s to the discrimination embodied in Jim Crow laws of the American South.
As for the Human Rights Report and the International Report on Religious Freedom, we welcome contributions that would make it more accurate. These are large reports and we are required to answer a large number of questions. We do our best to answer them factually. We invite anyone to come to us and say, “I think you are wrong here, this is really what happened.” When we prepare these reports we seek a variety of opinions and sources, including the government, civil society, individuals and news reports. We also try to fact-check and look for corroboration of incidents so we don’t just take one person’s word about what happened. One thing I would like to point out is that the National Commission of Human Rights of Egypt publishes an annual human rights report, and when I compare the summary of that report with the issues raised in our report, they are very similar.
Ra’ed Mohamed : I hope you accept my appreciation and respect to the efforts of the US governemnt in supporting the Egyptian educational system, most distinguished for us here in Luxor is the various precious books in almost every school. But as we believe that you are one of the basic sponsors of the professional development of teachers, especially Teachers in English, we notice the decrease of the role since the sudden suspense of the scholarship program in 2001. I am asking if this program is or can be replaced by training programs that can be held in far areas, like upper Egypt or providing opportunities of studying via the same program but through distance learning.
Ambassador Scobey : Ra’ed, thank you for your question. The Embassy continues to support English language education in Egypt in a variety of programs. I am not familiar with the particular program you described, but we do have several new opportunities for teachers. The SUSI Secondary School, International Leaders in Education, and Teaching Excellence and Achievement programs are all geared toward secondary school teachers, and we encourage teachers of English to apply now. The ILEP and TEA programs focus on teaching methodology, and have a practical internship component. You can find information on all of these programs on the Embassy’s web page at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/ and on the Study USA-Egypt Facebook page.
Best of luck to you in your professional development.
Bassma El Shazly : It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you at El Shazly Dairy Farm. I hope you enjoyed your visit with us, I’m writing to you just to thank you for your great visit to our farm we had the pleasure to host you in our house on the 14th of December 2009.
Looking forward to know your feedback about your visit with us.
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Bassma, I had a wonderful visit and enjoyed meeting your family and seeing the great business you have built. Whenever I eat or drink a dairy product in Egypt, I will think of you. Good luck, and thanks again for your hospitality!
Ahmed Aly : Hello, Why are you chatting today? I hope my question is not rude, but what is the occasion? Ambassadors usually talk when they leave the office, or when something significant has happened. What is the state today?
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Ahmed, and thanks for your question. This web chat is an opportunity for me to hear what is in the minds of Egyptians today, and it is something I try to do every few months. One of the most pleasant jobs of any U.S. Ambassador is the opportunity to visit and listen with a variety of citizens in the host country. In addition to the occasional web chat, I try to visit cities and towns outside of Cairo, and to talk to students and other groups in Egypt on a regular basis.
amro selim -Journalist : m.s margreet .. is united states support certain person for 2011 egyptian presidency elections ?
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Amro, I already answered this question in Arabic, but for you English-speakers out there, let me answer to the question again.
The question of the 2011 presidential elections is one that can only be answered by the people of Egypt.
Ahmed Mourad : Hello Ambassador Scobey,
It gives me the greatest pleasure to be on this chat today with your honor. I am an investor under the E2 visa business program . The program allows Egyptians who invest in usa To Live in Usa. The Visa issued is a 3 month Visa single Entry , However , the stay is 2 years upon entry to USA. while other countries are issued the same type of visa as a 5 years visa multiple Entry , unlike Egyptian Investors who recieve a 3 months single Entry Visa. Ever time we visit Egypt we have to go to the embassy , make an appointment and wait few weeks till interview date , pay interview fees of 740 le for each family member ( 5 total)
I hope we as egyptian Investors can get the same benifit of the 5 years multiple entry visa . Also i am surprized the B1/B2 visa gets 5 years multiple Entry howver the investor who spends money gets an E2 visa with 3 months single Entry. I thank you again for this webchat and looking forward to hearing from you .
Ambassador Scobey : Hi Ahmed, I’m glad you raised this question. This policy is set in Washington, but we are going to pursue your points with the Department of State in Washington. If you want more information, please send your contact information to email@example.com, and we’ll be glad to get back to you.
Ahmed Aly : Hello, In all of your conversations and interviews, you mention the importance of studying in the United States, and you mention the exchange programs that the American administration is spending millions of dollars for it. But in reality,Egyptian students usually face difficulties in obtaining visas, and they are considered as “illegal immigrants”. What is your advice to those students who missed the opportunity of studying in America, just because of visa refusal?
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Ahmed, The number of Egyptians studying in the U.S. has increased steadily over the last three years, and the number reached over 1900 last year. We have also increased funding for a variety of scholarship and training programs. Unfortunately, our pool of scholarship money is not unlimited, and we are not able to accommodate every applicant. Please check our facebook page at Study USA-Egypt, where you can find information about our partner, AMIDEAST, which offers training sessions on opportunities to study in the U.S. and also provides sessions on how to finance your studies in the U.S.
In addition to all the academic and financial requirements for studying in the U.S., all visa applicants must demonstrate eligibility for the visa. I wish you the best of luck, wherever you pursue your studies!
Martin : I am a coptic Egyptian citzen……. i and other copts in Egypt suffer from violence by muslims i need lots of pages to describe what happen to copts in Egypt and we hope that our God solve our problems through you http://freecopts.net/english/ – this site describe what happen to copts in Egypt.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your comment Martin. I know I have already answered this in Arabic, but let me reiterate for those who may not read Arabic:
President Obama has strongly emphasized the importance of religious freedom and minority rights. In his Cairo speech, the President referred specifically to Egypt’s Copts and stated our belief that, “People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind and the heart and the soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive.”
That is why we seek a principled engagement with all nations, including Egypt, on this issue—in a spirit of mutual interest and mutual respect. All nations, including the United States, wrestle with how best to accommodate their religious diversity. We are convinced that the freedom to profess, practice, and promote one’s religion is a basic human right, a social good, a source of stability, and a key component of international security.
The US Department of State makes an annual report on religious freedom worldwide, and the most recent report is available on the Embassy website at http://egypt.usembassy.gov/.
Beshoy Ghali : I would like to know what is the best option to obtain a Visa to travel and work in the united states ?
Ambassador Scobey : Dear Beshoy: As you are aware, there are many types of visas for travel to the United States. These include visas for business, tourism, studies, and employment, as well as many others. If you wish to work in the United States, your prospective employer will need to file a petition on your behalf with DHS. Once you have an approved petition, it can be processed at the embassy. I would encourage you to take a look at the embassy’s website, which provides a wealth of information concerning visa categories and requirements. Good luck!
Mohamed Zeid : What is her Excellency’s expectations regarding the upcoming strategic dialogue between both countries? Iran’s influnce on the region and how her Excellency views crucial roles of countries like Egypt in the region? Human rights in Egypt…
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you for your question, Mohamed. We look forward to continuing our strategic dialogue, which began in June, 2009. Egypt’s contributions to regional stability and its shared interests in finding peaceful solutions to the problems of the region are appreciated by the United States, and we find the strategic dialogue to be of great value. I anticipate that the meetings in Washington today will cover a broad range of regional topics.
Moderator : Thanks to everyone who participated in today’s webchat and thanks to Ambassador Scobey for joining us.
Ambassador Scobey : Thank you very much, and I look forward to doing this again in a few months!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yasser Khalil : Dear Mrs. Ambassador
- 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.
- 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 â€œFacebook revealed a liberal undercurrent in Egyptian society,â€ Nawara said. â€œIn general, thereâ€™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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ambassador Margaret Scobey: Roundtable on President Obama’s Speech The Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University
Thank you so much for your kind introduction Dr. El Mahdey. It’s a great honor, not only to have the President of Cairo University, Dr. Hossam Kamel, but also Vice Presidents, Dr. Heba Nassar, Dr. Adel Zayed, Dr. Hussein Khaled joining us today, and other distinguished guests. It is really a great honor to be here with so many distinguished university figures as well as guests and faculty and students at this very prestigious facility of Cairo University.
I do very much feel to be in the presence of friends, friends that enjoy an opportunity to exchange views. I cannot thank Dr. Hossam and Dr. Heba enough, and the students and faculty of Cairo University, for their incredible generosity in making their beautiful building, their beautiful Celebration Hall, available for President Obama’s speech. It was a difficult time for you, you had exams going on, but I have to say that I cannot imagine a better place to have held this, to have assembled under that great dome such a huge variety of Egyptians of all characterizations. We had actors and scholars and politicians, and military, and students from around the world that reflect not just a range of Egyptians, but it was great to see the number of foreign students that were in various faculties throughout the country. So it was, in my view, a very perfect place to do this, and we will always remain very grateful because I know it was a huge, huge effort on your part, and certainly inconvenienced many of the programs that you had under way.
As we all are here to talk about, just over a month ago, President Obama came to speak to Egypt and to Muslim communities around the world. He certainly didn’t provide all the answers, but I think he sent a strong signal of commitment that the United States wants to work together with the region on some very great challenges that we face. He provided a very well developed framework for identifying where we have sources of tension and where we have opportunities for cooperation and put forth American views on how we can go forward to constructively confront some of these serious issues. He talked about a new beginning between the United States and Muslim communities around the world, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. He was very clear that one speech alone doesn’t solve all the problems, but he wanted to start a conversation, and not just between the United States and the Muslim world, but also within the Muslim world, and within America, and the West about how to address the sources of tension that have built up over the years. He challenged us all to take up the responsibilities that we share and called for a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another, and to seek common ground. He called frequently upon inspiration from the Holy Quran, reminding all of us of our obligations to “be conscious of God and speak always the truth.”
So, it is in this spirit, that we should have a discussion today, as an effort to listen to each other, and try to learn and understand. And I think it is a part of a conversation that has been taking place throughout Egypt and, I think, throughout the region. Our embassies around the world report a real heightened level of dialogue and interest in trying to confront and discuss some of the sources of tensions and looking for new opportunities. There have been lots of debates and discussions in newspapers and talk shows and the internet, with business leaders and other students. In my own conversations, people have said they particularly value President Obama’s message of peace and his call for all sides to face sources of tension and to do it together. He said, “Whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership, and our progress must be shared.”
So, I look forward today to hearing your thoughts and observations, and to look perhaps at one or all of the seven sources of tension President Obama identified because they provide a framework for discussion. I’d be interested to hear how people in this group think we can create new and even more effective partnerships. And you are right, the issue of scholarships is high on our list, and we are looking at a great discussion today to see how we can do more. I think we will all be pleased. We want to do more in the field of education.
I’ll go quickly through the list. The first topic he brought attention to was the problem of violent extremism making clear that this has never been an issue between the United States and Islam. But he did talk about what the U.S. is doing to assure that our confrontation with extremism does not alter our own principles, including the unequivocal prohibition of the use of torture and by ordering the closure of Guantanamo by next year. And since he spoke in Cairo, U.S. combat forces have, in fact, withdrawn form Iraqi cities and villages, as set forth in an agreement that we reached with Iraq.
This is a very significant milestone in the responsible withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, and Iraq’s continuing journey to reestablish its stability and to exercise its sovereignty and self reliance. We’ll continue to help their security forces, and continue to be a partner with them in their own development.
The President also addressed the situation between the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the Arab world reaffirming that the U.S. will align its policies with those who pursue peace, including Israelis and Palestinians, who he reiterated, deserve to live in peace and security in two states. He left no doubt about his firm belief that the situation for the Palestinian people today is intolerable and he repeated that the United States continues to believe that the continued construction of Israeli settlements undermines efforts for peace. At the same time, he called on Palestinians to absolutely abandon violence, and called upon the Arab states to do their part, particularly, he noted that the Arab Peace Initiative is an important initiative, but it is not the end, it’s only the beginning.
He reaffirmed his commitment to discuss many issues between the United States and Iran, taking very much into account how we believe there is a shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of all nations with regard to nuclear weapons. There is no doubt that any direct dialogue or diplomacy with Iran is going to be affected by the events of the last few weeks. He’s made clear that the current unrest in Iran is about the people of Iran and accusations by some in Iran that the United States or others in the West were instigating these protests were just patently false and it is an attempt to distract the people from what is taking place within Iran. We remain deeply disturbed about the Iranian government’s use of force, intimidation and unjust arrest against its citizens and continue to call upon its leadership to respect the international principles and to fulfill its international obligations. We will continue to watch what is happening in Iran. If the Iranian government desires the respect of international communities, they will need to respect the rights and will of their people.
President Obama also spoke about the issues of democracy and human rights making clear that the United States does not believe that there is any particular system of government that should or must be imposed upon one nation by another, but the United States will support human rights everywhere because we believe that the ability of people to speak their mind, to have a say in how they are governed, to have confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice are important to us. He believes that governments who protect these rights are ultimately more stable and more successful than governments that do not.
He talked about religious freedom, declaring that people in every country should be free to choose and live their faith, based upon their persuasion of mind, heart, and soul.
He addressed the issue of women’s rights, observing that countries where women are well-educated — and this room is full of this example — are more likely to be prosperous, noting that our daughters can contribute as much as our sons to our success.
Finally, he discussed economic development and opportunity noting that education and innovation are “the currency of the 21st century.” He spoke about the need to expand educational exchanges, scholarships and look for ways to improve in the areas of economic development. He’s going to launch a new fund to support technological development in the Muslim world.
I think the issues President Obama raised in Cairo are not easy to address, or certainly to solve, but as I said when I began, he put out a framework and a process for us to begin to discuss these issues. So, I think in that sense, the speech succeeded. But as he said, a speech alone doesn’t solve any issues, it can only set forward a framework, which will hopefully help us to come to mutually agreeable initiatives that we can take together to achieve progress in the areas where we share very, very strong values and goals.
I’ll make one last reference to his speech- it was one of my favorite parts- where he said “The world that we seek, a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected.” This is what he is after, and I think that this is what the people of the Muslim world are also after.
These are our mutual interests. This is the world that the President believes in and I think that we can and should seek. So I thank you very much for inviting me back to Cairo University and I look forward to our opportunity to discuss this or anything else that’s on your mind today.
Thank you very much.
Ambassador Margaret Scobey at Egypt’s International Economic Forum and Yale World Fellows Conference
Thank you very much for your kind introduction, Mr. Swelam. I’m glad to be here with all of you today at the International Economic Forum and Yale World Fellows program.
It is a particular honor to be sitting next to His Excellency, Mr. Ahmed Maher, with the former foreign minister. I’m glad to see Ambassador Maher and the former Deputy Secretary of State. I realize, just looking around the room, this is a large group of very distinguished representatives from Egyptian business, academic and others.
I think it is really fitting to respond and to offer thoughts that are based on President Obama’s recent speech here in Cairo. He certainly didn’t provide all the answers to problems in a region of the world, but he did provide a very well-developed framework for identifying where the sources of tension are and putting forward specific beliefs so that we can go forward to constructively confront some of these very serious issues.
He came here talking about a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world based upon mutual interest and mutual respect. He tried to be very clear that one speech alone doesn’t solve all the problems, but he did want to start a conversation, not just between the United States and the Muslim world, but within the Muslim world and within America and the West – and between all of us to address these sources of tension. He did challenge us all to take up the responsibilities that we all share and he called for “a sustained effort to listen to each other, to learn from each other, to respect one another and to seek common ground.” He called frequently upon inspiration from the Holy Quran, reminding all of us of our obligation to “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.”
I believe this discussion and this conference are very much part of the effort the President called for: an effort to listen to each other, and to try to learn and understand each other. I think it is a part of a conversation that has been taking place throughout Egypt since the President’s speech.
We’ve seen a lot of debates and discussions in the newspapers, on talk shows and the Internet, with business leaders and other students. In my own conversations, people have said they particularly value the President’s message of peace and his call for all sides to face the sources of tension and to do it together. He told us, “Whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners to it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; our progress must be shared.”
Today, I look forward to the thoughts of the minister and the audience, to look at the seven sources of tension, because, like I said, they do provide a good framework for focusing discussion on the challenges. I would be interested to hear how people in this group believe that we can in fact create effective partnerships to address these issues.
I will go very quickly through the list—I think we all are aware of it—and return to the Foreign Minister.
The President spoke about violent extremism, making clear that the United States never has been— and never will be—at war with Islam. He talked about what the United States is doing to assure that our confrontation with extremism does not alter American principles, including the unequivocal prohibition of the use of torture by the United States and ordering the closure of the prison in Guantanamo Bay by early next year.
He addressed the issue of the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world, reaffirming that the United States will align its policies with those who pursue peace, including Israelis and Palestinians who deserve to live in peace and security in two states. He left no doubt about his firm belief that the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. Also, he repeated that the United States continues to believe that the continued construction of Israeli settlements undermines efforts for peace.
At the same time, he called on Palestinians to abandon violence and called upon the Arab states to do their part, and called particularly upon the Arab Peace Initiative as an important initiative that also is a process to be invoked.
He reaffirmed his commitment to discuss many issues between the United States and Iran, talking very much about how there is a shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of all nations with regards to nuclear weapons.
He also spoke about the issues of democracy and human rights, making it clear that the United States does not believe that there’s any particular system of government that should be imposed upon one nation by another, but that the United States will support human rights everywhere. The ability of people to speak their mind, to have a say in how they are governed, to have confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice, of course are certain elements of this. The president believes that governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable and successful states.
He also spoke on the issue of religious freedom, declaring that people in every country should be free to choose and live their faith, based upon their persuasion of their mind, their heart, and their soul.
He also spoke to the issue of women’s rights, observing that countries where women are well-educated are more likely to be prosperous—noting that our daughters can contribute as much as our sons to solving problems that we have.
Finally, he addressed the issue of economic development and opportunity, noting that education and innovation are “the currency of the 21st century.” He undertook to expand U.S. educational exchange programs, increase scholarships, and look for ways to improve in the area of economic development and business and commerce, as well as within education, offering to launch a new fund to support technological development in the Muslim world.
The issues that the President raised will not be easy to address. They certainly can’t be resolved after just one speech or after one panel discussion, but I think what he was trying to do was to get us to start thinking about the real issues at the core of our disagreements and of our mutual interests. In that respect, I think his speech clearly succeeded, and I am sure we will have a lively discussion, hopefully about many of these issues.
Please allow me one last reference to the President’s speech. At the end of his remarks, he spoke of “the world that we seek – a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God’s children are respected.”
These are our mutual interests. This is the world I believe we can, and should, seek. I thank you very much for inviting me to this event, and I look forward to our conversation.
Ambassador Margaret Scobey’s interview with Amal Fawzy, Nisf Al Donya and Al Ahram, and Warda Al Husseiny, Al Akhbar Al Youm
Ambassador: Thank you. Thank you for coming to Menoufeya with me.
Interviewer: Would you like me to ask you all our questions or one by one?
Ambassador: Oh, I think one by one. We have time I think.
Interviewer: Firstly, I’d like to know your visit to Menoufeya Governorate.
Ambassador: It’s been a great opportunity to visit Menoufeya. I’m very grateful to his Excellency the Governor for allowing me to come and taking some time to talk to me. I’ve had a great chance to meet some outstanding educators who have been very successful proponents of improving their schools, working with their communities and really taking advantage of every opportunity they have to turn their schools into real centers of the community and models of bringing Egyptian schools into compliance with Egypt’s own national standards in education. They’ve had support, of course, from the Ministry of Education, from the Governor, but this also very much a local activity really driven by their own desire to improve their schools, and we’ve been very happy that the U.S. Agency for International Development has been able to be a partner with the Ministry and with these schools to help encourage them and provide some incentives for this programs. That was a lot of fun. As you’ve sat with us here, I got to see some of the students of Menoufeya, the older students, and I think that this is always the take away when you come to a new place. I saw on the way up the rich agricultural resources of this governorate. The Governor showed me many of the handicrafts and work that is being done here. He’s talking about plans and the existing industrial component of the economy here, but the key natural resource of Menoufeya is its people. And I think what has really been very wonderful to see is the attention being paid both to students and to finding work and to developing the human potential of this governate, which is very considerable.
Interviewer: I would like to ask about you. I think you have a PhD in History.
Ambassador: No, no, no…Ana mish doctora… I studied toward a Ph.D but I did not finish the degree.
Interviewer: Do you want to finish it, or not?
Ambassador: Maybe that’s what I should do when I leave the diplomatic service.
Interviewer: What’s the relation between history and working in the diplomatic field?
Ambassador: Well, I have always loved history and what it provided for me. It is part of what I call a liberal education. It teaches you how to ask questions. A culture of the distant past is a distant culture. Even though it may be in your own country or a country that your family came from, it’s still distant by hundreds of years. So you’re still trying to learn about a distant and foreign culture. So I think it does help you try to know what questions to ask and how to learn.
Interviewer: Did you study the history of the United States?
Ambassador: I studied mostly European history. I spent a year in Spain doing research in Spanish history.
Interviewer: But nothing about Egypt?
Ambassador: Unfortunately, no. Had I but known what my future held I should have been studying about Egyptian history.
Interviewer: Madam, before you came to Egypt, you made a declaration about the situation in Egypt as a reformist and it was misunderstood in Egypt. I’d like to know your comments about that.
Ambassador: Well, I think there was misunderstanding. The comments that I certainly made at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reflected a very broad, positive, constructive relationship that we enjoy with Egypt. The Egypt-U.S relationship has been strong for many, many years. I predict it will continue to be strong. Certainly when the United States looks to this region, we look to Egyptian leadership. We have been friends with this country for such a long time. We have enjoyed a security partnership and a partnership in economic and social development that we’re very proud of. Egypt itself has articulated a platform of economic and political reform. And it was in that context that we discussed those elements, which are clearly, as I said — in testimony and repeatedly — are issues for the Government of Egypt to resolve. These are Egyptian — not for the government, but for the people of Egypt. These are issues that will inherently be resolved according to an Egyptian timeline and Egyptian interests.
Interviewer: But you agree that Egypt is different from the rest. Now there is a free atmosphere, there is democracy. What do you think?
Ambassador: Egypt has clearly followed a very important road of development. Egypt is different today than it was 30 years ago. Egypt is different today than it was a hundred years ago.
Interviewer: Can you evaluate the political reform which happened in the last 5 years or not? Can you evaluate that?
Ambassador: I think really that is again for Egyptians to do. Egyptians have articulated a number of goals that they have for themselves and will continue down those roads. The United States speaks out very strongly in our promotion of democracy and individual freedom and human rights and will continue to have those views. We have done so globablly and we do it for ourselves. And so it’s nothing specific to Egypt. It’s a global view that we have.
Interviewer: You have now been in Egypt for 4 months, I think. Has your image about Egypt changed?
Ambassador: It changes. It becomes more complex. It’s easy to see a country from far away. I always say that I know more about a country that I served in the day I arrived than the day I leave. Because by the time you leave, you have met more people, you understand that problems are very complex, you understand that there is a variety and a distinctiveness — not just to the countr,y but to the governorate, but to the city, to the individual. I visited Egypt several times in the past. I spent maybe 2 weeks here in the early 1990s as a tourist. And even since then I see remarkable changes in Egypt. As I just said today, listening to what has been accomplished on the educational side, Egypt is a developing country, but I think most Egyptians have said that Egypt needs to do more.
Interviewer: I can say that you are a woman of difficult tasks. You worked in Riyadh after 9/11, and Syria after Hariri’s death, and after that in Baghdad. And I think it is not coincidence that you will come here to Egypt. You have a mission or a task. What are the important tasks for you here in Egypt? What would you add to our bilateral relations?
Ambassador: Well, I think any ambassador comes to a new country with a very simple goal. Not an easy goal necessarily, but a simple goal, which is always to build upon the positive elements of the past and to look for areas to strengthen and improve cooperation. As I’ve said earlier, we have a long term relationship with Egypt and one that we value very much. I have had a real wonderful opportunity to serve in a variety of different countries in this region. They’re all different. They all have a very different dynamic. They have a different culture and history and I have enjoyed every one of them in different ways. And obviously coming to Egypt I like to think of as a reward in many ways. As I’ve said, I visited Egypt before but it is certainly one of the most dynamic, complex, rich environments that I have worked in. Anywhere you live in the Arab world, there is influence from Egypt either in the economy and culture, movies, TV, the judicial system. So for me this is a really wonderful thing to come here.
Interviewer: You said that political reform is your important task. What you are doing to help Egypt in that field?
Ambassador: Well, as I said, I think Egyptians will articulate a political reform program that meets their needs and their expectations. The United States has broadly said and will continue to say that we support …
Interviewer: You have some plans?
Ambassador: Do I have a plan? No, we stand ready to support Egyptian people working in a wide range of projects and activities here.
Interviewer: Some people think that you care about American people only. For example, your statement about Said Ibrahim. But when talking about emergency law you said that it is a domestic affair. We would like to know your definition about that.
Ambassador: As I’ve said, the United States and I will have views on human rights and democracy that are broad and general. We understand that every country has a particular dynamic, a particular history and believe that Egyptians will find their way forward. You have many leaders here who have articulated a platform of objectives, both economic and political. The United States wants to be supportive where we can. We do not have an agenda that we’re going to impose. It would be foolish if we did because it wouldn’t work even if we did have it, and we don’t. These are broad based issues that involve Egyptian citizens, and as I said the United States hopes to be supportive across a broad range of activities here as we have for 30 years. And we don’t consider support, when it is offered voluntarily and freely, to be interference. It is up to Egyptians to accept support or not. So I don’t see what the United States has said or done here to be a form of interference at all.
Interviewer: But your declaration before coming to Egypt and what do you said about Saad Eddin Ibrahim I think it has complicated your mission here in Egypt. You need to improve your image in Egypt and the Middle East.
Ambassador: I’d love for you to do that. You are the press. Only you can do that.
Interviewer: Madam, did the attack of the media bother you or not?
Ambassador: I support the free press. I support free expression. I regret any misunderstandings.
Interviewer: How can we explain it?
Ambassador: Well, I think I’ve said what I have to say on this issue. As I said, the press will say what it’s going to say. I try to be clear. I try to talk about the broad range of activities and programs and our broad support for Egypt and desire for cooperation. And hope for that we are not misunderstood in the future and I will do everything at I can to help not to be misunderstood.
Interviewer: Why does it happen here in Egypt and not in Syria or in Baghdad?
Ambassador: You need to explain to me.
Interviewer: Madam, Mr. Mubarak used to visit the United States every year. But recently, for I think three years or four years, there has not been a visit for Mr. Mubarak to United States. Are there any problems?
Ambassador: None that I’m aware of. He and his family are welcome there at any time. We would love to have him.
Interviewer: Some people say that there is an increasing role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and they think that United States has a role in this.
Ambassador: Those are questions that journalists ask and journalists answer for themselves. I’m here in Egypt and I’m focused on working with Egyptians in a variety of different cooperative areas where we can and I continue to see Egyptian leadership everywhere I look.
Interviewer: I’d like to know your condition for donations to parties or NGOs in Egypt.
Ambassador: It’s a simple program that encourages NGO activity. These are plans that are made for a huge variety of activities, and most of the grants are made on the basis of whether the program makes sense, or whether…
Interviewer: …bilateral between NGOs?
Ambassador: These are all bilateral programs from the United States to an Egyptian organization. But they’re mostly based on whether this program makes sense locally and if it’s feasible and do they have a realistic plan and the ability to handle whatever support they get.
Interviewer: But Ambassador, the United States informs the Egyptian government about this?
Ambassador: Of course, absolutely. There is total transparency.
Interviewer: You said there is no dialogue between the United States and groups or parties here in Egypt but you …
Ambassador: No, I said…
Interviewer: … there’s no dialogue or relation between groups or parties here in Egypt between the United States and the groups or parties here in Egypt.
Ambassador: No, I never said we don’t have any dialogue. I said we don’t have any interference. But just as the Ambassador of Egypt to the United States consults broadly across the political spectrum in the United States and is welcome to do that, I consider it part of my job to understand a wide spectrum of political ideas here in Egypt.
Interviewer: You met the leader of Hizb Al Wafd. Some people said that he meet you to support him against Noman Gomaa.
Ambassador: I cannot get myself involved in what people say. All I know is that we do not have any support for any particular party or group. I’m just interested in talking and listening.
Interviewer: I’d like to know the situation now for the American assistance program. I think after 2009 there will be some new procedures or something like that.
Ambassador: The U.S. Administration has proposed a level of, I think, $200 million for the Economic Support Fund for 2009. The U.S. Congress has not acted upon it yet. This is a bilateral program between the United States and the Government of Egypt so it’s a little premature to know what shape it’s going to take because it hasn’t really been passed.
Interviewer: There are negotiations now about the new shape of that program?
Ambassador: As I said, this is something we have to work out with the Government of Egypt. It has always been a bilateral program and at this point it has not even come before the Congress, yet, so there’s nothing new to say about it. It is a continuation of the program we have had in effect here for nearly 30 years.
Interviewer: What about Free Trade Agreement between Egypt and the United States, what will happen?
Ambassador: Well, President Bush said that his goal was to have a regional free trade agreement for the Middle East and we know that Egypt – you cannot achieve that, of course, without Egypt. It’s one of the largest economies, if not the largest economy, in the region and I think that remains our goal. When this is going to be able to be concluded or to be able to be taken up again, I don’t know. As I said, it remains a goal. I’m hopeful that it will happen before I leave Egypt but I can’t really say for sure. Much depends on the interest from the Government of Egypt. Much depends politically on our side. This whole issue of free trade agreements has been the subject of some political debate in the United States. So we will see. I can say that, historically, both Democrats and Republicans have supported free trade agreements. They raise questions, but at the end of the day we see that free trade is good for America and it’s good for our trading partners.
Interviewer: Especially after the end of the aid in the next year?
Ambassador: We don’t have a free trade agreement, yet, but we do have a very good and solid growing bilateral trade between the United States and Egypt — even without the advantages of a free trade agreement, I think bilateral trade has grown over 70 percent in the last two or three years. Egyptian exports to the U.S. are growing. U.S. exports here are growing, and we also have other programs to facilitate trade. We have already a program called the Qualified Industrial Zones, which are primarily located now in the Delta, near Alexandria. We believe over a hundred thousand Egyptians are employed in these enterprises and they offer very advantageous free trade entry directly into the U.S. market and, hopefully, we’ll at some point be able to expand this to some other parts of Egypt.
Interviewer: How can you help the women here in Egypt? You have some plans to empower women?
Ambassador: This is one area where, I think, Egyptian women are very, very capable of speaking and acting. We do have programs that work with women’s groups but women in Egypt have remarkable opportunities.
Interviewer: What is the difference between the Egyptian woman and other Arabic women?
Ambassador: I don’t want to make comparisons because I have met remarkable successful women in every country I’ve worked. I can honestly say that Egyptian women have, I think, been at the forefront of women’s advancement and women’s empowerment in the world, certainly in this region. And I hear from the Foreign Ministry that maybe there are more Egyptian women Ambassadors than there are American. I’m not sure that’s true, but I know there are a lot. And you see that in the world of government, in the world of business and finance, in education, in science. Egyptian women have already established enormous progress for themselves. And as in most countries, problems tend to multiply in areas where there is poverty. In the United States, women, the poorest women are the ones who have many difficulties. I suspect that’s true in Egypt, as well. So it’s in common, I think, for women everywhere to work within their own countries to help the least fortunate. Give them a leg up.
Interviewer: What about your plans for increasing American investment in Egypt and I’d like to know the current volume of that.
Ambassador: I’m going to have to get back to you on the current volume, it’s high.
We have a very active Commercial Section here. We just very recently signed a new agreement that the United States Overseas Private Investment Corporation is going to help the Commercial Industrial Bank of Egypt to create a mortgage industry, a mortgage finance industry here in Egypt. In November, the Export-Import Bank is going to be conducting a workshop here to encourage investment and trade. So we have a lot of active programs to do that. The private sector has a way of identifying opportunity. What we see ourselves doing is ensuring that there is a good flow of solid information about opportunities here and opportunities in the United States and trying to encourage the private sector to find partners and programs here. So that’s an ongoing thing and we will continue to do everything that we can to do that.
Interviewer: I don’t know if you’ve heard about the sensitivities of the Egyptians here from the women who are working in leadership positions in the United States, like Madeleine Albright or Condoleezza Rice. Did you hear about it or not?
Ambassador: I’m not sure I know what the question is. What is the question?
Interviewer: Egyptians are still sensitive from women who are holding high ranking posts. Modern men are sensitive when they deal with women in high ranking positions. Do you have the same sense?
Ambassador: I think that’s a process of gradually accustoming people to women in higher positions. And certainly, U.S. society has gone from a time when women did not occupy very senior positions to today when they do. We have not totally eradicated bias, gender bias, in the United States. It’s a process — it’s a long term social and educational process. But we’re obviously not going to turn back and certainly Secretary Rice and Secretary Albright hold, and have held, their own and have done more.
Interviewer: The image that Secretary Rice gives, she’s very hard, she’s very firm.
Ambassador: I think if you listen very carefully, the Secretary is always seeking to be very clear. But she has expressed time and time again, her hope for peace in this region. Her desire for the United States to be a partner in progress on political and economic and social reform and she is, I think, going to spend a lot of time of her career working on the problems of this region in partnership with leaders in this region. I look at what she has done as a very important contribution, not because she is a woman, but because she is an American Secretary of State trying to implement the President’s vision and trying to work very closely with our partners in this region towards our common goals for peace for this region.
Interviewer: Do you have any certain message about for the public opinion in Egypt about our bilateral relations and friendship between Egypt and the United States?
Ambassador: Well, I hope that we all look at what we have accomplished together over many, many years. The United States and Egypt as partners have contributed a lot, I think, to the promotion of peace in this region. Years and years and years ago, people thought that the answer was war. And I think very courageous and brave Egyptian leadership, with American support and encouragement, said that war is not how you achieve peace. And I think that now people realize that it is a negotiation process. And I think that has been, that achievement, that people look to peaceful ways to solve problems has been with the United States and Egypt together have really helped to set that as the standard. I think we have worked together on economic development in this region. I think, as I said, I look with some degree of satisfaction that the investment that we have made mutually in Egypt has been successful. We have in the early years of our assistance program here focused an awful lot on infrastructure, on water, on electricity, on power, on storage and water cleanliness and those have largely been achieved. Not solely by the United States but in partnership with Egypt. Now we’re looking at elements of a relationship that have more to do with developing human capacity, health and education. Again, led by Egyptians. These are Egyptian programs but where the United States can offer some financial and technical support, according to Egyptian priorities. So I hope we keep a long term view and that we realize that, at least from the United States’ point of view, we see ourselves as being long term partners with the people of Egypt. That’s how we want to be seen.
Interviewer: You were in Iraq for one year. Can you tell us about your experience there and what’s the solution for the crisis there? Withdraw the troops?
Ambassador: The solution in Iraq is an Iraqi solution. I was there from May ’06 until last July ’07. It was a very tough year, but it was a year where you saw Iraqi citizens facing some of their most difficult problems of the year. Violence was very high. It had just come after the bombing of a mosque in Samara. The Iraqi parliament and the government were brand new. These were people who had no experience of governing themselves. And it was a difficult year. In the year since I left, remarkable progress has been made. And it is not that everything is perfect but this is progress that has been reached because Iraqis have said now we’re tired of the fighting, the Parliament has passed some good legislation, the Iraqi security forces have bit by bit become more capable of not just executing an order but figuring out what they need to do and engaging locally. They’ve gone to Basra, they’ve gone to Mosul. The government itself is able to exert more national authority and it has been a remarkable improvement. And again, the United States, we believe, has contributed to this. We think that the effort to bring more soldiers, both Iraqi and American, at a time when violence was very high, out to the streets, to the neighborhoods of Iraq was important. But those numbers are already dropping. The Iraqi government and the people of Iraq clearly are on the path toward being capable of running their security on their own and that will be a function of a dialogue between them and the multi-national forces that are there at their request.
Interviewer: Would you consider commenting on the judges, any judge’s sentence or ruling as a domestic affair. Do you accept that Egyptians comment on your rulings and sentences in the United States?
Ambassador: They do it all the time. I mean, that’s why this surprised me. They even have shows in the United States where people call in when they don’t like a judicial ruling and some say good, some say bad. So it’s a fairly normal thing.
Interviewer: My last question. Some people think there is a contradiction between working in the diplomatic field and marriage or having a family. What’s your opinion?
Ambassador: I’m not married and don’t have a family so I’m not sure I’m the best example, but I don’t think there’s a contradiction. Any number of our diplomatic staff, in the United States and I’ve seen generally around the world …
Interviewer: Madeleine Albright also isn’t married,
Ambassador: Secretary Albright had been married. She has children. I don’t think there’s a contradiction, but you’re giving individual examples. I don’t think it’s necessarily a requirement. We have seen many, many successful women who combine marriage and family and children. I don’t think it’s easy. I admire them very much for being able to do all of that. I think raising a family requires enormous time and attention but clearly women are capable of careers, very meaningful careers.
Interviewer: Thank you very much.