The United States is deeply troubled by violence and civilian deaths in Dara’a at the hands of security forces. We are concerned by the Syrian Government’s use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrests in Dara’a to hinder the ability of its people to freely exercise their universal rights. We condemn these actions and extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who have been injured or lost their lives. We call on the Syrian Government to exercise restraint and refrain from violence against peaceful protestors.
QUESTION: Thank you for speaking to the BBC, Madam Secretary. I want to ask you first about the UN resolution that is being tabled at the UN in New York by France and Britain and Lebanon. Among other things, it would try to establish a no-fly over Libya. Does the United States support the resolution as it stands now?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, as we speak, the United States and other Security Council members are in intensive discussions about what should be in the resolution. We greatly appreciate the leadership shown by Lebanon, the UK, and France. And we think it’s significant that the Arab League made its statement on Saturday, so we want to be sure that there will be Arab leadership and participation in whatever comes out of the Security Council. So there’s a great deal of discussion, and I think there is a sense of urgency that was precipitated by the Arab League’s courageous stand on Saturday. And we hope that there will be a resolution of the discussions and a decision made very soon in order to enable us to protect innocent lives in Libya. We are well aware that the clock is ticking.
QUESTION: Do you want Arab participation, Arab military participation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are in the midst of discussing the details about what Arab participation and leadership would mean. But I think it’s important that, number one, we get international authorization through the Security Council. This cannot be a unilateral action by anyone in Europe or the U.S. or, frankly, anyone in the Arab League. It has to be international and authorized. And then we have to be very clear about what Arab leadership and participation will be.
QUESTION: But is there still time for a no-fly zone, or is it too late for that?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, there will be other things considered in addition to a no-fly zone. That will certainly be one of the actions considered, but there are other ways to assist the opposition. As you know, I met with one of the key leaders in Paris. There are other ways that we can assist, and all of those are on the table and being examined.
QUESTION: Could you tell us anything more about what those other ways are?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I’m going to let the resolution speak for itself when it is introduced because I do not want to intervene into these delicate negotiations. As you know, prior to the Arab League statement on Saturday, there was a great deal of opposition. There were countries which said they would veto anything. There were other countries that were adamantly opposed. That has changed. So now the discussion is of a different tenor with a level of detail that we were just not able to have before.
QUESTION: But at the same time, the British and the French seem frustrated and, frankly, a little bit upset almost with the United States. They feel that you are dragging your feet, that you’re not really warm to the idea of a no-fly zone, or perhaps that you can’t make up your mind about what it is you want to do about Libya. Is that fair? Is that what the situation –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think that is fair. I think, based on my conversations in Paris with the G-8 ministers, which, of course, included those two countries, I think we all agree that given the Arab League statement, it was time to move to the Security Council to see what was possible. I don’t want to prejudge it because countries are still very concerned about it. And I know how anxious the British and the French and the Lebanese are, and they have taken a big step in presenting something. But we want to get something that will do what needs to be done and can be passed.
It won’t do us any good to consult, negotiate, and then have something vetoed or not have enough votes to pass it. So I think that we are where we need to be right now. And yes, I understand the frustration before the Arab League because there was a lot of ambivalence and opposition and concern about whether this would be accepted or not. But now that the Arab League has spoken and that there is active consultation with our Arab friends and partners, I think you will see a resolution coming forth.
QUESTION: You say you want a resolution that will pass and that will not be vetoed. Would a resolution that isn’t vetoed be tough enough to do the job, which is to get rid of Colonel Qadhafi?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, the job is really to protect innocent Libyans. The job is to prevent the kind of massacres and slaughters that, unfortunately, everyone expects from Colonel Qadhafi and his regime. And so there are a lot of steps that can and should be taken. But I don’t want to prejudge the discussions because they are intensely going on right now.
QUESTION: But Madam Secretary, sanctions, arm embargo, no-fly zone – these are all long-term solutions, perhaps they’re not even solutions. We don’t know what the outcome is of those steps. But 13 days ago, President Obama said he wanted to see Colonel Qadhafi go. What is the United States prepared to do to make sure this actually happens quickly?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are prepared to join an international consensus that comes out of the Security Council. And we would want to see that consensus include actions that would protect the Libyan people and would assist the opposition in their legitimate aspirations.
QUESTION: Targeted strikes?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think everything is on the table. Everything is on the table. But it’s important to underscore that unilateral action is not an option; that is not anything that either can or should be supported. International action must be the route we take. And so therefore, we are hoping to see a consensus reached in the Security Council.
QUESTION: At the same time, while the talks continue in Benghazi – sorry, in – while the talks continue in New York about the resolution, in various European capitals and in Washington, Qadhafi’s forces are advancing on Benghazi. The rebels seem to be losing ground day by day, perhaps hour by hour. If Benghazi falls to Colonel Qadhafi because the U.S. was seen to take its time deliberating, history won’t judge the Obama Administration very kindly, will it?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, first of all, I don’t want to engage in hypotheticals. We don’t know what will happen. And secondly, the United States under President Obama is engaged in numerous efforts around the world to ensure peace and stability. And it is important that no one sees the United States acting unilaterally. This is what we were criticized for in the not-so-distant past.
I think President Obama has been very clear. He has said there needs to be action. This man must go. He has lost legitimacy to govern. Let’s get an international consensus as to how we’re going to do that.
There’s a lot in making a decision like that. I give the Arab League an enormous amount of credit to take an action that is aimed at a member of the Arab League; that’s unprecedented. And of course, it takes time to consult and think this through. Now I hope that everybody understands that we don’t want to see countries going off and doing things unilaterally. What we want to see is exactly what is happening – a very thoughtful process. Yes, the timeframe is very short because of what’s at stake. But I believe that we are moving in the right direction and that hopefully there will be a consensus and the United States will be part of that consensus.
QUESTION: When you look at what’s going on in Libya and in Bahrain, it seems to me that – or it seems to a lot of people that the lesson from the Egyptian revolution is quite clear, a lesson that Arab leaders can draw: Don’t give an inch to the protestors, unleash your fire power, or you’re out the door like President Mubarak.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think that’s a wrong reading of history. I think the –
QUESTION: But isn’t that what these leaders are doing in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they may be taking short-term measures that will not have the long-term effects they are seeking. I think the situation in Bahrain is alarming. We have made it very clear at the highest levels of the government there that we think they’re on the wrong track, that they need to resume immediately a political dialogue. We deplore the use of force against demonstrators, and we deplore the use of force by demonstrators. We want a peaceful resolution. We also would remind the Bahraini Government to protect medical facilities and to facilitate treatment of the injured, and we have called on our friends in the Gulf – four of whom are assisting the Bahrain security efforts – to force through a political solution, not a security standoff.
QUESTION: But they’re your allies, and they’re not listening to you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I wish we could get everybody in the world to do what we ask them to do. I think that would make for a more peaceful world, but countries make their own decisions. But the United States stands very clearly on the side of peaceful protest, nonviolent resolution, political reform. And I think that what happened in Egypt and Tunisia are really the models of what will happen. It may take a little longer, but there is no turning back the tide of democracy and the universal human rights of every person to have freedom and an opportunity to fulfill his or her own dreams.
QUESTION: So what leverage do you still have on countries like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? They’re your allies. You – they – you train their armies. You supply them with weapons. And yet when the Saudis decided to send troops into Bahrain – and I believe Washington made clear it wasn’t pleased about that – they said, “Don’t interfere. This is an internal GCC matter.”
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, they are on notice as to what we think. And we will intend to make that very clear publicly and privately, and we will do everything we can to try to move this off the wrong track, which we believe is going to undermine long-term progress in Bahrain, to the right track, which is the political and economic track.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your time.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you, Kim.
QUESTION: Thank you.
We are monitoring the situation in Egypt closely. The United States supports the fundamental right of expression and assembly for all people. All parties should exercise restraint, and we call on the Egyptian authorities to handle these protests peacefully.
As Secretary Clinton said in Doha, people across the Middle East – like people everywhere – are seeking a chance to contribute and to have a role in the decisions that will shape their lives. We want to see reform occur, in Egypt and elsewhere, to create greater political, social, and economic opportunity consistent with people’s aspirations. The United States is a partner of Egypt and the Egyptian people in this process, which we believe should unfold in a peaceful atmosphere.
We have raised with governments in the region the need for reforms and greater openness and participation in order to respond to their people’s aspirations – and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: We’re just off the line with Liz Palmer, our person in Cairo, and during her report, F-16s, Egyptian air force warplanes, apparently were flying low over the demonstrators in the main part of Cairo. Do you know what this is about?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Bob, I don’t, and let me repeat again what President Obama and I have been saying, and that is to urge the Egyptian security forces to show restraint, to not respond in any way through violence or intimidation. That falls upon the peaceful protestors who are demanding that their grievances be heard. And obviously, our reports up until now have been that the Egyptian army had taken up positions, that they were showing such restraint. And we strongly urge that that continue.
What the people who are in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt are protesting for is the right to participate in their government, to have economic opportunity, for their human rights to be respected. We are very clearly asking both in public and private that the Egyptian authorities respond to that, that they start a process of national dialogue that will lead to a transition to such democracy, and what President Mubarak himself said the other day – that they would begin to take concrete steps for democratic and economic reform – we expect to see happen.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, do you think those things are possible if President Mubarak stays in office, or is he eventually going to have to leave?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I’m not going to speculate, Bob. What we are focused on now is a transition that will meet the needs of the Egyptian people and that will truly establish democracy, not just for one election and then no more elections after that, or not for radicals, extremists, violent elements to take over. We want to see the – what really was at the core of the protests, which were people saying, “Hey, we deserve a better life. We deserve more opportunity to be respected and responded to.” And that is what we’ve been conveying and that’s what we will continue to make very clear, and we stand ready to assist.
QUESTION: Do you – are you concerned that if President Mubarak does go, it may give an opportunity for the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been the opposition to his government for so many years, could somehow come to power? I think most people agree they were not the start of this or the cause of these demonstrations. But where do you see – what role do you see them playing if Mr. – President Mubarak should go?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, I’m not speculating about who goes or who stays. And I’m not prepared to comment on what kind of democratic process the Egyptian people can construct for themselves. But we obviously want to see people who are truly committed to democracy, not to imposing any ideology on Egyptians. And therefore, we would like to encourage that people who have been the voice of protest and been the voice of civil society be the ones at the table trying to design what would be an orderly transition to meet the democratic and economic needs of the people.
Bob, we’re all very conscious of the fact that Egypt is an incredibly important country, a large country with great influence in the region and meaning for the Arab world. And we want to see the outcome of what started as peaceful protests legitimately demanding redress for grievances to result in a true democracy. Not a phony one like we saw with Iranian elections, not to see a small group that doesn’t represent the full diversity of Egyptian society take over and try to impose their own religious or ideological beliefs. We want to see the full diversity and dynamism of Egyptian society represented.
QUESTION: Do you believe that his appointment of a new vice president – is that helpful?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it’s something that American Government representatives have been urging and requesting for 30 years. I talked – I’ve talked with former ambassadors over the last weeks who have said, “Boy, I remember when I went in in 1980-this or 1990-that.” So yes, it’s something we have said is absolutely imperative. It finally has happened. There are some new people taking responsibility in government. We hope that they can contribute to the kind of democratic and economic reforms that the people of Egypt deserve.
QUESTION: So far, though, it does not seem that anything that Mr. Mubarak has said or done up until this point has, in any way, tempered these demonstrations. I mean, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I think there are several things going on. But first and foremost, words alone are not enough. There have to be actions. There has to be a demonstrable commitment to the kind of reforms that we all know are needed and desired, but also too, there is now, unfortunately, in addition to the legitimate, peaceful protests that are going on, lots of reports of looting, prison breaks, and the like. So it makes the situation much more complicated than it even was before, because everyone wants to ensure that the right of assembly, the right of association, the right of free expression be protected, that there be no violence against the protests.
At the same time, people in the streets have to refrain from violence themselves. And I’ve heard many stories of Egyptians protecting their national museum, protecting their homes. And they’re protecting them from looters and from criminals. So this is an incredibly complex set of circumstances, and we are hoping and praying that the authorities will be able to respond to the legitimate requests for participation by the peaceful protestors. Let’s begin to see some meetings with representatives of the government and representatives of civil society. Let’s begin to see some steps taken that will lead toward free, fair, and credible elections in the future.
Those will begin to put some substance behind the words and give the protestors who are trying to see a future for Egypt that is responsive to their needs a reality that they can hang onto.
QUESTION: All right. Madam Secretary, thank you so much.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Flight from Munich to D.C.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Did you get the read-out from my interview –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Okay.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) grappling a little bit with trying to figure out what Wisner said (inaudible) yesterday is whether those two things are actually (inaudible) Wisner, in a slightly less diplomatic way, basically setting out reality as it exists today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, we all respect Frank and his service for many years, and appreciate his travel to Egypt. But he does not speak for the Administration (inaudible). So you would have to ask him what he meant, and how it fits into his view of what’s going on.
But I really want to just take a step back here, and point out that we have been very consistent from the beginning with this situation. We have said consistently, publicly and privately, we do not want to see any violence, we do not want to see violence from the security forces. We want to see peaceful protests. We want to see a process begun that will lead to an orderly transition that has milestones and concrete steps that lead us toward free and fair elections that install a new president who reflects the will and wishes of the Egyptian people. That has been our position. We have said it over and over and over again.
And the fact is we cannot and would not try to dictate any outcome. That is up to the Egyptians. They are the ones who have to work with this new reality that they are facing. But we know what kind of outcome we would like to see for them, for the region, for us. Egypt has the chance to, once again, lead the way. It’s the largest Arab country. It led the way on independence, Arab nationalism. It led the way on peace with Israel. I mean it has a record of being in the forefront of change in the region. And it now has an opportunity to open up politically and economically in ways that will meet the needs of the largely young population that is not only a reality inside Egypt, but the principal voice of the protest.
So there are lots of specifics that people are debating back and forth. They’re being debated within Egypt. And that, I think, is appropriate. But the facts are, as we have laid out, what we think needs to happen and what we hope will.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Yesterday, you know, they (inaudible) Vice President Suleiman leading that transitional (inaudible) see his role (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, look, I mean I’m not going to comment about it. I am just going to refer you to (inaudible). He announced he wouldn’t run again. He announced his son wouldn’t run again. He announced he was resigning his position of the national party, and his son was resigning his position at the national party. He installed a vice president for the first time in 30 years. Those are significant actions.
Now, they do not constitute an orderly transition and the process leading up to it through dialogue and constitutional reform, creating a new approach to political parties, setting up an election, but I think they have to be viewed as a very important set of steps being taken to keep the movement going in the direction that we seek.
QUESTION: But, Madam Secretary, it does seem that, given all these kind of administrative hurdles that you’ve been talking about these last few days, that it does seem that there seems to be a kind of movement, an inevitability, that he is going to have to — in this transition, that he is — you know, we would like to see this sooner, rather than later, but he is not going anywhere. And that just seems like there is an — there is this reality on the ground, if you will, that dictates that he is going to have to play some role.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That has to be up to the Egyptian people. They have a constitution which, as I understand it — and I am no expert on the Egyptian constitution, never gave it a moment’s thought, really, so now I am trying to play catch-up — as I understand the constitution, if the president were to resign, he would be succeeded by the speaker of the house. And presidential elections would have to be held in 60 days.
Now, the Egyptians are the ones who are having to grapple with the reality of what they must do. And maybe I misheard it, but on CNN this morning, when one of your commentators was interviewing one of the leaders in the Muslim Brotherhood, and Al-Baradei, they were saying, “Well, it’s going to take time.” Now, that’s not us saying it, it’s them saying it.
Because once the protests have gotten the attention of the government — and we’ve seen what the government has done in response — I think there is an effort underway within the civil society, the opposition, the political parties, to say, “Okay, what comes next? And how do we get from where we are to where we want to end up?” That’s a really hard issue. And I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to be sitting thousands of miles away saying, “Well, this is what you should do, and that’s what you should do,” and, “Oh, everybody knows that’s self-evident.”
You have a country of 80 million people, 80 million people with a very complex political, economic, and in every other way society. So, what I have been saying is, “Here are our principles. Here is what we want to see at the end of the process. Here is what we are encouraging.” But we’re not directing this. We are not reaching in and telling people what to do. We are sharing what we believe will work, what is most effective. But this is up to the Egyptians. They have to make these decisions.
And I know you guys are under so much pressure. “What does this mean? What does that mean? Who said that?” But take a deep breath. We are making a very clear statement of what we believe, as Americans. And it’s the same message that we have delivered for 30 years. We think democracy works better. We think open economies work better. We think cracking down on corruption works better. We believe all of that, because we think it is in the best interest not only of the Egyptian people, but of everyone else.
Now they are doing — they are taking this, and they are working on it, and they are making their own decisions, and we have to respect that.
QUESTION: Secretary, do you think that the Muslim Brotherhood needs to be a part of the dialogue in the transition?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think that’s up to the Egyptians. But what I heard this morning was the Muslim Brotherhood was going in to meet with the vice president. So, clearly, they have made a decision to participate in the dialogue. How that goes, how long it lasts, that’s for them to decide.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That — I am not going to be pre-judging who should participate in their political process. They have to decide who is going to be eligible to run. What we want is to see an inclusive process.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible) Vice President Suleiman and President Mubarak. And a lot (inaudible), at least publicly, two elements of the opposition (inaudible). Are you going to — I mean (inaudible). Are you (inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: First of all, that’s not true. There has been outreach to a lot of the opposition and civil society leaders. But again, a lot of what we are doing is private, because we do not want to be perceived by anyone as somehow influencing, directing anything. If you’re an opposition leader in Egypt right now, you’re talking to everybody. You’re not only talking to government officials. A lot of the leaders in Egypt are talking to not only different governments around the region, but also to private contacts they know and have trusted. And so there is a lot of that going on.
And to be fair, they are also calling and saying, “How do we do this? What is it that you think would work?” And when I met with all of the leaders I met with yesterday, particularly Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Lady Ashton, everybody has had contacts from a broad cross-section of Egyptian society: the business community, the academic community, and everybody else. And a lot of people are saying, “What can you do to help us? How do you form a political party? How do you prepare for elections? What kind of assistance can you offer to us?”
And I think, as the enormity of the organizational challenge is confronted by responsible leaders of the protest and the opposition, they are saying, “Okay, we’ve got work to do.” I mean that is what you would want them to say, because they do have work to do. There is — there are economic changes, constitutional changes, so much that has to be properly organized. So there is a lot of that going on. There will be even more of it in the future, because we are going to try to work with a lot of like-minded countries around the world to offer whatever assistance we can.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I would say what matters is credibility in the eyes of the Egyptians. And they are the ones who are going to have to resolve that. And there are organizations and individuals whose participation will give credibility in the eyes of some Egyptians, and concerns in the eyes of other Egyptians.
So, I think that this is — we are at a stage in this process where, clearly, dialogue is going on. People are meeting. They are talking. They are reaching out. And we just have to wait and see what decisions are. Because different countries go about designing their electoral systems differently, determining who is eligible to run. And again, this is an Egyptian-led process that we are going to respect.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not talking about the election, I’m just talking about the transition process, and the dialogue.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I mean I think, to me, without answering specifically as to any organization, what I have urged in my public and private statements is that the process be as broadly inclusive as possible, and that there are people who are already organized and people who are not organized, and people in the business community and other parts of society, all of whom, together, have a contribution to make, as to giving the process credibility in the eyes of Egyptians.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, we are at a stage now where we want the process to be credible, and to set a time table with concrete steps going forward. We always reserve the right to decide, at the end, whether the outcome is one that is or is not immediately in the interests of the United States. But at this point, it’s a very important moment in Egyptian history, and it holds great promise. But, like anything else in life or in politics, there are downsides. We have to see how all of that plays out.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in the region there has been a lot of nervousness from allies, in terms of (inaudible) yourself and President Mubarak feeling (inaudible). What does it mean, American loyalty — what does it mean to be an American ally? Are you concerned that this (inaudible) other foreign policy interests, like Iran and Middle East peace? Because that’s what some leaders are saying.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I understand the concerns of everybody in the region. And as you remember, what I said in Doha last month — I could not have been clearer. I did not honestly foresee either Tunisia or Egypt, but I could not have been clearer about our concerns for all of these governments. And, as I said, it appeared as though their foundations were sinking in the sand, because too many of them have not opened up political and economic space to answer the legitimate concerns of their people.
And in the — 2011, with so many young people, so few jobs, so much conductivity in communications technology, what worked in the past is not likely to keep working. So I feel that we have been a good friend and a good partner over many years in raising issues that we thought needed to be addressed. And as I said earlier today, my job is to advance the values and the interest and protect the security of the United States of America. And we are very clear about our values, and we try to define our interests, and we are adamant about our security. So that means that we often deliver messages to countries and governments that we don’t agree with and see eye to eye with on every issue.
We just had — with Jintao in Washington we made it very clear we don’t agree with China on human rights. So we send those messages all the time. And the fact that both Tunisia and Egypt have had this outpouring of frustration by predominantly young people — as far as we can tell, unorganized, undirected — should send a clear signal to everybody in the region. They have to do a better job of meeting the needs of their own citizens.
QUESTION: Do you see the changes that are underway as making a case for reaffirming the commitment to a peace agreement (inaudible) Palestinians, or do you (inaudible) those in Israel (inaudible) who say that, at a time like this, the last thing we want to do is think about (inaudible) concessions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: I know the argument. I know that it’s being argued inside Israel right now. And I would say two things. Number one, our commitment to Israel’s security is enduring and will continue. In fact, this Administration, under President Obama, has done more in two years for Israel’s security than any administration in the past. So we not only talk about Israel’s security, we have delivered and will continue to deliver.
At the same time, we are persisting in our efforts on the peace process. We had a Quartet meeting yesterday. We set forth an agenda of continuing meetings. And George Mitchell and I and others will press that case, because we continue to believe that it is in the best interests of Israel, the Palestinians, and the region. But ultimately, as with all of these (inaudible) issues, it’s up to the parties themselves.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I am not going to put any value statement on it. I am going to say that we are unalterably, unequivocally committed to Israel’s security, and will continue to support, and believe that the peace process is in both Israel’s interests and the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, can you give (inaudible) what you mean when you say (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to the first one, I think that the facts speak for themselves about what we have done to help buttress and support Israel’s security. Some of it is unclassified, some of it is classified. I will give you the unclassified in detail.
But also, with respect to reaching out, we are all reaching out. Jeff (ph) is doing a heroic job. His whole bureau is. Bill Burns is on the phone constantly. I am reaching out, I spoke with (inaudible) just the other day. The President is reaching out. We are on a constant outreach campaign.
QUESTION: Has anyone spoken to (inaudible)?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Everybody has spoken to everybody. Everybody has spoken to everybody. And at different levels, but everybody has spoken to everybody. And our message is the same. “Look, we are absolutely clear that every country be asked to provide more space, more openness.” And each country may be different about how to proceed with that (inaudible) backgrounds, cultures, situations, et cetera. But I think that everybody can do more.
QUESTION: And what kind of response are you getting?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, this is a very traumatic event. And it took a while even to accommodate — what did it mean, and was it going to last, and how would it be responded to. So, you get different responses, Mary Beth.
But I think that as it sinks in, there is a lot of soul searching going on about what more governments can do. And I hope it is, because there is no one-size-fits all. And — right? A formula that applies to every country in the region. But every country in the region (inaudible) says, “What more can I do to stamp out corruption, because it is a cancer that eats away at the hopes of young people looking for jobs?” I mean the young man who set himself on fire in Tunisia, which sparked their protest, apparently not only couldn’t get a job, even though he was a college graduate (inaudible), but was sick of paying for protection from government officials. I mean at some point, stop it. Open your economy. Make jobs available for young people. Give them a ladder of meritocracy and mobility that will begin to answer their needs.
I mean there is so much that could be done. And I mentioned a lot of that in my Doha speech. There is just so many impediments. This is not my conclusion. I mean there was a very important report a few years ago by Arab economists including all of this. This is not just coming from Americans, this is coming from the region from people who know that there is so much talent in the Gulf, in the Middle East, in North Africa, and it has not been given an outlet. So –
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: A lot of the people, they’ve heard it before. They’ve heard me say it before, and they have heard everybody say it before.
QUESTION: Yes, but that’s sinking in the sand.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s — well, but I really set out to try to get their attention. I really intended to get their attention, because, look, it’s not in our interests to see upheaval, uncertainty, all that goes with these changes that are occurring. We want to see a move toward democracy, an open economy. We believe it’s so much in the interest of the region.
But there are a lot of governments and people, not just in this part of the world, but around the world, who aren’t very happy with where they are and how they see things, and they begin to see everything through the prism of their own experience. And then you come in as an American, you say, “But this and this and this,” and they go, “No, you don’t understand. No, no, no.” And that kind of is the end of the conversation. You keep going back, you keep trying to push. So –
QUESTION: When you talk about (inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it is complicated in every different place. It depends upon the historical circumstances, the leaders. And it is striking that in Tunisia Ben Ali had been in power for so long — got out of town. I mean he didn’t even have a depth of support within the institutions of his own government that would enable him to even attempt to hang on.
In other places, people feel that they have got a good relationship with their citizens, but maybe they need to do a little more to keep them happy. It just goes from one extreme to the other. (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: In the case of Egypt, (inaudible), like a date certain or –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. Like, for example — okay, this is just eye observations. Here is what we need to do to amend the constitution to bring it more in line with the kind of democracy and political system we are seeking. So we are going to begin that process, and we hope to have it concluded by date certain.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Here are the laws we’re going to pass to repeal all that is unworkable and oppressive, and here is what we’re going to put into place by date certain. And here is what –
QUESTION: (Inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes. I mean — yes. I mean, but that’s the — I mean there needs to be an approach which kind of does a very, very clear-eyed look at what exists now, and where you want to get, and what are the lawful mechanisms of reforming a constitution, passing the laws, putting in place an electoral system. There are so many aspects of that. Are there electoral rolls? I don’t know. I don’t know that about Egypt. But I do know, from my long experience, if you do not have good lists of who is eligible to vote, you are asking for trouble in the elections.
So, there is a lot that — and experts from around the world can come in and — “Here are the 10 things it takes to run a credible election. Here is what it will take you, given your present situation, to do to get there. So let’s begin it, and here is how you do it.”
QUESTION: Is the state right now such that (inaudible) –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I don’t know. That’s why I say to you I don’t know what kind of voter rolls exist in Egypt. I have no idea. But I do know that one of our biggest challenges, for example in Iraq, was we had to do a –
QUESTION: But (inaudible) was 99 percent –
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, but you’re making my point.
QUESTION: Are you already talking to them about these kind of things? Like, “Let us help you with election law, lists” –
SECRETARY CLINTON: A lot of people are talking to them. A lot of people are. But they are the ones who have to make the lists and ask for the help. I mean we stand ready, as does the European Union, as does so many others, to say, “Look, we have experts in (inaudible) elections. We have experts in holding credible elections. We have experts in writing constitutions.”
We have — I mean we, Europe, other countries, we’ve done this in many places. We just, against all the odds, (inaudible) a peaceful referendum in south Sudan. And three months people didn’t think we could do that. But after a lot of effort, we got there.
And so — and like Kenya, we worked really hard. They had a terrible election when they last had a presidential election, and it caused violence, and it was awful. And we came in, and others came in, and said, “Let us give you a system, if you will take it, that will help you have a credible election.” So we helped them put in place a foundation for the constitutional election. It was held, nobody protested, because it was credible.
So, this is important, to kind of look over the horizon. So you don’t want to get to September, have a failed election, and then people feel, “What did we do? What was the point of all of this?” You want to help set the stage for the kind of credible, legitimate elections that is going to produce winners that people will believe, whether they voted for them or not, “Okay, they represent Egyptian” –
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think — well, look, I think –
SECRETARY CLINTON: It is up to them. But I think, with a concerted effort, with the kind of time lines and concrete steps I am calling for, it could be done. But it will take enormous cooperation, not just on the part of the government, but on the part of civil society and political actors. Because we will have to have a buy-in.
If you say, “We are going to amend the constitution by April 1st,” and people say, “Well, that doesn’t give me enough time,” it doesn’t have to be — it could be for many — you’ve got to reach a consensus so that people say, “Okay, we would like a little more time to study (inaudible) do it.”
All of this is painstaking. And the — it’s much easier, ruling by (inaudible). And democracy takes a while to become a familiar institutional experience for people. So removing from one to the other can — when I was talking to Chancellor Merkel, and she was talking about what it was like having grown up in East Germany, totally authoritarian, oppressive, Soviet system until the wall falls, and then all of a sudden people look around and say, “What do we do now?” And she said, “I mean it took six months for people to get their bearings. And all of a sudden, the people who had been the brave, heroic protestors against the East German authorities were looked at like, “Okay, you’re a good protestor, but are you a good leader? Are you somebody who can move from protest to government?”
QUESTION: (Inaudible) difference is that regime (inaudible). There was no regime (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: No, it’s not different. I mean it’s different in the way it happened, but it poses some of the same problems.
SECRETARY CLINTON: And there is no doubt that a lot of the former Soviet republics were left totally confused. What does democracy mean?
I remember going to a lot of the former Soviet states after the fall of the wall in the early and mid-1990s, and I tell you how many of the leaders said to me, “Well, what is this — how does this work? What do you do?” And it sounds funny, but you have one political party, the Communist Party, and that was your only political experience. Then, all of a sudden, you’re in a democratic environment, what does it mean?
And most — we look at the transitions. In most of Europe, with the exception of Belarus, where we just saw, in the midst of Europe, a disastrous election because an authoritarian leader will not give up power, and we’re going to have to pressure him and sanction him. When — with those of you who went with me to Central Asia, their experience has nothing to do with democracy. They are countries that have been struggling to try to figure out. So Kyrgyzstan had an election. That’s all — I mean I just want to put this into a broader context.
MODERATOR: (Inaudible) last question.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about aid question, because I’ve been a little bit confused. You had the White House come out and say aid can be reviewed, depending on events as things play out. You went out last Sunday and said we’re not currently deliberating cutting aid to the Egyptian military.
But let’s say that in three months this process is faltering, or paralyzed, or you see backsliding. Is aid ever part of the equation? Is that a lever the United States can invoke at some point?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, let’s go off the record. Nice try. Off the record. Okay, turn all your little machines off.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more thing about Suleiman, then, before we go off the record? Suleiman — I know you say (inaudible) running a transition is not the same as enforcing it. But you did say yesterday he is running a transition.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Yes (inaudible) –
QUESTION: Here is my question. The guy is the head of the secret police. These people that are being beaten up by his (inaudible)? Not true?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Off the record.
QUESTION: Why not?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We will go off the record, okay? We will go off the record.
QUESTION: Why is that not true?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Turn off –
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
As we monitor the situation in Egypt, we urge all parties to refrain from using violence, and expect the Egyptian authorities to respond to any protests peacefully. We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper. The United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance these goals.
More broadly, what is happening in the region reminds us that, as the President said in Cairo, we have an 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 free of corruption; and the freedom to live as you choose – these are human rights and we support them everywhere.
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
The United States deplores and condemns the violence that is taking place in Egypt, and we are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators. We repeat our strong call for restraint.
QUESTION: Joining us now from the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Secretary, President Obama on Friday called on Mubarak to recognize the rights of the Egyptian people. Are you satisfied with the steps that Mubarak has taken so far?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, I don’t think anyone is satisfied, least of all the Egyptian the people, who have legitimate grievances and are seeking greater political freedom, a real path to democracy, and economic opportunity. And for 30 years, the United States, through Republican and Democratic administrations, has been urging the Mubarak government to take certain steps. In fact, we’ve been urging that a vice president be appointed for decades, and that finally has happened.
But there’s a long way to go, Chris, and our hope is that we do not see violence; we see a dialogue opening that reflects the full diversity of Egyptian civil society, that has the concrete steps for democratic and economic reform that President Mubarak himself said that he was going to pursue, and that we see the respect for human rights for Egyptian people and the kind of progress that will lead to a much more open, political, and economic set of opportunities for the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: Secretary, all of your answer has been couched in terms of President Mubarak. Does that mean that the Obama Administration still backs Mubarak as the legitimate president of Egypt?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about. We also want to see an orderly transition. Right now, from everything we know, the army has taken up positions. They are responding very positively thus far to the peaceful protests. But at the same time, we have a lot of reports of looting and criminal activity that is not going to be particularly helpful to what we want to see happen, and that has to be dealt with.
So there are many, many steps along the journey that has been started by the Egyptian people themselves, and we wish to support that.
QUESTION: Secretary, you talk about an orderly transition. How concerned are you that if Mubarak were to be suddenly thrown from power that Islamic radicals could fill the void?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Chris, we want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void – that there be a well thought out plan that will bring about a democratic, participatory government. And I also believe strongly that this is in Egypt’s long-term interests, it’s in the interests of the partnership that the United States has with Egypt. So that is what we are attempting to promote and support, because clearly, what we don’t want is chaos. I don’t think the Egyptian people want that. They want their grievances to be addressed. We also don’t want to see some takeover that would lead not to democracy, but to oppression and the end of the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
So this is an intensely complex situation. It does not lend itself to quick yes-or-no, easy answers, but instead, I think the path that President Obama has charted, that we are pursuing, that calls for no violence, that supports the aspirations and human rights of the Egyptian people, that stands behind concrete steps toward democratic and economic reform is the right path for all of us to be on.
QUESTION: Secretary, on Tuesday, after the protests had already started in Cairo, you said this:
SECRETARY CLINTON: Our assessment is that the Egyptian Government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: A number of protestors in the streets said based on that remark and other actions that the U.S. was acting on the side of the regime, not of the protestors. Was that statement by you a mistake?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Chris, we recognize the volatility of the situation, and we are trying to do exactly what I have just said – to promote orderly transition and change that will respond to the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, which is what the protests are all about. I don’t think anyone wants to see instability, chaos, increasing violence. That is not in anyone’s interest.
So what President Obama and I have been doing is sending a very clear message about where the United States stands. We want to see an orderly transition to a democratic government, to economic reforms – exactly what the protestors are seeking. At the same time, we want to recognize Egypt has been our partner. They’ve been our partner in a peace process that has kept the region from war for over 30 years, which has saved a lot of lives – Egyptian lives, Israeli lives, other lives.
We want to continue to make it absolutely a American priority that – what we’ve been saying for 30 years – is that real stability rests in democracy, participation, economic opportunity. How we get from where we are to where we know the Egyptian people want to be and deserve to be is what this is about now. So we are urging the Mubarak government, which is still in power; we are urging the military, which is a very respected institution in Egypt, to do what is necessary to facilitate that kind of orderly transition.
QUESTION: And briefly, Secretary, should Americans currently in Egypt leave the country?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are following the conditions for American citizens extremely closely. This is one of my highest responsibilities, Chris. And we have authorized voluntary departure, which means that we will assist American citizens to leave Egypt. We have warned that there should not be any nonessential travel to Egypt. Thankfully, right now, there are no reports of Americans killed or injured. Again, I thank the Egyptian army for the support and security that they have provided. But we are watching it closely and we are assisting Americans who wish to leave.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, we want to thank you so much for talking with us today.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Perhaps no one is watching this situation more closely than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and she joins us this morning from the State Department. Has the United States Administration, whether yourself, whether the President or Secretary Gates, told the Egyptian Government specifically that any military crackdown will result in a cutoff of U.S. military assistance?
SECRETARY CLINTON: No. Right now, we’re monitoring the actions of the Egyptian military and they are, as I’m sure your contacts are telling you, demonstrating restraint, working to try to differentiate between peaceful protestors, whom we all support, and potential looters and other criminal elements who are obviously a danger to the Egyptian people. We have sent a very clear message that we want to see restraint. We do not want to see violence by any security forces. And we continue to convey that message. There is no discussion as of this time about cutting off any aid. We always are looking and reviewing our aid.
But right now, we are trying to convey a message that is very clear – that we want to ensure there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence, and that we want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, do you believe that what President Mubarak has done already, which is to appoint a first-ever vice president and to shuffle the government – does that amount to enough reform? Is that all you’ve asked him to do?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, of course not. But there has been, for 30 years, a both public and private dialogue with the Egyptian Government – sometimes more public, sometimes more private, but all with the same message from Republican and Democratic administrations – that there needs to be reform. One of the items on that long list was appointing a vice president.
That has happened, but that is the beginning, the bare beginning of what needs to happen, which is a process that leads to the kind of concrete steps to achieve democratic and economic reform that we’ve been urging and that President Mubarak himself discussed in his speech the other day.
QUESTION: There are people still on the streets in great numbers. On Tuesday, you said that the U.S. Government’s assessment is that the Government of Egypt is stable. Do you believe that was a mistake or do you think today that the Government of Egypt is stable?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Christiane, I know that everybody wants a yes-or-no answer to what are very complicated issues. Obviously, this is a volatile situation. Egypt has been a partner of the United States for over three decades, has been a partner in achieving historic peace with Israel, a partner in trying to stabilize a region that is subject to a lot of challenges. And we have been consistent across those three decades in arguing that real stability only comes from the kind of democratic participation that gives people a chance to feel that they are being heard.
And by that, I mean real democracy, not a democracy for six months or a year and then evolving into essentially a military dictatorship, or a so-called democracy that then leads to what we saw in Iran. So we’ve been very clear about what is in Egypt’s long-term interests, and we continue to be clear. And that is what we want to see come from this very – this great outpouring of desire for the people of Egypt to have their universal human rights recognized. And that is what we hope will come.
QUESTION: A lot of the people here on the streets are telling us that they’re angry, they think the U.S. is hedging its bets.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just want to reiterate what both President Obama and I have been saying. I said it in Doha, I’ve said it before, President Obama said it himself when he was in Cairo at the beginning of his Administration – we believe that democracy, human rights, economic reform are in the best interests of the Egyptian people. Any government that does not try to move in that direction cannot meet the legitimate needs of the people. And in the 21st century, it is highly vulnerable to what we have seen in the region and beyond. People are not going to stand by any longer and not be given the opportunity to fulfill their own God-given potential.
So what I’m hoping is that there can be a very difficult set of decisions made, that the government will be able to maintain a peaceful relationship with peaceful protestors, that where there is criminal activity, looting and the like, that can be handled in an appropriate way, respecting human rights. But then we can see a national dialogue begin where the Government of Egypt recognizes that it must – that it must take those concrete steps that many of us have been urging for democratic and economic reform.
I think that is the best way for Egypt to navigate through this without unforeseen consequences that could further undermine the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, thank you very much for joining us.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
Media Note Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called Egyptian Vice President Omar Soliman today to convey that today’s violence was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations. The Secretary urged that the Government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts. Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations and expressed concern that all parties recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly.
Noting Vice President Soliman’s call for a broad dialogue with representatives of Egypt’s opposition parties, the Secretary expressed hope that both the government and the opposition would seize the opportunity, starting immediately, for serious, meaningful negotiations about Egypt’s transition to a more open, pluralistic, and democratic government. Lastly, the Secretary noted that the United States remains committed to working in partnership with Egypt in helping to achieve the aspirations of the Egyptian people.