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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is Wheels Down in Egypt *updated*

March 15, 2011

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) speaks with reporters traveling on her aircraft as she leaves Paris and heads to Cairo, on March 15, 2011

From Reuters:

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday began the highest-level visit to Egypt by a U.S. official since an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak, for decades a close ally of Washington.

She is expected to urge the military rulers to whom Mubarak handed power on Feb. 11 to lay the ground for a genuine transition to democracy and offer support to the Egyptians whose mass uprising swept him from office.

One coalition of pro-democracy activists said it had turned down an invitation to meet Clinton in protest at U.S. policy towards Egypt and the U.S. position on the anti-Mubarak revolt. Mubarak crushed opposition during his three decades in power.

U.S. President Barack Obama lavished praise on the protesters the day Mubarak stepped down but it was too little too late for the Egyptian activists, who felt his administration gave Mubarak too much support during the uprising.

The January 25 coalition, made up of six youth groups, said in a statement that Clinton was not welcome “because the U.S. administration long supported Mubarak’s corrupt, dictatorial regime financially, politically and morally”.

They also called for a more balanced relationship between Cairo and Washington, whose influence they blame for shaping Egyptian policies including their country’s role in enforcing the blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

“We Egyptians, after regaining authority over our land, will only settle for mutual equitable relations based on autonomy, friendship and respect that is reciprocated between both the American and Egyptian nations,” it said.

A cautious approach during the uprising put the U.S. administration out of step with protesters and Washington was criticised for being slow to grasp the scale of the upheaval.

Cairo has been a close U.S. ally since the 1970s, when Washington brokered Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

CORNERSTONE OF U.S. POLICY

Washington’s alliance with Egypt has been a cornerstone of its policy in the region and the country is a recipient of some $1.3 billion in U.S. aid per year. Washington has said it will spend a further $150 million to assist the move to democracy.

Clinton will meet Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, on Wednesday, Egyptian officials said.

She will also see Foreign Minister Nabil Elaraby, who took office as part of a recent cabinet reshuffle that purged remnants of Mubarak’s administration.

The military has promised to cede power to an elected government as soon as possible. Diplomats, analysts and Egyptian politicians believe the army does not want to stay in power.

In speeches in recent weeks, Clinton has stressed the difficulties of nurturing the institutions that support democracy, including robust political parties, a free media and the rule of law.

Asked to summarise Clinton’s message, a U.S. official said: “What happens next is as important as what came before. Transitions to democracy are difficult and they don’t produce results overnight or end with the first successful election.”

The army dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and has mapped an initial path to elections within six months, with a March 19 vote on constitutional amendments, parliamentary elections in June and a presidential vote six weeks later.

There are calls for the timetable to be changed.

Some Egyptian activists are concerned it is too tight and will give an advantage to the well-organised Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group, and the remnants of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.

U.S. concerns in the new Egypt include the role the Muslim Brotherhood might play in the government and how that could affect Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Essam al-Erian, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, said the organisation had not been invited to meet Clinton…

This is from earlier today, prior to leaving for Egypt:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Secretary Clinton and Japanese FM, posted with vodpod

 

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, what’s the greatest need from the international community?

FOREIGN MINISTER MATSUMOTO: (Via interpreter.) We have been already receiving a lot of assistance from the international community, but we would like to (inaudible). I much appreciate the United States Government for their assistance and also their encouragement.

SECRETARY CLINTON: And I want to, on behalf of the United States, express both our condolence and our solidarity with the government and people of Japan. Japan is always a very generous donor to any disaster anywhere in the world, and today, the world comes together to support Japan in its hour of need. And the minister and I will be discussing a lot of the specifics that we are working on together.

And her travel schedule:

8:30 a.m. LOCAL (EDT + 5 hours) Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Matsumoto, in Paris, France.

6:30 p.m. LOCAL (EDT + 6 hours) Secretary Clinton holds a bilateral working dinner with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby, in Cairo, Egypt.

8:00 p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton holds a joint press availability with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Araby, in Cairo, Egypt.

9:00 p.m. LOCAL Secretary Clinton meets with Egyptian civil society activists, in Cairo, Egypt.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Thain permalink
    March 15, 2011 2:25 pm

    So we are dissing groups in Egypt associated with political Islam? That will go over well in the Muslim world. I guess we’re only going to give help (and $$) to groups that tow the US-Israel line.

    BTW, Saudi troops have entered Bahrain to fight the protesters. I guess the people of Bahrain aren’t worthy of democracy because of the the importance of Bahrain to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

    And then there is Saudi Arabia, which makes Iran look good when it comes to oppressing protesters.

    Got hypocrisy?

    • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
      March 15, 2011 3:25 pm

      You know what I don’t get is the utter passivity of the Arab League through most of the uprisings in Libya. Yes, they finally requested the UN to establish a no-fly zone — three days ago, by which time the resistance had all but collapsed. The uprising began a month ago. The Arab League insisted on no foreign intervention then sat on its hands. Nice going Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, Yemen…

      • March 15, 2011 3:37 pm

        Every single country you mentioned, Carolyn, in your comment has had protests on its own soil ongoing. Tunisia and Egypt are still unfolding stories, too.

      • March 15, 2011 8:26 pm

        The Arab league is made up primarily of undemocratic, autocratic regimes. They have no interest in backing democracy activists no matter how much they can’t stand Ghaddafi.

        I think everyone has been dragging their feet just long enough to come up with solutions long after they will be effective. These international groups have meetings where they decide to do little more than have more meetings, issue statements and then have more meetings. Kind of like the Mideast Quartet- I still have no idea what the hell they’ve done to move the peace process forward other than to have lots of meetings where they plan more future meetings.

        • Carolyn-Rodham permalink
          March 15, 2011 11:52 pm

          I guess what I’m reacting to is that fingers are pointed at the US (with some justification) for our failure to speak out or act more decisively in support of demonstrators in the streets of Egypt and Libya, but I haven’t seen any anger directed
          at the Arab League. Why not?

          • March 16, 2011 7:07 am

            There may be some fingers being pointed at the Arab league but our media just isn’t covering it. It also could be that the protesters think the Arab League is a total waste of time and don’t even expect the League to do anything for them given it’s made up of the very leaders they are trying to overthrow. In other words, to them the League may be just another bureaucratic nicety that keeps the autocrats in power while making the West feel good that there is more formal involvement from Arab leaders. Not sure though.

            Also, the weapons being used against protesters in Egypt, Bahrain etc. are US made- having gas cannisters that say “Made in the USA” gives them a place to channel their anger, if you know what I mean.

    • rachel permalink
      March 15, 2011 3:33 pm

      So what should we do in Bahrain Thain?

      • March 15, 2011 8:43 pm

        I’ll throw in my two cents- maybe threaten to stop selling them military hardware that they are using on the protesters? It’s bad PR.

        There is no easy solution- decades of bad Mideast policies are coming home to roost. We back autocratic regimes in the region so long as they advance our interests (and play nice with Israel) but the problem is, as democracy sweeps the region, the Arab street isn’t going to forget whose side we were on and we are already seeing the result of that a little bit in Egypt- some democracy activists refused to meet with Secy Clinton because of the US support for Mubarak, particularly at the beginning of the protests.

        I don’t envy this administration- they are in a tough spot and it certainly was not all their doing- again, it’s the result of decades of hypocritical policies. The problem is, it’s hard to have any credibility when discussing the need for countries like Iran and Cuba to not repress their people, all the while we simply “urge” reform in autocratic countries that promote our interests. At the end of the day, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain- their torture chambers are probably just as bad as Iran’s and in some ways, their leaders just as corrupt- just in different ways- ways we can tolerate.

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