Clinton Meets Morsi in Cairo, Urges Egypt to Complete Transition to Democratic Rule

Secretary of State says the U.S. supports the return of Egypt's military to an exclusive national security role.

The United States supports the full establishment of democratic rule in Egypt and the return of its military to an exclusively national security role, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday.

Making her first visit to Egypt since the inauguration of President Mohamed Morsi two weeks ago, Clinton stressed, however, it was entirely up to Egyptians to decide to do this and she emphasized democracy requires dialogue and compromise.

Clinton met Morsi on Saturday in the highest level meeting yet between a U.S. official and a Muslim Brotherhood politician whose first days in office have been marred by a power struggle with Egypt's still influential army leadership.

She reiterated Washington's support for a country that was a cornerstone of U.S. policy during Hosni Mubarak's three decades in power but is now led by a man from a group outlawed during his rule.

Asked whether the US tried to bring Morsi and Netanyahu together, Clinton said "it is up to the two nations and the President and the Prime Minister to make their own scheduling plans. We have done nothing. That's not our role; that would not be appropriate. Obviously, we think it's important for all the nations in the region to try to maintain peace and stability, especially with so many economic challenges facing the region. And we certainly support the continuation of the peace agreement, because we think it has brought great benefits to Egypt and will continue to do so, enabling the President to focus on the economic conditions and the internal political situation here in the country."

Commenting on the U.S. position on Palestinian reconciliation plans, Clinton said "I'm in very close communication with President Abbas. I met with him last Friday in Paris. Our goal is to help bring about the two-state solution. And we know that it can only happen if there is a negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that can only happen if all Palestinians are committed to seeking a political resolution and renouncing violence. So reconciliation is up to the Palestinians, and I commend the Egyptian Government for all the work that Egypt has done. But at the end of the day, the factions of the Palestinians themselves have to determine whether they are committed to a negotiation that will result in a state which they deserve and which the Palestinian people have every reason to expect, or whether there will be diversions and other actions that do not promote that. And I personally believe, having watched this closely now for more than 20 years, that it's imperative there be a negotiated resolution. And I will continue to do everything I can to bring that about."

Clinton is due to meet on Sunday with Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the head of the council of generals that oversaw the transition from Mubarak's rule.

"The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule with all that entails," Clinton said during a news conference after her meeting with Morsi, commending the military council for its role during Egypt's transition.

"But there is more work ahead. And I think the issues around the parliament, the constitution have to be resolved between and among Egyptians. I will look forward to discussing these issues tomorrow with Field Marshall Tantawi and in working to support the military's return to a purely national security role."

Power Struggle

The army, which has been at the heart of power for six decades, moved to limit the power of the new civilian president even as voters were lining up to elect him, while enhancing their own authorities in a constitutional decree.

The generals also dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament on the grounds of a court ruling that had deemed the rules by which it was elected as unconstitutional.

But Morsi quickly challenged that decision, issuing a decree summoning the disbanded parliament just days after he took office and raising the heat in the power struggle.

Speaking ahead of Clinton's arrival, senior U.S. officials said she would urge Egypt's civilian and military leaders to work together to complete a full transition to democratic rule.

"She is going to say, you have to stick with it. You have to keep going," a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters travelling with Clinton.

"It is crucial that all of the stakeholders who need and have a voice in Egypt's transition engage in a dialogue to answer the complicated questions around parliament and the constitution.

"So she will encourage Tantawi, as she will encourage Morsi, and civil society, to engage in that dialogue and to avoid the kinds of confrontation that could potentially lead to the transition veering off track," the official added.

The United States long held the Brotherhood at arm's length and Clinton was asked if she regretted that successive administrations had supported a government in Egypt that worked to repress and marginalize the group, at times imprisoning now President Morsi.

"We worked with the government of the country at the time. We work with governments around the world. We agree with some of them. We disagree with others of them," said Clinton.

"We were consistent in promoting human rights and speaking out for an end to the emergency law, an end to political prisoners being detained."

She also said Morsi must stick by his commitment to uphold Egypt's international commitments, which include the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

Speaking alongside Clinton, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said Morsi had reiterated his commitment to Egypt's treaties.

"Mohamed Morsi has repeatedly announced on all occasions that Egypt respects all peace treaties that Egypt is a party to as long as the other party also respects them," he said.

Morsi had also made clear that Egypt remained committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said. 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds a press conference in Cairo on July 14, 2012.
Clinton meets with Morsi in Cairo - AFP - July 14, 2012