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Clinton and Egypt’s Amr Hold Crucial Bilateral Talks
28 September 2011
Mohamed Kamel Amr and Hillary Rodham Clinton at podiums (AP Images)

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton held talks in Washington September 28 on issues including upcoming elections.

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.

Washington — The United States fully supports the Egyptian people in their transition to a democratic nation as they conduct upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says.

“This takes persistence and patience, and it’s often hard to have the latter in a time when there’s so much pent-up demand and hope for a better future,” Clinton said at a September 28 joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr at the State Department. “So we look to being a strong partner for the Egyptian people.”

At their first official talks in Washington, Clinton and Amr addressed a broad range of bilateral and regional issues, from security to economics to education. Amr became foreign minister in the new government in July after having worked at the World Bank.

Clinton told reporters that during their talks Amr said that the Egyptian government has recognized the Transitional National Council (TNC) in Libya as that nation begins a similar transition to democratic governance. The United States formally recognized the Libyan TNC on July 15.

Clinton said Amr also reiterated Egypt’s support for the 1979 Camp David Accords, which is essential for regional stability. The accords helped to establish a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

The secretary also recognized the work of the Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been a crucial institution of stability and continuity after the ouster of the regime of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.

“The Egyptian people look to the Supreme Council to support the transition and to ensure that the elections go in a very positive way that provides transparency, freedom and fairness,” Clinton said. Egypt is planning parliamentary elections in November, the creation of a committee to draft a constitution, a referendum on the constitution and presidential elections in the first part of 2012.

“We are very supportive of the steps that have been taken in Egypt to establish a timetable for elections, to create the conditions that permit the elections to proceed, the formation of political parties, for example — a lot of free and diverse opinion being expressed,” Clinton said.

Clinton told reporters that the United States is looking to implement through the U.S. Congress a $1 billion debt swap that President Obama announced in May. Rather than making interest payments on debt, Clinton said, the Egyptian people can invest that money into new projects that create jobs and give them a better standard of living.

The United States is also focused on trade and investment, and on the new Middle East Trade and Investment Partnership to help Egypt gain even greater access to global markets, Clinton said. The United States is seeking to establish an enterprise fund to help with new business startups, and is continuing work with the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation. All this is intended to provide economic support for what Egyptians are doing to bolster their own economy, Clinton said.

Clinton said the United States is also working with Egyptians to launch a network of community colleges across the country that would provide training for Egyptians to be able to take advantage of investment opportunities.

“Egypt has the largest market and the largest workforce in the Arab world,” she said.

Amr told reporters that “Egypt and the United States have enjoyed a longtime friendship and partnership. The United States assisted Egypt in many ways in its development, and it continues to do so.”

“And we are sure that our cooperation and our friendship will only strengthen in the future,” Amr said.

Amr also told reporters that Egypt and the United States will continue their work for peace and stability in the Middle East and beyond the region.

Acknowledging that the Middle East is going through “deep change and delicate times,” Amr said that the two nations will need to continue working closely to ensure that both peoples benefit from the opportunities that the changes bring.