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Remarks With Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy Before Their Meeting

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Location: Washington, DC

SECRETARY KERRY: Good morning, everybody. I am pleased to welcome the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Nabil Fahmy, who is no stranger in Washington. He spent many years in the United States. Actually, he was born in New York. I think he spoke English before Arabic, (inaudible). (Laughter.) And he and I have been in constant touch in recent months by telephone, so it's good to have a chance to catch up. We've seen each other at a couple of conferences, but today we obviously have very important issues to discuss.

Egypt, for a long time, has been a very important strategic partner of the United States, and we do share common interests, particularly the stability of the region, counterterrorism, peace with Israel, and other concerns. Egypt is a very important country. It is one quarter of the Arab world, and historically Egypt has always played a central role in the region and in our efforts to maintain the peace process, as well as the stability of the region itself.

Clearly, Egypt has been going through a very difficult transitional process. What happens in the next weeks and months is very, very important to all of us. We want the interim government to be successful. We are hopeful and look for a political process of inclusivity, a constitution implemented which brings people politically to the table, and broadens the democratic base of Egypt. Egypt's constitution is a positive step forward. It has taken steps, and they are moving now to an election. But even as these positive steps have been taken, we all know there have been disturbing decisions within the judicial process -- the court system -- that have raised serious challenges for all of us.

We will discuss these issues today very candidly and forthrightly, and we do so in a spirit that wants to find a way for Egypt to be able to make it through this transition and share a full democracy with its people and be able to take the steps that create the stability and strength that is necessary from a country like Egypt where everybody looks to the potential of Egypt's reemergence on the global stage as a major partner in our strategic concerns.

So we are hopeful for that. We look to work very closely in that effort. But as I've mentioned to the foreign minister a number of times, we really are looking for certain things to happen that will give people the sense of confidence about this road ahead. It's actions, not words, that will make the difference, and that's really the discussion that we look forward to have this morning.

So Mr. Foreign Minister, I really welcome you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER FAHMY: Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: You've given us a lot of insight as to what is happening. I know you yourself are pushing for -- in many of these things -- and we look forward to a good discussion.

FOREIGN MINISTER FAHMY: Thank you, John. Thank you very much for inviting me back to Washington. It's been -- the State Department has been a frequent visit for me in the past in my previous capacity. And this venue, in particular this hall, was an event -- an area for many events that I attended. But the American-Egyptian relationship is something that's extremely important to me personally and to Egypt, as well as a nation.

All of the strategic elements that the Secretary mentioned regarding our common goals, I don't want to repeat because I completely agree with him on those issues. What's different in my visit this time than in my previous capacity is I come now representing people that want democracy, they want to be stakeholders in the future, they want to build a better country, that are going through a transformation that is societal, not simply changing one president for the other. I believe we are moving forward. Again, as the Secretary said, the constitution in particular was a very constructive step. We're going forward with the election for president in a few weeks and then hopefully soon after that for parliament.

As we do that, we need to deal with the challenges that we face without disturbing institutional relationships. The Secretary mentioned some of the challenges within the judicial system. They are completely independent from the government, but of course, they're part of what Egypt is all about. I can't comment on the content of the decisions themselves, but I'm confident that due process is allowed -- that due process is allowed, and that the legal system will ultimately end up with proper decisions in each of these cases. And we will build a democracy based on the rule of law, and the rule of law means applying laws that are consistent with the constitution through a legal system that's independent and credible to us all -- most of all, to the Egyptian people.

And that's a commitment that I make not to you here in Washington, but to my own people. So I'm glad to say it here as well at the same time. We're going to have an interesting discussion on a number of the regional issues, on our bilaterals, and of course, I'll be happy to explain what's happening in Egypt domestically as well. Thank you, John, for having me here.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you, Nabil. I appreciate it. Thank you very much. Thanks.


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