By Brett Borkan
CAIRO: The United States sees Egypt’s economic recovery as critical in its successful transition towards democracy, and is taking immediate steps to help, according to the US Deputy Secretary of State.
Speaking to a group of reporters Wednesday, the US Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns said that the US “will do all [it] can to support not only Egypt’s need for achieving short term financial stability, but also for promoting growth and the creation of jobs.”
Burns, who met earlier Wednesday with the head of Egypt’s ruling military council, and will later meet ministers, civil society organizations, business leaders, and youth, said that “thorough consultations” with the Egyptian government have begun to find out how “best to apply” the financial support proposals US President Barack Obama made last month.
The US diplomat expressed his hope that the $2 billion in loan and debt relief guarantees will allow the Egyptian government to free up its own funds to “address priorities that Egyptians themselves have identified,” such as the education, science and technology, and youth vocational training.
While recognizing the urgency “to demonstrate economic results,” Burns stressed that the US “wants to support the revival of economic growth in a way which benefits not just a few Egyptians, but which spreads benefits and growth across Egyptian society.”
Responding to the growing calls by some in Egypt to reject foreign aid due to strict requirements from donor countries, Burns explained that the US is not seeking to impose its will on Egypt through its financial aid support.
“It’s not the business of the US to impose or dictate conditions with regard to these kinds of opportunities. We want to assist. So I’m confident that in the discussions we’ve begun and will continue, we’re going to find mutually acceptable ways of providing that kind of assistance that fully respect Egypt’s sovereignty.”
Elections and security
Speaking on Egypt’s preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections, Burns said that it is not the US’s position to take a stance on whether it supports holding the elections in September, or postponing them to afford more time for preparation.
“The question of pace, organization, and sequence of elections and the constitution writing process is the subject of a very healthy and thoughtful debate in Egypt right now. Ultimately, those are choices that can only be made by Egyptians, not by Americans or any outsiders.”
The US is only pushing for an “open and inclusive political process,” and for Egyptian authorities to lift the country’s despised emergency law prior to the elections.
Burns went on to explain that reforms in the country’s security sector are also important for Egypt’s democratic transition.
While calling them a “high priority,” the US official warned that security sector reform “is a process that’s going to take time and a lot of effort on the part of not only the transitional government, but also the elected government.”
Reforms in this area are even of more importance due to the abuses that have already occurred, he added, explaining that investigations must be thoroughly conducted and those responsible should be held to account for their actions.
Egypt’s Role in the Region
Building on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s previous statements, Burns noted the importance of the example Egypt sets for the rest of the Middle East.
“Never has there been a moment when Egypt’s success, Egypt’s leadership, Egypt’s example, is more important to this region and to the United States than it is today,” he explained.
“I truly do believe that the example that’s set by Egypt in its success in its transition matters enormously to others who are seeking the same kind of freedoms and dignity and opportunity elsewhere in the region,” and as a result, the “success of [Egypt’s] transition is deeply in the interests of the US.”