Three days after the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, Secretary of State John Kerry finally spoke about the revolution in a late Saturday night statement — in an effort to beat back widespread sentiment that the U.S. backed and continues to support the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The United States is deeply troubled by the violence across Egypt. We strongly condemn any and all incitement to violence or attempts to divide and provoke, rather than unite, all Egyptians. The United States strongly condemns the violence by all parties and urges calm,” Kerry said.
“At the same time, we firmly reject the unfounded and false claims by some in Egypt that the United States supports the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or any specific Egyptian political party or movement. The United States has always been and remains committed to the democratic process, not to any party or personality. We want Egyptians to make their democracy work for the good of all Egyptians,” he continued.
Tamarod protesters carried signs denouncing both President Obama and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson, who met with Muslim Brotherhood leaders before the massive opposition protests a week ago, as supporters of the regime and its nefarious activities.
“At this sensitive moment, we call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and prevent further violence among their supporters and we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully. The United States wants to see Egypt’s ongoing transition succeed for the benefit of the Egyptian people,” Kerry said.
Islamists, some vowing to launch suicide bombings across the country and set Christians on fire (see video at end of story), protested Friday in support of Morsi, sparking clashes in which three dozen people were killed. Mina Aboud Sharween, a Coptic Christian priest, was shot dead while walking in the northern Sinai on Friday.
Kerry said “the Egyptians themselves must come together and make the tough decisions” necessary for a successful transition.
“As I said in March when I was in Cairo, the United States supports the people of Egypt in their continued transition to a stable, sovereign Egyptian democracy. The only solution to the current impasse is for all parties to work together peacefully to address the many legitimate concerns and needs of the people and to ensure Egypt has a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the millions of Egyptians who have taken to the streets to demand a better future,” he said.
“Lasting stability in Egypt will only be achieved through a transparent and inclusive democratic process with participation from all sides and all political parties. This process must also ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts.”
The last part of Kerry’s sentence was likely a response to arrests of Muslim Brotherhood leaders that happened after Morsi’s removal.
“The Egyptian people seek and deserve an honest, capable and representative democratic government. As President Obama has said, ‘no transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people,'” Kerry continued. “The longstanding partnership and friendship between the United States and Egypt is of great importance to the United States, and we will continue to support the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.”
The State Department was caught in a fib about Kerry’s whereabouts on Wednesday, when the 48-hour deadline given to Morsi by the Egyptian military ran out and the ouster was imminent. “Since his plane touched down in Washington at 4 a.m., Secretary Kerry was working all day and on the phone dealing with the crisis in Egypt,” spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
However, reporters spotted Kerry boarding his yacht Wednesday. Psaki then “clarified” her statement to say that the secretary of State was focusing on the historic overthrow in Egypt while yachting.
“While he was briefly on his boat on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry worked around the clock all day,” said Psaki.
Psaki, who was Obama’s Campaign 2012 traveling spokeswoman, came to the State Department press secretary job with no foreign policy experience and underwent intensive training before being allowed to take the podium.
Before Kerry’s statement Saturday night, the State Department released an update on Kerry’s Egypt-related work.
“Over the days since the unrest in Egypt intensified, Secretary Kerry has been in constant contact with the national security team, regional partners, and his counterparts. In addition to participating in a secure call with the National Security Council today to review the very fluid situation in Egypt, he has been in hourly touch with Ambassador Patterson and in the last two days he has also spoken with Mohamed Elbaradei, Qatari Foreign Minister al-Attiyah, Omani Sultan Qaboos, Emirati Foreign Minister bin Zayed, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu,” the State Department said.
“In all these calls with his counterparts, Secretary Kerry reiterated the call for the violence in Egypt to cease and for all parties — the Muslim Brotherhood, opposition, and military — to ensure that those expressing their views do so peacefully. Secretary Kerry also reaffirmed U.S. support for democracy and the protection of universal human rights for all Egyptians, reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people, and respect for the rule of law. He stressed that the United States wants to see Egypt’s civilian transition succeed, and that the United States will do all it can to help encourage that effort.”
The White House released a readout of that conference call Obama held with the National Security Council on Saturday.
“The President condemned the ongoing violence across Egypt and expressed concern over the continued political polarization. He reiterated that the United States is not aligned with, and does not support, any particular Egyptian political party or group,” said press secretary Jay Carney.
“In line with that position, the United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed…. During this transitional period, we call on all Egyptians to come together in an inclusive process that allows for the participation of all groups and political parties.”
The administration noticeably made calls to include the Muslim Brotherhood in the future political process while opposition protesters in Tahrir square were celebrating freedom from Morsi’s sharia-minded rule.
The Egyptian military announced the end of Morsi’s rule flanked by both Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and Grand Mufti Ahmed al-Tayeb. Both the U.S. ambassador and Morsi reportedly tried to convince the pope to dissuade Christians from taking part in the Tamarod protests. Tawadros II refused, saying Copts had the right of free speech to take back “their stolen revolution.”
“We urge all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters, just as we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully,” Carney’s statement concluded. “As Egyptians look forward, we call on all sides to bridge Egypt’s divisions, reject reprisals, and join together to restore stability and Egypt’s democracy.”
The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee issued a joint statement noting that the Morsi ouster marked “another sharp turning point in Egypt’s incomplete revolution.”
“What the Brotherhood neglected to understand is that democracy means more than simply holding elections. Real democracy requires inclusiveness, compromise, respect for human and minority rights, and a commitment to the rule of law,” Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said. “Morsi and his inner circle did not embrace any of these principles and instead chose to consolidate power and rule by fiat. As a result the Egyptian people and their economy suffered greatly.”
“…We are encouraged that a broad cross-section of Egyptians will gather to rewrite the constitution. All parties in Egypt must show restraint, prevent violence, and prepare to be productive players in the future democratic Egypt.”