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September 27, 2011

Clinton Urges Early End to Emergency Rule in Egypt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States would like to see Egypt’s interim administration end emergency rule as soon as possible.  Clinton discussed the political transition in Egypt and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr.

Clinton stressed U.S. support for the election timetable set by Egypt’s military authorities, under which parliamentary elections are to begin in stages on November 28.

But she also suggested the democratic transition will be impeded if emergency rule, in place since 1967 and tightened after the September 9 mob attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, is not lifted sooner than the June, 2012 date set by the military.

“We hope to see the law lifted sooner than that, because we think that is an important step on the way to the rule of law, to the kind of system of checks and balances that are important in protecting the rights of the Egyptian people, to create the context for free and democratic elections.  And we want to see this as soon as possible," said discussed the political transition in Egypt and Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with Egyptian Foreign Minister.

Clinton said the Obama administration is committed to large-scale aid to Egypt, including a one-billion dollar debt relief package proposed in May, and to fending off moves in Congress to condition U.S. aid on various things including curbing smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Members of Congress were alarmed by the attack on the Israeli mission in Cairo three weeks ago that forced an evacuation of its staff.

But at a joint press event with Clinton, Foreign Minister Amr defended the government’s handling of the incident and said the attack was “unfortunate” and condemned “by all responsible parties” in Egypt.

“We made it clear that we are committed to protect any mission on our soil and the personnel working in them," said Amr. "If you remember, the army was very careful to see that all the [Israeli] personnel that wanted to leave left under the guard of the army.  No one was hurt.  We made sure that everyone was safe.”

Clinton said she was pleased her Egyptian counterpart reiterated his government’s support for the Camp David accords with Israel, which she termed essential to regional stability and to Egypt’s own growth, prosperity and peaceful transition.

Foreign Minister Amr called Israeli settlement activity an impediment to peace that must be stopped.  Clinton urged Egypt to help the international Middle East Quartet “put pressure” on both Israel and the Palestinians to negotiate peace.

In New York last Friday, the Quartet - made up of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - urged the sides to resume direct talks within a month and commit to a deal by the end of 2012.