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June 26, 2013

Kerry: 'Everybody is Very Concerned' About Egypt

by Suzanne Presto

The United States says it is "closely watching" developments in Egypt as critics of President Mohamed Morsi plan for mass protests this Sunday.  

Speaking to reporters after talks with Kuwaiti officials in Kuwait City Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that "everybody is very concerned" about Egypt.  He added that the country is critically important to the region.

"Our hopes are that all parties, everybody, whether it's the demonstration that takes place on Friday or the demonstration that takes place on Sunday, will all engage in peaceful, free expression of their points of view, but not engage in violence, but help the democracy of Egypt to be able to make the right choices in these next days," Kerry said.

Morsi's critics, who are pressing him to resign, point to economic decline, as well as energy and water shortages, during the past year.  Some opponents also decry what they see as the president's Islamist agenda. Morsi's supporters stress he was legitimately elected and has three years left in his four-year term.    

Kerry said he hopes activists protest in a way that strengthens their country.

"Clearly, there are things that we wish that Egypt would do at this time in terms of its economy, in terms of its politics, the relationships between the government and the opposition, the need to bring people together, the need to attract capital from other countries, the need to restore order so that tourism can return to Egypt," he said. "All of these are really urgent priorities for Egypt."

Anniversary

Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected, civilian president, assumed power last year, pledging to fight sectarianism and what he called "plots" to destroy the country's unity.  The president's critics are planning a massive protest on June 30, exactly one year to the day he took the oath of office.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters that the U.S. is "closely watching" the demonstrations in Egypt, as well as calls for more protests.

"President Morsi, as Egypt's first democratically elected leader, has a special responsibility to reach out to all political groups and try to build consensus through compromise," Ventrell said.

Morsi has said he will deal with protests "decisively."

Government supporters plan demonstrations of their own.