June 21, 2011

Chairman Kerry Opening Statement at Nomination Hearing for Ambassadors to Egypt, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, and Kazakhstan

Washington, DC – This morning, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) held a nomination hearing for Ambassadors to Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, and Kazakhstan.

The full text of his statement as prepared is below:

We are here this morning to consider ambassadorial nominations to five important countries: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Kazakhstan. We will begin with Anne Patterson, the President’s choice to represent the United States in Egypt.

Egypt has historically been the region’s most important incubator of ideas. And now it is at the forefront of a new Arab awakening. How Egypt manages its transition from dictatorship to democracy—and how it restructures its economy—will affect not only the country’s 80 million citizens, but also millions of others throughout the region.

Anne Patterson is one of our nation’s finest public servants. I had the privilege of working closely with her when she was Ambassador to Pakistan, and I am greatly encouraged that the President has nominated someone of her caliber for this critical assignment. 

Egypt faces significant challenges as it tries to build a new political order that is democratic and tolerant. There is little time to organize political parties before this fall’s elections, and those elections must be fair and carefully monitored. The Egyptian government needs to become more transparent and more responsive to its citizens’ needs. And questions remain about the role of religious parties in Egyptian politics, the stability of Muslim–Christian relations, and the future of Egypt’s approach to Israel.

Egypt is also wrestling with considerable economic hardship. Forty percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line. And the revolution has dealt a short-term blow to the economy. Food and oil prices are up, tourists and foreign investors have not yet returned, and the government has significantly depleted its reserves of hard currency.

Fortunately, there is good news. Assistance from the World Bank, the IMF, the United States, and other countries is starting to arrive. And Egypt’s economy seems to be stabilizing. With prudent policies, a return to higher GDP growth is possible in the coming years.

But those policies must benefit all Egyptians. So as Egypt changes, our approach to aid must change as well. Promoting economic recovery is not enough. International assistance must also address Egypt’s socio-economic divisions, expand its political space, and promote transparency, legitimacy, and accountability.

To that end, the Obama administration has provided funds to spur economic growth and assist with the political transition. And I have introduced legislation with Senators McCain, Lieberman, and Lugar that will promote entrepreneurship and job creation by channeling investment directly to the private sector. I have also been working with Senator McCain and others to develop a creative public-private partnership that would encourage U.S. corporations and others to invest in Egypt. I appreciate Ambassador Patterson’s help with this important initiative.

We must be realistic. Consolidating Egypt’s democratic advances and addressing its economic woes is likely to take a generation. But a recent poll found that nearly 90 percent of Egyptians think their country is headed in the right direction. And during my visit in March, the spirit of the ordinary Egyptians I met in Tahrir Square and at a town hall meeting was contagious. I hope that spirit can propel them through what may be turbulent times ahead.

Ambassador Patterson, I want to raise one last issue. Nearly two years ago, a Massachusetts constituent, Colin Bower, had his sons—Noor and Ramsey—abducted to Egypt by their mother, even though he had full legal custody of them. Since the revolution, Colin has not even been able to see his children. Ambassador, I would ask that you do what you can to help Colin resolve this situation and to get access to his boys as soon as possible.

This morning, we also welcome a second panel of nominees:

  • Michael Corbin, nominated to serve as Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates;
  • Matthew Tueller, nominated to serve as Ambassador to Kuwait;
  • Susan Ziadeh, nominated to serve as Ambassador to Qatar; and
  • Kenneth Fairfax, nominated to serve as Ambassador to Kazakhstan.

These are four extremely qualified nominees. I congratulate you all, and I look forward to your testimonies.


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