July 25, 2013

Chairman Menendez Opening Statement at Hearing, “Crisis in Egypt”

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing, “Crisis in Egypt.”

The remarks follow: 

“Thank you for joining us today for this timely hearing on the unfolding circumstances in Egypt. I want to thank Ambassador Dennis Ross, Dr. Michelle Dunn, and Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer for being here today. We look forward to their perspectives on the situation in Egypt and its ramifications for the region and for the United States.

The situation in Egypt has tremendous implications for the region and for the United States.  Our response and our policy must be carefully calibrated to press for the democratic reforms that have been demanded by the Egyptian people and at the same time, support U.S. national security interests in the region.

These two goals are not at odds with one another, but do require a complex policy response that allows us to advocate for much needed democratic reforms while also advocating for our own security needs.

At the end of the day, our policy and our laws must be nuanced enough to allow for a response that reflects our interests.  It is my view that terminating U.S. assistance at this time could provoke a further crisis in Egypt that would not be to our benefit.

Having said that, the future of our relationship with Egypt, to a great extent, will be determined by our actions in the coming weeks. Whether we will have a stable and willing partner on crucial matters of security -- combating terrorism, trafficking of weapons and people into the Sinai, and support for peace in the Middle East -- is up to us both.  Alternatively, we can stand aside during this crisis and just hope for the best. While all our choices are difficult at this time, in my view, abandoning Egypt would be a particularly poor policy choice.

But whatever policy we ultimately choose, during this period of upheaval in Egypt, it is critical that all parties exercise restraint, protests remain peaceful, and that violence is rejected.

The interim government should take those concerns to heart and, above all, ensure that the restoration of democracy be as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Steps that exacerbate the divide in Egyptian society, including the use of force against protestors, and arrests and harassment of pro-Morsi and of Muslim Brotherhood leaders serve only to deepen the chasm and forestall reconciliation.

The only way forward to a pluralistic, vibrant, and stable democracy lies in the inclusion of all political parties and groups.

Let me be clear, our support is not unconditional and unending. At the end of the day, Egyptian leaders and the Egyptian military must show that they are committed to an inclusive political process, credible democratic elections, and democratic governance that protects the rights of religious minorities and women.

On that subject, I am deeply concerned about the treatment of Coptic Christians, women, and Syrian refugees in a destabilized Egypt.

The military and police forces must assure the safety of Egypt’s minority groups, which means preventing the beating and killing of Christians and sexual assaults on women.

I am also disturbed by reports of Egypt turning its back on refugees fleeing the ever-worsening conflict in Syria.

Egypt’s military and interim government should provide safe haven for innocent civilians fleeing the brutality of the Assad regime.

I also hope that Egypt’s security forces will be vigilant in the increasingly violent Sinai, where innocent Egyptians have been killed and terrorist groups have launched attacks against Israel.

Finally, Egypt’s government must quickly overturn the recent convictions of 43 NGO workers – those sentences were a travesty of justice and must not stand. Their work to support the emergence of a strong, pluralistic democracy is needed now more than ever.

I am hopeful that our panelists will leave us with a better understanding of the situation, the prospects for a peaceful, democratic resolution, and the choices that lie before us.”



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