WASHINGTON, June 18, 2012 — Millions of Egyptian people voted to elect a new president democratically, but the Egyptian military’s last-minute amendments to the country’s constitution concern the Defense Department, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.
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“We support the Egyptian people and their expectation that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will transfer full power to a democratically elected civilian government, as the SCAF previously announced,” Little said in a statement released to reporters.
“We have, and will continue, to urge the SCAF to relinquish power to civilian-elected authorities and to respect the universal rights of the Egyptian people and the rule of law,” he added.
Little said the Defense Department is “deeply concerned” about the new amendments to Egypt’s constitutional declaration and the timing of the announcement as polls closed for the presidential election.
“We believe Egypt’s transition must continue and that Egypt is made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy,” he said. “Egypt has an enduring role as a security partner and leader in promoting regional stability, and we look forward to working with the new government on a host of issues.”
Meeting today with reporters along with Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby, the press secretary said Defense Department officials remain in close contact with the Egyptian military on the matter, noting that Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke June 15 with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, leader of Egypt’s ruling council. “We plan to continue to maintain those close contacts and cooperation with the SCAF,” Little said. “That being said, we need to see where things go.”
Little said the U.S. and Egypt have maintained a very strong military-to-military relationship for many years.
“We want that to continue, … [and] we’re going to monitor events closely,” he said. “It’s very important to the entire U.S. government, and the U.S. military, that the SCAF take steps to promote a peaceful transition to democracy and a government in Egypt that is responsive to the Egyptian people.”
Little said the United States has been clear about its position on Egypt’s transition to a democratically elected government and that he believes the SCAF is fully aware of these concerns.
“We believe they’ve taken those concerns onboard, and there’s time for all of this to be sorted out … in the right way,” he said.
Kirby said the Defense Department has enjoyed a strong military-to-military relationship and cooperation with the Egyptian military for more than three decades and still believes in maintaining that connection.
“Speaking from a purely military perspective, that relationship continues,” he said. “It’s been important.”
Kirby said that while Egypt has been going through “a year of momentous change” that has altered the two nations’ exercise regimen, the core of the relationship still remains.
“We’ve expressed our concerns about some of these recent decisions,” Kirby said. “Our hope, and our expectation, is that they will facilitate a smooth, democratic transition in accordance with the constitution of their country. It’s now up to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to do the things that the Egyptian people expect it to do,” he added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)