Panetta Urges Egyptian Military to Advance Democratic Process

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2011 — Express­ing “deep con­cern” about raids ear­li­er this week on non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions oper­at­ing in Egypt, Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta empha­sized to the leader of Egypt’s Supreme Coun­cil of the Armed Forces yes­ter­day that it’s time to move the demo­c­ra­t­ic process for­ward.

Speak­ing by phone with Egypt­ian Field Mar­shal Mohamed Hus­sein Tanta­wi, Panet­ta con­demned the Dec. 29 raids and expressed appre­ci­a­tion for Tantawi’s deci­sion to stop them and make it eas­i­er for NGOs to oper­ate in Egypt, Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle report­ed.

Egypt­ian police and judi­cial offi­cials report­ed­ly raid­ed the U.S.-funded Nation­al Demo­c­ra­t­ic Insti­tute, Inter­na­tion­al Repub­li­can Insti­tute and Free­dom House Dec. 29, as well as oth­er NGOs that have been crit­i­cal of strong-armed prac­tices by Egypt­ian offi­cials.

Dur­ing yesterday’s phone call, Panet­ta under­scored the need for the demo­c­ra­t­ic process that began when a pop­u­lar upris­ing oust­ed Pres­i­dent Hos­ni Mubarak in Feb­ru­ary to pro­ceed. “After two suc­cess­ful rounds of par­lia­men­tary elec­tions, the sec­re­tary empha­sized that it is crit­i­cal for Egypt to con­tin­ue on the path to demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion,” Lit­tle said.

The sec­re­tary also reaf­firmed the impor­tance of the long­stand­ing U.S.-Egyptian secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship, Lit­tle said. He “made clear that the Unit­ed States remains com­mit­ted to the strate­gic part­ner­ship and stands ready to coop­er­ate with Egypt as it con­tin­ues its demo­c­ra­t­ic tran­si­tion,” he said.

Vis­it­ing Cairo in Octo­ber, the sec­re­tary said he has full con­fi­dence in Egypt’s abil­i­ty to trans­form itself to a civil­ian-led democ­ra­cy fol­low­ing 26 years of being ruled under a dis­sent-sup­press­ing emer­gency law.

Panet­ta said such a tran­si­tion would be a “tremen­dous sig­nal” to the region about mov­ing in a pos­i­tive direc­tion.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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