Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg spoke before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on February 10, 2011. The Deputy Secretary addressed recent developments in Egypt and Lebanon and their implications for broader U.S. policy in the region. The Deputy Secretary said:
"Last month in Doha, Secretary Clinton challenged the leaders of the Middle East to give greater voice to their people. As the region confronts a potent combination of demographic and technological changes, rampant unemployment, and in too many cases, the denial of universal rights and freedoms, she warned the status quo is unsustainable. And in recent weeks, this dynamic has given rise to demonstrations across the region and changes in Tunisia, Jordan, and Yemen, and of course, sparked the dramatic developments in Egypt that, along with the events in Lebanon, are the focus of today's hearing.
"In such an environment, it's more important than ever that America works both with the people and the governments to democratize and open up political systems, economies, and societies. As the Secretary said just a few days ago in Munich, this is -- in her words -- 'not simply a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity'."
Regarding Egypt, Deputy Secretary Steinberg said, "We've all been transfixed by the heroic images from Tahrir Square of young and old, rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, gathering to lay claim to universal rights enjoyed in democratic societies around the world. And as the President has said, Egypt is not going back to the way it was. We have declared publicly and privately that a peaceful, orderly, and prompt transition must begin without delay. And it must make immediate irreversible progress towards free and fair elections.
"We have set out key principles to ensure that the transition remains peaceful. We have made, and will continue to make, clear our support for human rights, including expression, association and assembly, freedom of the press. We have condemned violence against peaceful protestors, reporters, and human rights activists. And we've underlined the need for Egypt's military to remain a force for stability.
"We're urging Egypt's government and opposition to engage in serious, inclusive negotiations to arrive at a timetable, game plan, and path to constitutional and political reforms. And as they do, we will support principles, processes and institutions -- not personalities. The desire for an orderly transition may not be a pretext for backsliding and stalling.
"Another vital message we are sending to all who take part in Egypt's political future is the fundamental need to honor Egypt's historic peace treaty with Israel. As Egypt builds democratic institutions after the recent unrest -- and also contends with the economic challenges that helped to cause it -- we will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to the Egyptian people. And we will act now, as we have done in the past, to support civil society, nongovernmental organizations, democracy groups and economic recovery. As the transition unfolds, we will tailor our support to engage and nurture it."
The Deputy Secretary continued, "In Lebanon, a very different situation is unfolding. Last month, Hezbollah, backed by Syria, used threats of violence to undermine the collapse of the Lebanese Government. We've worked with the international community with one voice to urge the next Lebanese Government to support the Special Tribunal, to honor its international obligations, and to refrain from retribution against former officials.
"We intend to judge the next Lebanese Government by its deeds, mindful of the circumstances that brought it about. We will be watching Prime Minister Mikati to see whether he makes good on his public pledge to build a broad-based government that represents all sections of Lebanese society. The Lebanese people deserve better than a false choice between justice for the murder of their prime minister and stability for their country."
You can read the Deputy Secretary's full remarks here.