Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is visiting Egypt and Tunisia from March 15-17. Today, Secretary Clinton visited Tahrir Square in Cairo, where she said: "To see where this revolution happened and all that it has meant to the world is extraordinary for me. It's just a great reminder of the power of the human spirit and universal desire for human rights and democracy. It's just thrilling to see where this happened."
Secretary Clinton then met with Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf and pledged U.S. support as his country embarks on the next chapter in its history. Preceding the meeting, Secretary Clinton said, "...The United States stands ready to help in every way possible to translate what happened in Tahrir Square into the new reality for Egypt."
The Secretary met with U.S. Embassy Cairo staff and thanked them for their extraordinary service during this historic time in Egypt. The Secretary said, "...I know that it's been a challenging time here in Cairo over the last weeks. During the evacuations, you worked night and day to make sure that over 2,300 American citizens were safely evacuated.""...Now, I also know that we only have 50 percent of our staff here. I was just talking with the Ambassador. We are hoping to be able to begin to return more of our staff back here to Cairo to give you a little relief and to continue building support for the work that the government here in Egypt is doing. I also appreciate the extra help that you've given for my trip. I know it's not easy any time someone like me shows up and you have to work even harder to be able to fulfill the extra requirements. I also want to thank our military for the help in rescuing and evacuating Egyptians from Libya. We have brought home more than a thousand Egyptians who were stranded on the border with Tunisia, and I'm very proud of that effort."
Continuing her remarks, Secretary Clinton told the embassy staff, "...I said to the foreign minister and other ministers that I had dinner with last night that compared to Egypt, the United States is a very, very young country -- 225 years (inaudible) 7,000 years. There's not much of a comparison. But we are the oldest democracy, so we do know a thing or two about translating into reality the democratic principles and values. And we know that it is the most important work that any people can do. It is not easy work. It has taken us a long time. And frankly, we've had a lot of struggles along the way. We've had our own problems in overcoming divisions, fighting a civil war, reaching out to include women, people of different religions and backgrounds and races -- all in the American democracy.
"And I have great confidence that Egypt is going to break the mold, that you are going to show how democracy works in a way that, for generations to come, not only future Egyptians but people everywhere, are going to point and say, 'That was one of the most important historic turning points.' The pyramids are magnificent, but nowhere near as magnificent as what you have already done.
"And now to make sure...that all that work and all that sacrifice, including the loss of an employee here at the embassy, is not in vain, that no one is permitted to hijack this revolution, no one is permitted to turn the clock back on this revolution, no one is permitted to claim it for only one group of Egyptians and try to exclude other Egyptians. That will be the challenge.
"And we will help in every way possible to support those who are making the decisions now to support the process that will allow Egyptians to elect the leaders who will lead the first part of this new democracy, and to remind everyone that elections is not all that democracy's about. People can have an election and then never want to have another election. And what has to happen is to really embed all of the values of democracy into the hearts and minds of the Egyptian citizens."
While in Cairo, Secretary Clinton also participated in interviews with Shahira Amin of Nile TV, Wyatt Andrews of CBS, Kim Ghattas of BBC, Steve Inskeep of NPR, and Andrea Mitchell of NBC. In addition to discussing her visit to Egypt, Secretary Clinton spoke about events in Japan and Libya. During remarks to the traveling press, the Secretary addressed the situation in Bahrain. She said, "I think what's happening in Bahrain is alarming, and it is unfortunately diverting attention and effort away from the political and economic track that is the only way forward to resolve the legitimate differences of the Bahrainis themselves. We have made that clear time and time again. We have deplored the use of force. We have said not only to the Bahrainis but to our Gulf partners that we do not think security is the answer to what is going on."
The Secretary continued, "Now, we've also said to the protestors that they have to engage in peaceful protest and they should return to the negotiating table. As you probably know, Jeff Feltman is in Manama, is in constant touch with the government. There's a lot of other communication going on. We have also reminded the Bahrainis that they have an obligation to keep medical facilities open and to facilitate treatment of the injured, and we want to see an end to the use of force and a return to negotiation."
You can read more about Secretary Clinton's travel to Egypt and Tunisia here.