August 15th, 2013
11:10 AM ET
1 year ago

Full Remarks: Obama condemns violence in Egypt

(CNN) - President Barack Obama spoke out against violence in Egypt Thursday, saying the United States "deplored" violence against civilians.

Below is a full transcript of his remarks.

"Good morning, everybody. I just finished a discussion with my national security team about the situation in Egypt, and I wanted to provide an update about our response to the events of the last several days. Let me begin by stepping back for a moment. The relationship between the United States and Egypt goes back decades. It's rooted in our respect of Egypt as a nation and ancient center of civilization, and a cornerstone for peace in the Middle East. It's also rooted in our ties to the Egyptian people, forged through a longstanding partnership.

Just over two years ago, America was inspired by the Egyptian people's desire for change as millions of Egyptians took to the streets to defend their dignity and demand a government that was responsive to their aspirations for political freedom and economic opportunity. And we said at the time that change would not come quickly or easily, but we did align ourselves with a set of principles: nonviolence, a respect for universal rights, and a process for political and economic reform.

In doing so, we were guided by values, but also by interests, because we believe nations are more stable and more successful when they're guided by those principles as well.

And that's why we're so concerned by recent events. We appreciate the complexity of the situation. While Mohammed Morsi was elected president in a democratic election, his government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians. We know that many Egyptians, millions of Egyptians, perhaps even a majority of Egyptians were calling for a change in course.

And while we do not believe that force is the resolve differences, after the military's intervention several weeks ago, there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path. Instead, we've seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsi's associations and supporters, and now, tragically, violence that's taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more. The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom or that might makes right. And today, the United States extends its condolences to the families of those who were killed and those who were wounded.

Given the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interests in this pivotal part of the world, and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically - elected civilian government, we've sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people. But, while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.

As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise, which was scheduled for next month. Going forward, I've asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.

Let me say, the Egyptian people deserve better than what we've seen over the last several days. And to the Egyptian people, let me say, the cycle of violence and escalation needs to stop. We call on the Egyptian authorities to respect the universal rights of the people. We call on those who are protesting to do so peacefully, and condemn the attacks that we've seen by protesters, including on churches.
We believe that the state of emergency should be lifted, that a process of national reconciliation should begin, that all parties need to have a voice in Egypt's future, that the rights of women and religious minorities should be respected and the commitments must be kept to pursue transparent reforms of the constitution and democratic elections of a parliament and a president.

And pursuing that path will help Egypt meet the democratic aspirations of its people while attracting the investment, tourism and international support that can help it deliver opportunities to its citizens.

Violence, on the other hand, will only keep the cycle of polarization that isolates Egyptians from one another and from the world and that continues to hamper the opportunity for Egypt to get back on the path of economic growth.

Now, let me make one final point. America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That's a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure. I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong.

We've been blamed by supporters of Morsi. We've been blamed by the other side as if we are supporters of Morsi. That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve. We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That's our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work.

We recognize that change takes time and that a process like this is never guaranteed. There are examples in recent history of countries that are transitioned out of a military government towards a democratic government, and it didn't always go in a straight line, and the process was not always smooth. There are going to be false starts. There will be difficult days.

America's democratic journey took us through some mighty struggles to perfect our union. From Asia to the Americas, we know that democratic transitions are measured not in months or even years, but sometimes in generations. So in the spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, I want to be clear that America wants to be a partner in the Egyptian people's pursuit of a better future, and we are guided by our national interest in this longstanding relationship. But our partnership must also advance the principles that we believe in, and that so many Egyptians have sacrificed for these last several years, no matter what party or faction they belong to.

So, America will work with all those in Egypt and around the world who support a future of stability that rests on a foundation of justice and peace and dignity."

Thank you very much.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Marie MD

    Just kep the US out of Egypt!

    August 15, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. hanspy

    Let he condemn his own police force first. Remember NY? Tearghassed.beaten and killed Americans but no BO .
    And from who got Egypt its gas and weapons. Oh yes. From a guy named Obama.

    August 15, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  3. Gurgy

    No new wars–read my lips!!! Get out of this Benghazi, Egypt etc.

    August 15, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  4. obama victim

    well....Barry has condemned .....yeah, that will stop it

    August 15, 2013 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. janosian

    So this is going to change things how? He's condemning violence against citizens abroad but the US govt is just as guilty, not only abroad but here at home. We have citizens leaving the country outright and living in russia because of his policies. We have policies allowing our forces to wholesale kill masses of innocent civilians via a remote control plane. He's just like Bush (spawn of satan) and continues the same evils as his predecessors. This hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    August 15, 2013 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  6. Rick McDaniel

    Obama was very much involved at what has led to the violence in Egypt.......the installation of an Islamic dictator in Egypt.......which has a history of secularism.

    August 15, 2013 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  7. Alaa Elhammady

    The US President, your speech today seems to be balanced but in between the lines is a unbalanced , let me explain to you about the Egyptian army – Egyptians who revolted against dictator Morsi the Egyptian army to protect the Egyptians, but the real problem is that the Egyptians fallen in love with Minister of Defense  and this natural feeling.

    Mr. President, the brotherhood came to power by rigging votes, the youngest child in Egypt knows it, and money had imagined how singing Brotherhood of churches Christian brothers and then request assistance from America and Europe, this equation is difficult but I know her the background.

    Mr. President  Egypt will be happier without the Muslim Brotherhood and as you know they just blackmail target group change do you know how took advantage of poor Egyptians sell their voices they don't believe in freedom and have no plan and is not intended to apply to at least 82% hate this group.

    August 15, 2013 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  8. tom l.

    to coup or not to coup. that is the question.

    August 15, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. Malory Archer

    hanspy

    Let he condemn his own police force first. Remember NY? Tearghassed.beaten and killed Americans but no BO .

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Um, President Obama isn't the Mayor of New York.

    August 15, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  10. Malory Archer

    tom l.

    to coup or not to coup. that is the question.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Are you aware that the minute the President does call it a coup, he'll have no choice but to cut off all financial aid to Egypt, throwing Israel under the bus? Is that what you want? Nah – truth be told, it doesn't matter what he does; you'll just come down on the opposite side of the issue.

    August 15, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  11. justininrome

    another foreign policy failure for the current US administration

    August 15, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Malory Archer

    janosian

    So this is going to change things how? He's condemning violence against citizens abroad but the US govt is just as guilty, not only abroad but here at home. We have citizens leaving the country outright and living in russia because of his policies.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Policies that have been in place for decades, and for which nobody had a problem with until President Obama. Frankly, I say thank god for President Obama. If we had a rethug president, you would be called every name in the book, and be accused of treason and anti-Americanism for your post.

    August 15, 2013 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  13. rs

    Rick McDaniel

    Obama was very much involved at what has led to the violence in Egypt.......the installation of an Islamic dictator in Egypt.......which has a history of secularism.
    _____________________________
    Explain. Egypt had a successful election- a peaceful transistion which everyone supports. The Generals took advantage of public sentiment against the elected government. If we support Morsy- we support a Conservative theocratic leader, if we support the evolving current regime, we support anti-democtratic movements within Egypt. I don't see an upside here, and I see no way to have prevented it. Do you?

    August 15, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  14. mickeygib

    " America' s democratic journey took us through some mighty struggle to perfect our union." Mr. President, you are delusional if you believe that America is a perfect union, or even a democracy. Current day America is better described as a plutocracy or a corporatocracy. When the 1% and corporate lobbyist control Congress, America is not a democracy.

    August 15, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  15. rs

    Malory Archer

    tom l.

    to coup or not to coup. that is the question.

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Are you aware that the minute the President does call it a coup, he'll have no choice but to cut off all financial aid to Egypt, throwing Israel under the bus? Is that what you want? Nah – truth be told, it doesn't matter what he does; you'll just come down on the opposite side of the issue.
    _________________________
    Just silly "gotcha" word games from the Right. They have no solution to this problem. They just want to blame somebody for something that was bound to happen anyway. The Right woul LOVE to beat Obama with anything that put Israel in harms way.

    August 15, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  16. Malory Archer

    justininrome

    another foreign policy failure for the current US administration

    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Okay smart guy, since you have all the answers, what should he have done?

    August 15, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  17. Archer

    Yeah I feel so bad for all those Islamic folks who hate America and have vowed to destroy us in between killing civilians for no damn reason. Kill them all and smear the corpses with pork fat.

    August 15, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  18. John

    Kind of ironic that we are taking the same position as Al Queda.....Will Zawahiri come out and complement the U.S.?
    Not!!!...............................we need to squeeze but not participate, pretty much what Obama is doing at this point....

    August 15, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |