10CAIRO145 2010-01-31 14:02 2011-02-09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
DE RUEHEG #0145/01 0311459
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 311459Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0089
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 000145
DRL FOR A/S POSNER
FOR NEA, NEA/ELA AND DRL/NESCA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/01/31
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM EG
SUBJECT: A/S POSNER ENGAGES WITH CIVIL SOCIETY, POLITICAL OPPOSITION
REF: CAIRO 64; CAIRO 47; 09 CAIRO 2111; 09 CAIRO 1997; 09 CAIRO 1977
CLASSIFIED BY: Margaret Scobey, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
¶1. Key Points:
-- (C) In meetings January 13-14, A/S Posner told activists and opposition politicians that the U.S. is seeking ways to advance human rights and political participation over the coming 12-18 months.
-- (C) Activists urged the U.S. to end a "double standard" on Israeli human rights violations, close Guantanamo and speak out against GOE repression.
-- (C) Opposition political leaders agreed that prospects for significant political reform are slim while President Mubarak remains in office. Most expected Mubarak to be a candidate in 2011, and predicted the military would play a role in succession to ensure stability.
-- (C) Former Presidential candidate Ayman Nour urged A/S Posner to press the GOE to stop interfering with opposition political activity, and to allow him to work and travel.
¶2. (C) A/S Posner told activists the U.S. is interested in how to advance human rights in Egypt over the next 12-18 months to improve people's lives. He said the U.S. would pursue a traditional human rights agenda to address police brutality, restrictions on NGOs, freedom of expression and assembly problems, sectarian tensions, and the State of Emergency. Posner noted that the U.S. is engaged on the coming Egyptian elections, and is working on issues of observation, participation and training. Posner said that the UN Human Rights Council focuses disproportionately on Israel. He described the Goldstone Report as flawed for not being able to include the Israeli government position, and called for Israeli and Palestinian domestic investigations into human rights violations during the Gaza war.
Civil Society Recommendations for the U.S.
¶3. (C) Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Executive Director Hossam Bahgat urged the U.S. to "practice what it preaches" on human rights by closing the Guantanamo Bay prison. Bahgat called on the U.S. to end a "double standard on Israeli human rights violations," and expressed disappointment with the U.S. position on the Goldstone Report, which he asserted "makes it harder for us to cooperate with you" on human rights. Bahgat recommended the State Department human rights report assess that the situation in Egypt declined in 2009. Bahgat asserted that many Egyptians believe the GOE hasinterpreted the current administration's relative "silence" on human rights andpolitical issues as a signal of support.
Activists' Concerns and Criticism
¶4. (C) Director-General of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies Bahey Al-Din Hassan said he was unsure of what current U.S. human rights policy is. He expressed concern over lack of U.S. public criticism of Syria for human rights violations, and U.S. support for Yemeni President Saleh while he represses his people. Hassan expected increasing GOE repression leading up to the 2010 parliamentary and 2011 presidential elections. Hassan said he was initially optimistic when the Forum for the Future was launched that it would strengthen partnerships between Arab governments and civil society. Instead, Hassan asserted, government-controlled NGOs have dominated the Forum. Hassan noted that because of this phenomenon, he has not participated in the Forum since 2005.
¶5. (C) Labor activist Kamal Abbas asked what the U.S. would do to address expectations that fraud would pervade the 2010 and 2011 elections, and that Gamal Mubarak would inherit power from his father. Human rights lawyer Tarek Khattar asserted that U.S. support for the GOE encourages it to repress the Egyptian people. He contended that President's Obama June 4 Cairo speech has not produced "any positive results" in Egypt. Women's rights activist Mozn Hassan criticized the President's speech for "equating women throughout the region with each other," instead of recognizing their differences. Human rights lawyer Atef Hafez complained that the U.S. denied him entry to the Guantanamo Bay prison to visit a prisoner he was trying to represent. Hafez also complained that the Guantanamo prison is still open despite President Obama's commitment to close it. Activist Mohammed Zarea called for the U.S. to urge the GOE to make significant changes to open up political life.
¶6. (C) Noting widespread dissatisfaction with political leaders on all sides, "April 6" leader Ahmed Salah said the 2010 and 2011 elections represented the only opportunity for change, and pressed for more immediate action. He called for greater internal and external pressure on the GOE to increase freedom of assembly and expression, lift the State of Emergency, improve election procedures with electronic voting, and allow registration with national identification cards.
Opposition Political Leaders on Egypt's Future
¶7. (C) At a dinner with opposition political party leaders, A/S Posner asked about prospects for democratic change. Most expected Mubarak to run in 2011, leaving little room for change. Wafd President Mahmoud Abaza and Democratic Front President Osama Al-Ghazali Harb said they were focused on preparing for a post-Mubarak transition, whenever that may occur. In addition to their plans to participate in the 2010 parliamentary elections, opposition party leaders said they are pressing the GOE and the ruling party for a "national dialogue." The leaders agreed that the military would play a significant role in any post-Mubarak scenario, and that constitutional provisions would be secondary to concerns about internal stability. Leader of the un-registered Reform and Development Party Anwar El-Sadat asserted that the military would not support Gamal Mubarak's succession to the presidency, but that loyalty to President Mubarak kept it from acting to sideline Gamal now. Abaza called Egypt's military "apolitical," but predicted the military would to step in to ensure stability if necessary.
¶8. (C) Regarding U.S. democracy promotion, the group called for continued support to civil society and "principled" pressure on the GOE. However, Sadat noted sensitivities over "outside interference" in both the regime and opposition camps. Al-Ghad Party Vice-President Wael Nawara suggested that external criticism should be matched with primarily economic "incentives" to encourage the government to commit to concrete democratic reforms.
Former Presidential Candidate Ayman Nour
¶9. (C) In a separate meeting, Al-Ghad party founder Ayman Nour said Egyptians were ready for change and seeking leadership. "I'm banned from participating in the coming elections, but I will be part of the political fight," Nour asserted. Nour opined that the GOE's prevention of a liberal alternative to Gamal Mubarak strengthened the Muslim Brotherhood. He underlined the impact of the security services' interference with opposition political activity, and advocated increased U.S. pressure to highlight GOE restrictions. Nour urged A/S Posner to press the GOE to restore his own personal rights by allowing him to resume his work as an attorney or journalist, travel abroad and sell his assets. Nour thanked A/S Posner for the Department's November 6, 2009 public statement expressing disappointment at the GOE's decision to prevent him from travelling to the U.S.
¶10. (U) A/S Posner cleared this message.
Forum for the Future: Partnership Dialogue Panel Session
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
January 13, 2011
MR. FOSTER: Good morning. Thank you very much for joining us here, at the seventh Forum for the Future. My name is David Foster, and I will be moderating this discussion involving our panelists here, and of course, a great many of you out here, as well.
For the past five years, it's been my privilege to work here in Qatar for Al-Jazeera English. And one of our mottos has always been, "Every angle, every side," which is, effectively, what this is about. It's about dialogue (inaudible). And we will work our way from this side.
First of all, may I ask, Madam Secretary, Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States of America (inaudible).
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, David. I am honored to be here again at the Forum for the Future, especially with so many friends and colleagues from the G8 and from the Middle East.
I am delighted to join with Sheikh Khalid, who is a great colleague of mine in the foreign ministry, and I look forward to hearing from Slaheddine Jourchi, whose work on human rights and democracy in Tunisia I admire -- and, of course, it is especially timely today -- and Mohamed El-Masry, president of the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce.
This is the last stop on a trip that has brought me from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to Yemen, Oman, and now to Doha. On this short, but intense journey, I saw many signs of the potential for a new and innovative Middle East: a solar-powered city rising from the sands of the UAE; civil society leaders in Oman partnering with their government to improve education and create economic opportunities; a young Yemeni woman and a young Yemeni man, both of whom studied abroad and then returned to work for progress in Yemen. And of course, here in Qatar, the home of the 2022 World Cup, we see many examples of a commitment to innovation. Last year I visited Education City, which is connecting Qatar's young people to the global economy.
So, wherever I go, in my conversations with people from all walks of life—from officials at the highest levels of government to university students, religious leaders, and engaged citizens, one message has consistently emerged: People are deeply proud of this region and what it has accomplished, but they are also profoundly concerned about the trends in many parts of the broader Middle East, and what the future holds.
We all know this region faces serious challenges, even beyond the conflicts that dominate the headlines of the day. And we have a lot of work to do. This forum was designed to be not just an annual meeting where we talk with and at each other, but a launching pad for some of the institutional changes that will deal with the challenges that we all know are present.
For example, a growing majority of this region is under the age of 30. In fact, it is predicted that in just one country, Yemen, the population will double in 30 years. These young people have a hard time finding work. In many places, there are simply not enough jobs. Across the region, one in five young people is unemployed. And in some places, the percentage is far more. While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reform to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open. And all this is taking place against a backdrop of depleting resources: water tables are dropping, oil reserves are running out, and too few countries have adopted long-term plans for addressing these problems.
Each country, of course, has its own distinct challenges, and each its own achievements. But in too many places, in too many ways, the region’s foundations are sinking into the sand. The new and dynamic Middle East that I have seen needs firmer ground if it is to take root and grow everywhere. And that goal brings us to this Forum.
I believe that the leaders of this region, in partnership with their people, have the capacity to build that stronger foundation. There are enough models and examples in the region to point to, to make the economic and social reforms that will create jobs, respect the right of diversity to exist, create more economic opportunity, encourage entrepreneurship, give citizens the skills they need to succeed, to make the political reforms that will create the space young people are demanding, to participate in public affairs and have a meaningful role in the decisions that shape their lives.
So to my friends, the leaders of these countries, I would say: You can help build a future that your young people will believe in, stay for, and defend. Some of you are already demonstrating that. But for others it will take new visions, new strategies and new commitments. It is time to see civil society not as a threat, but as a partner. And it is time for the elites in every society to invest in the futures of their own countries.
Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries’ problems for a little while, but not forever. If leaders don’t offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum. Extremist elements, terrorist groups, and others who would prey on desperation and poverty are already out there, appealing for allegiance and competing for influence. So this is a critical moment, and this is a test of leadership for all of us.
I am here to pledge my country’s support for those who step up to solve the problems that we and you face. We want to build stronger partnerships with societies that are on the path to long-term stability and progress -- business, government and civil society, as represented on this panel, must work together, as in our new regional initiative called Partners for a New Beginning. We know that what happens in this region will have implications far beyond.
Now, America cannot solve these problems. And I know you understand that. But it bears repeating. What we need is a real vision for that future that comes from each of you, from governments that must deliver on their promises, from civil society and business leaders who must build their people up, and of course, from the people themselves.
The Middle East is brimming with talent. It is blessed with resources, enriched by strong traditions of faith and family. This rising generation of young people has the potential to achieve so much, and we need to give them the chance to do so.
So, here at the Forum for the Future, let us face honestly that future. Let us discuss openly what needs to be done. Let us use this time to move beyond rhetoric, to put away plans that are timid and gradual, and make a commitment to keep this region moving in the right direction. People are looking for real leadership in the 21st century, and I think it can be provided, and I know that this is the moment to do so.
Thank you very much.
Forum of the Future - USA