Amid protests in Egypt demanding the ouster of the country’s longtime authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak, and violent clashes between demonstrators and police, on Friday night President Obama delivered a statement on the situation. Although Mubarak ordered his Cabinet ministers to resign, he has vowed to remain in power.
In carefully chosen words Obama said that he will stand by the human rights of the protestors. He also said he will work with the government of Egypt, one of the United States’ closest allies in the Middle East, and guide them toward meeting the aspirations of the Egyptian people.
First expressing concern for bloodshed in the region, Obama called on Egyptian authorities to refrain from violence against peaceful protestors, and demanded that the government reverse its action on Thursday of cutting off Internet and cell phone service in the country. He also directed a message to demonstrators, saying that they have a responsibility to protest peacefully.
The president acknowledged the close partnership that the United States shares with Egypt, insisting that he’s also made it clear that the country must usher in political, social and economic reforms. Mubarak gave a speech tonight promising a future of democracy and equal opportunity, but protestors show no signs of stopping until he steps down.
Obama relayed a phone conversation he had with the Egyptian leader after his speech, in which he told him that he must follow through on his promise with tangible action. He continued:
What’s needed right now are concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people; a meaningful dialogue between the government and citizens; and a path of political change that leads to a future of greater freedom and greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people. Ultimately the future of Egypt will be determined by the Egyptian people. And I believe that the Egyptian people want what we all want – a better life for ourselves and our children, and a government that is fair, just and responsive. Put simply, they want a future that befits the heirs to a great and ancient civilization.
The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future. We are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people — all quarters — to achieve it. Around the world, government has an obligation to respond to their citizens. That’s true here in the United States, that’s true in Asia, that is true in Europe, that is true in Africa, and it is certainly true in the Arab world where a new generation of citizens has the right to be heard.
When I was in Cairo shortly after I was elected president, I said that all government must maintain power through consent, not coercion. That is the single standard by which the people of Egypt will achieve the future they deserve. Surely there will be difficult days to come, but the United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the people of Egypt, and work with the government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful.