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Obama's Remarks on the Situation in Egypt, February 2011

Speaker: Barack Obama
Published February 1, 2011

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  Over the past few days, the American people have watched the situation unfolding in Egypt.  We’ve seen enormous demonstrations by the Egyptian people.  We’ve borne witness to the beginning of a new chapter in the history of a great country, and a long-time partner of the United States.

And my administration has been in close contact with our Egyptian counterparts and a broad range of the Egyptian people, as well as others across the region and across the globe.  And throughout this period, we’ve stood for a set of core principles.

First, we oppose violence.  And I want to commend the Egyptian military for the professionalism and patriotism that it has shown thus far in allowing peaceful protests while protecting the Egyptian people.  We’ve seen tanks covered with banners, and soldiers and protesters embracing in the streets.  And going forward, I urge the military to continue its efforts to help ensure that this time of change is peaceful.

Second, we stand for universal values, including the rights of the Egyptian people to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the freedom to access information.  Once more, we’ve seen the incredible potential for technology to empower citizens and the dignity of those who stand up for a better future.  And going forward, the United States will continue to stand up for democracy and the universal rights that all human beings deserve, in Egypt and around the world.

Third, we have spoken out on behalf of the need for change.  After his speech tonight, I spoke directly to President Mubarak.  He recognizes that the status quo is not sustainable and that a change must take place.  Indeed, all of us who are privileged to serve in positions of political power do so at the will of our people.  Through thousands of years, Egypt has known many moments of transformation.  The voices of the Egyptian people tell us that this is one of those moments; this is one of those times.

Now, it is not the role of any other country to determine Egypt’s leaders.  Only the Egyptian people can do that.  What is clear -- and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak -- is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now.

Furthermore, the process must include a broad spectrum of Egyptian voices and opposition parties.  It should lead to elections that are free and fair.  And it should result in a government that’s not only grounded in democratic principles, but is also responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people.

Throughout this process, the United States will continue to extend the hand of partnership and friendship to Egypt.  And we stand ready to provide any assistance that is necessary to help the Egyptian people as they manage the aftermath of these protests.

Over the last few days, the passion and the dignity that has been demonstrated by the people of Egypt has been an inspiration to people around the world, including here in the United States, and to all those who believe in the inevitability of human freedom.

To the people of Egypt, particularly the young people of Egypt, I want to be clear:  We hear your voices.  I have an unyielding belief that you will determine your own destiny and seize the promise of a better future for your children and your grandchildren.  And I say that as someone who is committed to a partnership between the United States and Egypt.

There will be difficult days ahead.  Many questions about Egypt’s future remain unanswered.  But I am confident that the people of Egypt will find those answers.  That truth can be seen in the sense of community in the streets.  It can be seen in the mothers and fathers embracing soldiers.  And it can be seen in the Egyptians who linked arms to protect the national museum -- a new generation protecting the treasures of antiquity; a human chain connecting a great and ancient civilization to the promise of a new day.

Thank you very much.

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