Assistant Secretary Philip H. Gordon for Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs today said a democratic wave has swept the Arab world.
“As President Obama said in a speech that he gave at the State Department in May, the United States sees the historic change that is going on in the Middle East obviously as a moment of great challenge but also, and this is one of the things that I want to stress, as an opportunity for greater peace and security in the entire region.”-Mr. Gordon
He said it’s a moment that will require tremendous energy and attention from the world and also to see the positive aspects that there are potential perils and risks ahead.
“So let me get into some of the challenges in North Africa and the Middle East that we’ve been dealing with. I’d like to start with Libya which is really the most recent challenge that we tackled together and I think quite successfully, noting the celebration, really, of the liberation of Libya from more than four decades of Gadhafi’s brutal dictatorship just last week.”-Mr. Gordon
He noted that the United States and Europe came together in the United Nations and in NATO to support the Libyans who demanded their freedoms, to protect innocent civilians from death, and to end massive human rights abuses. He said when it was clear in March that Gadhafi was not heeding the international community’s call to stop attacking civilians, President Obama responded to the indigenous demand. The Arab League calls for action and European calls for action and led the international community to go to the United Nations to get a mandate to establish an arms embargo, a no-fly zone, and authorizing member states to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.
He highlighted that when President Obama ordered the use of American assets – fighter planes and cruise missiles – to take down Libya’s integrated air defense system at the onset of the crisis, this halted Gadhafi’s advance and what they believe would have been a sure massacre in Benghazi.
“The entire alliance supported this operation and most allies participated in some way militarily. The North Atlantic Council met, all allies backed all of its decisions. NATO’s command and control was used. And all allies, even not those conducting strikes, participated in command and control.”-Mr. Gordon
He reported that fourteen allies and four partners provided the naval and air forces necessary for the operation in Libya. The United States flew 25 percent of all sorties, while France and the United Kingdom together accounted for a third.
“As President Obama told the Libyan people, following Gadhafi’s death you have won your revolution and now will be a partner as you move forward to a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity.”-Mr. Gordon
Mr. Gordon also talked about Egypt and Tunisia. He said the United States is supporting Egypt and Tunisia obviously in different ways from the way in which they supported Libya.
“So how are we working to support them? In Tunisia, which just had we think successful democratic elections which we supported. We’re obviously still waiting for final results, but we congratulate the Tunisian people on these elections. We look forward to working with the people and the government, the government in Tunisia, including a new constituent assembly over the next phase of its historic transition.”-Mr. Gordon
He said the United States ramped up its bilateral assistance to prepare for these elections and helped lay the ground work for wider opportunity through private sector-led-growth, investment and entrepreneurship.
“We’re working with Congress to provide loan guarantees to Tunisia that could mobilize up to $650 million in budgetary support.”-Mr. Gordon
In Egypt, he cited that the United States also provided support for economic and democratic development. It is working with Congress to replace Egypt’s debt payments to the United States with investments and a brighter future for Egyptian citizens.
Mr. Gordon highlighted that the United States continues to offer its support to Egypt in carrying out free, fair and credible elections beginning with the first round of lower house parliamentary elections on November 28th.