Obama finally broke his silence on Egypt, making short remarks, and taking no questions. Here’s my rough transcription:
Good evening. My administration has been closely monitoring the situation and Egypt. And I know that we will learn more tomorrow as day breaks. As the situation continues to unfold, our first priority is preventing injury or loss of life. I want to be clear in calling on Egyptian government to refrain from any violence against protesters. The people of Egypt have rights that are universal; that includes right to association and assembly, to speech and to determine their own destiny. I also call upon the Egyptian government to reverse the actions they’ve taken to restrict access to the internet, to cell phone services, and social networks, that do so much to connect people in the 21st century. At the same time, those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead them to the goals they seek. This moment of volatility needs to be turned into a moment of promise.
The United States has a close partnership with Egypt. And we’ve cooperated on many issues, including the effort to advance a more peaceful region. But we’ve also been clear that there must be reforms — political, social and economic — that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people. In the absence of these reforms, grievances have built up. When president Mubarak spoke tonight he pledged a better democracy, and greater economic opportunity. I just spoke to him after his speech and told him he has the ability to give meaning to those words, to take actions and steps to deliver on those promises. Violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people, and suppressing ideas never makes them go away. What’s needed right now is concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people, a meaningful dialog, and a path to political change that leads to greater opportunity and justice for the Egyptian people. Ultimately the future of the Egyptian people will be determined by the Egyptian people. I believe the Egyptian people want what we all want — better life for themselves and their children, and a government that is fair and responsive. Put simply, the Egyptian people want a future that befits the heirs of an ancient and great civilization.
The United States always will be a partner in pursuit of that future, and we are committed to working with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people to achieve that. Around the world, governments have a responsibility to respond to their citizens; that’s true here in the U.S., in Asia, in Europe, in Africa, and it’s 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 governments must maintain power through consent, not through coercion. That is the single standard through which 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 Egyptian people and work with their government to secure a future that is more just, more freee, and more hopeful.
[Took no questions].