On Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 leaders from the public and private sector in both the United States and Egypt joined together in Washington, DC to discuss the shifting nature of Egypt on a regional and international focus. These individuals specifically focused on the country’s partnership with the United States.
Over the course of the day, generals from the United States Armed Forces discussed counterterrorism in the country; former senators and representatives who played a major role in foreign relations examined cross-cultural diplomacy; international leaders in entrepreneurship tackled the outlook for the Egyptian economy; and the President of Egypt’s new constitutional committee gave his advice for the next generation of Egyptian leaders.
Egypt has, and will continue to play an important role for the United States and its role in the Middle East and the world. We welcome you to join us in our exploration of this critical country as it finds its roots in the 21st century.
Panel 1: U.S.–Egypt Strategic Relations — Moving Forward
The first panel of the 21st Century U.S. – Egypt Strategic Relations conference, moderated by Lara Jakes, brought together three distinguished guests to discuss the dynamic relationship evolving between Washington and Cairo and how they can move forward. The panel included Senator Norm Coleman, Mr. Gamal Helal, and Congressman Jim Kolbe, each of whom have extensive experience and background with Egypt and the greater Middle East.
One main theme that was apparent throughout each speakers’ presentation was the need to strike a balance between American values (promotion of democracy, human rights, etc.) and stability. All of the speakers reiterated the importance of the U.S. – Egyptian relationship, citing the protection of the Suez Canal, advancing Arab-Israeli peace, pursuing counter-terrorism measures, and protecting the vital military-to-military relationship. However, the United States cannot forget its core values, but instead balance that with our strategic interests.
From the U.S. standpoint, according to Gamal Helal, the strategic partnership with Egypt should not be a partisan issue and we should seize the opportunity to swiftly engage with the new government. Egypt also has reason to maintain an amicable relationship with the United States. Economic, security, and political assistance are desperately needed to keep Egypt afloat after 3 years of instability. The U.S. is in the best position to provide such assistance, which can further improve our image in Egypt and the region as a whole.
One striking point made during the panel discussion was that failure with Egypt is not an option. The strategic relationship is too important for both sides to ignore, and there needs to be an open and meaningful dialogue for each side to clarify their perception and intentions for moving forward.