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Preview of the Forum for the Future, November 11-12, 2005, Manama, Bahrain

Liz Cheney, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Near Eastern Affairs and Coordinator for BMENA ; Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
November 9, 2005

11:10 A.M. ESTLiz Cheney and Daniel Fried at FPC

Real Audio of Briefing

MR. BAILY: Good morning and welcome to the Foreign Press Center for today's briefing on the Forum for the Future which will be held in Manama, Bahrain and co-hosted by the governments of Bahrain and the United Kingdom.

Before we get started, I'd also like to announce that there will be a briefing this afternoon at 2:00 p.m. over at the State Department on the -- by Assistant Secretary Welch on other aspects of Secretary Rice's travel to the Middle East this weekend.

I am happy to welcome today Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Dan Fried and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Elizabeth Cheney, who will brief on the Forum for the Future and the meetings in Bahrain.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Good morning. I'm here to talk about and walk through the Forum for the Future meeting, which will take place starting Friday and going into Saturday, this week. This is the latest step in the so-called Broader Middle East Initiative which was launched at the Sea Island G-8 Summit in 2004 and produced the Forum for the Future, which is a vehicle for the countries of the G-8 plus other interested countries in -- so far, in Europe -- to work with and support reform and reformers throughout the broader Middle East.

The Forum for the Future is a cooperative and rather open-ended structure. It does not have a formal bureaucracy, but it does have a very creative style. The Moroccans deserve great credit for hosting the first full meeting last December. Bahrain is hosting this meeting, supported by the UK as this year's G-8 President.

The Forum for the Future brings together governments, civil society groups from the region and international organizations, all seeking to support democracy, free market economic reforms, progressive economic policies, education throughout the broader Middle East. This initiative raised a great deal of debate when it was launched last year. There was a debate, which I think is still continuing but is, in fact, I think, being settled slowly in the right way. A debate about whether, to be as blunt as possible, democracy and reform was something that was even possible conceptually in the broader Middle East. There was a debate in Europe about this among Europeans.

That question has been answered because the peoples of the region themselves have answered it. In the region in the past year, we have seen elections. We have seen the people of Lebanon standing up and demanding freedom and sovereignty. We have seen civil society groups who will be present in abundance in Bahrain, speaking to an agenda of reform.

Now, let me walk through very briefly what the Forum for the Future will do. It starts out Friday night. There will be sessions on education and on democracy, on civil society. There will be two major new initiatives launched. One is the Foundation for the Future, which will be sponsored by regional governments, European governments, the United States. Its purpose is to support civil society throughout the region.

A second initiative to be launched is the Fund for the Future, which is being sponsored by the United States, Denmark, Egypt and, I believe, Morocco and the Fund for the Future will support entrepreneurship. It is modeled vaguely on the very successful Enterprise Funds in Central and Eastern Europe, which began in the early 1990s. There will be a ministerial declaration, the Bahrain declaration, but I shouldn't talk about that because until it's done, it isn't done.

Since the last Forum for the Future meeting in Morocco last year, a number of European countries have -- not in the G-8 -- have joined this initiative. The European Union -- not a country, but the European Union itself has joined and is a contributor to the Foundation for the Future as is Spain, Greece, Denmark. A number of countries in the region have joined this initiative as well. Turkey has played a particularly strong leadership role along with Yemen and Italy -- those three countries have sponsored the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, which is a program of working with and supporting civil society throughout the region. They have been very active bringing together civil society also in support of reform.

So this is a very exciting initiative. It's an initiative, which puts the United States and Europe with and on the side of reformers in the region, be it government or nongovernmental organizations. We're all looking forward to this, those of us who will be there. I'll ask Liz Cheney to speak and then we'll be happy to take some -- as many of your questions as time allows.

MS. CHENEY: Thank you, Dan. I just want to echo a couple of things that Assistant Secretary Fried mentioned, particularly about the broader Middle East. And I think that is if you look at the change that's happened in the region from the time of the last Forum for the Future last year until today, there is something very real and historic and significant happening across the region in terms of individuals calling for reform, calling for change, calling for the ability to have more of a voice in determining their own destiny.

I talked with a representative of an American NGO who had been in Egypt for the presidential elections and I asked him his view of what's happening. And he said, you know, for as imperfect as they were, the spell is broken. And I think that that encapsulates a lot of what you're seeing across the region. The curtain of fear is lifting. It is a process that will be difficult. It's a process that may take a long time. But in many ways, once people begin to have a voice and once people recognize that they can demand that voice, it becomes much harder for governments who want to silence them to use the traditional tools to do that. And when they know that the world is watching, it holds those governments to account in a way that they may not have been held to account before.

So I think that what Dan mentioned in terms of the support that we have this year from European governments is also significant. It shows you that it's not just an effort by the United States to help to promote democracy and to promote freedom, although it certainly is that. But it's also sending the message that, you know, people who live in freedom all around the globe are stepping up to the plate to help to support assistance for those who want those same kinds of freedom in the broader Middle East today.

Secondly, I think you've seen very clearly from the governments in the region who are participating in the Forum for the Future a desire to participate and a desire on the part of the reformers in those governments to be part of a broader initiative and a broader endeavor. And they are asking the G-8 for technical assistance in all of the areas that Dan mentioned, whether it's education reform, vocational training, political party training, and financial sector reform and training. And those are all topics that will be discussed at the forum.

Specifically on the issue of the Foundation for the Future and the Fund for the Future, we also feel very proud of these because they are responsive to calls that have come from civil society in the region. We've had really historic sessions of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, for example, in Rabat earlier this year, where you had civil society activists and governments coming together for the first time to talk about what the civil society feels it needs from those governments. And one of the things civil society has asked for is a Foundation -- some sort of entity that's not connected to any one government, but that can provide support for their efforts to help to open up their societies.

And so by launching the Foundation for the Future, we and our European and Arab partners feel that we are being responsive to that need and the same with the Fund which will provide equity investments primarily and some loan capital to small and medium-size enterprises across the broader Middle East.

So I think with that summary, I will stop there and, as Dan said, we'd be happy to take questions.

MR. BAILY: If you could -- remind you to identify yourself and your news organization. And we also have New York with us (inaudible). And New York would like to ask questions (inaudible).

QUESTION: My name is Munir Mawari and I am from Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Everybody understands that to promote democracy in the region you might use aid as a pressure on a country like Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, but what can you do to promote democracy in the Gulf region? They are rich and they have oil and they don't need western money. What can you do to promote democracy over there? Thanks.

MS. CHENEY: Well, I think that what you're seeing is that the United States is definitely turning our assistance programs in the direction of ensuring that in those countries where we have programs like Egypt and Jordan and Morocco, our programs are targeted toward promoting political and economic reform.

But the other thing that the U.S. has done is made the promotion of democracy one of the very top priorities in our diplomatic agenda with countries. And so what the Secretary will do, for example, is when we leave Bahrain, she'll be going to Saudi Arabia to inaugurate the strategic dialogue between the United States and the Government of Saudi Arabia. And that dialogue will cover issues on all aspects of our relationship -- counterterrorism, energy, consular issues, visa issues and it will also talk about reform.

So we have now, since the President announced back in early 2002, that we had a fundamental shift in our policy towards the Arab world had the idea of promoting democracy and the priority and the importance of promoting democracy very much as one of the top issues in our relationships with these governments, whether or not there is an assistance program there.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I'd like to underscore what Liz just said. It is important not just what we do with our assistance programs but it is important that we reach out to those voices in the broader Middle East and indeed around the world who are fighting for democracy and send a message that they are not speaking out in vain, that we are listening to them.

We have -- we and our European friends and partners in the region -- have made democracy and political reform front and center of the agenda in this part of the world as in others. That's a major change. And that will have an affect and it's something that all of us involved in this effort -- Europeans, Americans, people in the region, I think, can be justly proud of.

QUESTION: Giampiero Gramaglia, Italian News Agency, ANSA. Do you consider the evolution in Iraq since the Sea Island summit a positive part of the Broader Middle East Initiative or do you consider -- see that as a step back in the initiative?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I think there's no question but that there's been progress in Iraq since the last Sea Island summit. I think that if you look at the extent to which the people of Iraq have a constitution that they voted on, the people of Iraq have been able to have elections, the people of Iraq will have another election coming up December 15th, in spite of the violence and in spite of the horrific images we all see, there clearly is progress towards the establishment of a free and democratic Iraq. And I think that, you know, there's no question but that that's something that represents a clear step forward towards giving a voice to the Iraqi people that they never had or could experience under Saddam Hussein.

QUESTION: Umit Enginsoy, NTV. In addition to the role Turkey is playing with Italy and Yemen within the (inaudible) of the project, how do you see Turkey's presence in the whole project? Do you see it constitutes a good example to the countries of the region? What general -- more general role do you see for Turkey?

And also, do you foresee a role for Iran and Syria within the general project?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I can answer the question with respect to Turkey. We welcome Turkey's leadership and the leadership not only of the government but of civil society, which -- and it is a Turkish non-government entity, which has had the lead along with the Turkish Government with Italy and Yemen in promoting the Democracy Assistance Dialogue.

Now, words like "example", "model", they tend to be loaded words so I don't want to apply various labels but it is obviously good that Turkey, a country -- a secular republic with a mostly Muslim population is an example of a developing, thriving democracy. And it is also true that many of the principles of democratic governance were worked out in the 19th century in Turkey. These are, you know, those are historic achievements through the (inaudible) reforms and other reforms that Turkey began.

And so Turkey, I would say, is part of a democratizing trend which is -- extends well -- which includes -- that goes well beyond the broader Middle East and we welcome Turkey's participation.

MS. CHENEY: On the issue of Iran and Syria. With respect to Iran, the President has been entirely clear that the United States stands with the people of Iran and that we believe that people everywhere deserve to be free and that the people of Iran deserve that as well, that they have made clear their desire to be free, that they are suffering now under a government that, I think, we all had the chance to see what kind of a government it is when President Ahmadi-Nejad appeared at the United Nations during the General Assembly. And I think that's not a government that is representative of the hopes and aspirations of the Iranian people.

With respect to Syria, I think again we feel very strongly that the Syrian people are not represented by a kind of government that they deserve. And you saw at the General Assembly just a few weeks ago, the 15-to-nothing vote on Resolution 1636 where the entire Security Council called on the Syrians to cooperate with Investigator Mehlis in his investigation of the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. And you saw very clearly, I think the response made by the Syrian Foreign Minister, which demonstrated once again to the world, the Syrian's apparent determination not to cooperate with that investigation.

So in addition to the need for the Syrian people to have a voice, to be able to have a free and independent press, to be able to express themselves, we've just seen in the last two days, Syrian -- Mr. Labwani, who was arrested when he went back to Syria after having met here in the United States with a whole range of people. And we've called on the Government of Syria to release him and to respect his human rights, as well as the rights of all of those other dissidents who are currently imprisoned in Syria.

The Government of Syria has isolated itself from the international community not just because of its treatment of its own people, but also because it continues to support Palestinian rejectionist groups, it continues to oppress the people of Lebanon and it continues to funnel insurgents and to support the funneling of insurgents into Iraq. And I think that as I said, this isn't just an issue of the United States supporting democracy in Syria, although we certainly do that, but the Syrian Government itself needs to recognize that its behaviors are destabilizing the region and that there's been a broad international call for it to stop those behaviors.

MR. BAILY: We could go to New York, please. New York?

QUESTION: Good morning, Ms. Cheney. I'm Sylviane Zehil from L'Orient le Jour, Beirut. You just answered some of my questions, but my concern is could you tell us what is the relationship between the Resolution 1559, 1595, 1636 and the Broader Middle East Initiative, and how much you can implement it in the region like Lebanon and Syria? And also will it be the conclusion of a peace treaty between Lebanon and Israel -- Syria and Israel, the Palestinian state and Israel, please can you answer?

MS. CHENEY: Well, I think with respect to Lebanon, the Lebanese people themselves have very bravely risen up and after the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri called for an end to the Syria occupation for their country, had parliamentary elections, which were relatively free of Syrian influence for the first time in many, many years. And so I think that the people of Lebanon are proving to be a model for all of us, not just other people in the region, but for us here in the United States. I think that, you know, we feel very honored and very proud to be able to stand with the people of Lebanon, as they raise their voice in the name of freedom and we'll continue to do that.

The resolutions that you mentioned, 1559 and 1595 and 1636 -- 1559 and 1636 are certainly resolutions targeted at Syria. Resolutions focused on an international call in the case of 1636, a unanimous international call, for the Syrians to end the behaviors that I just listed moments ago. 1595, the resolution which created the investigation that Inspector Mehlis is now carrying out, has also become focused on Syria because of Mr. Mehlis's report, because of the lack of cooperation that the Syrians have provided, because of the fact that in his report he specifically mentions that the Syrian Foreign Minister has already lied to the Mehlis Commission, has provided a letter to the Commission that he, you know, was proven to be false.

So I think that, you know, all of the resolutions you mentioned focus very much on the behaviors I just mentioned a moment ago in terms of the importance of the Syrians to live up to their obligations to the international community. We are working very hard on the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Assistant Secretary Welch will be briefing on this at two o'clock this afternoon. Secretary Rice will be stopping in Israel and visiting both the Palestinians and the Israelis after she leaves Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. So we do believe that the future of the region requires that the Israelis and the Palestinians are able to live together in peace and security and we're working very hard to do everything we can to make sure that that's the case.

QUESTION: Christoph von Marschall from Tagespiegel in Berlin. I would like to ask what timeframe you have in your mind when you are talking about democratization of the Middle East? You all have in the State Department the leading people have experience with democratization in Central Eastern Europe, took some 10, 15 years from the '70s to the end of the '90s -- to the end of the '80s that it came true. So what are we talking here about -- a generation's project, about 30 years or -- and how does short-term steps and the long-term perspective fits together.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, we obviously don't know how long this takes and you've identified correctly a challenge which is how one can be ambitious, visionary in what we seek, and at the same time practical and realistic about what we can accomplish every day. Democracy -- it is true that democracy takes time, but the language of slow development can often be used as an excuse for no reform at all. So I think we have to -- all of us, who support reform in the region, in Europe, in the United States, in the region itself especially, need to be very clear about what it is that we seek.

Democracy, as President Bush has said, is not America's gift to the world. It is an expression of universal human desires to be free. Democracies are different but they have certain things in common. And it is also true that democracy is potentially universal, that it, it is not a product of -- it is not a monopoly possession of European civilization. There are democracies on every inhabited continent. Democracies have popped up* societies of every religion. Democracy is, in fact, universal.

So we have to be clear about where we are going and what we want and realistic about how long it takes to get there. That said, Secretary Rice has said that this project must be generational but we also must make a start and history has a way of accelerating in unexpected ways. People make decisions and are often bolder and act more resolutely than governments. So we also have to be modest about our abilities to predict.

QUESTION: Mohamed El-Sethouhi, Nile News/Egyptian Television. When you say that the Syrians are not represented by the government they deserve, do you mean that they deserve a different government? Or in other words, there is a need for a regime change in Syria?

And with regard to Egypt, you know that today with the first phase of the Egyptian parliamentary elections, I wonder if you have anything to say about the process so far.

MS. CHENEY: I think that it is very clear that the Syrian people deserve to have a say in their future and the Syrian people ought to be able, through free elections, to elect a government that reflects their desires and their hopes and their aspirations. And we believe that that's true for all people everywhere and it's true for the Syrian people. I think the Syrian people today are particularly handicapped because of the very destructive acts that their government is undertaking in the region. But I think it's absolutely clear that the Syrian people deserve to choose a government. They deserve to have an election and choose a government.

With respect to the elections in Egypt, we've been watching the coverage today. I think that it's a very important step. It follows on the step of the first multiparty presidential elections that happened a couple of months ago. And I think that, you know, the world will be watching what happens in Egypt over the next month of these parliamentary elections to see if there is continued progress towards democracy. And I think that's the basis on which the elections will be judged. Are they freer and fairer than they've been in the past? Is there the ability for people to vote when they go to polling places? We've seen some positive steps from the government. The government moved polling stations out of police station, which we think is a positive step. The government also announced it would be using transparent ballot boxes. So we've seen some steps in the right direction. We've also seen some difficulties. And I think that, you know, the Egyptian Government has to prove itself in terms of an ongoing improvement and commitment to more democracy and more openness.

QUESTION: Lambros Papantoniou, Eleftheros Typos Greek Daily, Athens.
To both of you, how do the USA-Greece's participation in this initiative, including the Republic of Cyprus, which is in the vicinity of the broader Middle East area?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: We welcome and are grateful to the Greek Government for its decision to contribute to the Foundation for the Future. Greece will be represented in Bahrain. Greece is among those countries which, although not part of -- not a member of the G-8, has thrown itself in with the rest of us as a country in support of reform in this region, and so for that our thanks to the Greek Government.

Whether Cyprus -- well, Cyprus is not a part of the broader Middle East, so we really hadn't considered Cyprus as part of this initiative. If Cyprus, as a government, wants to contribute, well, we are -- the initiative is open to any willing government who wishes to contribute to this project.

QUESTION: Thank you. Yasemin Congar with Turkey's, CNN Turkey. As you know, there is a lot of skepticism building in the Middle East about the U.S. advocacy for democracy and human rights. And this skepticism -- facing the issue that you hold -- that The Washington Post story on the so-called black sites and the Administration's demand to exempt CIA officials from their (inaudible).

If you were addressing the skeptics today directly, what would you say to them? Why should they believe that the U.S. is genuinely advocating -- supporting democracy and human rights in the region? And why should they -- I mean, I'm talking about the grassroots now -- why should they enthusiastically endorse the Forum for the Future? Thank you.

MS. CHENEY: I'll go first. You know, this is a question that I think has come up ever since we first began supporting democratic activities in the region back in 2002. And what I would say is judge us by our actions, you know. Judge us by the extent to which we really are standing with the people who are working for freedom. Judge us by the extent to which we are supporting NGOs with our money and with our back, you know, with our technical assistance. Judge us by the extent to which, you know, our Secretary of State goes to Cairo and makes a speech in Cairo in the heart of the broader Middle East about the importance of freedom and the importance of people being able to express their own wills and desires.

So, you know, yes, I think there is skepticism. I think that there is disagreement about policies. I think some of that comes from a misunderstanding of American policies. But at the end of the day, I think that the idea of skepticism is, frankly, a little bit overblown. I mean, my sense is that it's become conventional wisdom among elites that there are skeptics. There certainly are some skeptics, but there are certainly millions and millions of people across the broader Middle East who are participating with us in projects, that are providing training and skills and how you operate in a political -- in a democratic environment. And who very much appreciate and feel protected by the fact that the United States is standing with them, you know.

So there will always be skeptics, but I would watch what we do and watch also what we say about these issues.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I agree with everything Liz says and to that I'd only add that the participation of NGOs, of civil society from the region is a testament to society's willingness -- societies in the broader Middle East -- willingness to support reform and democracy and welcome and cooperate with those who support it also, despite policy disagreements. So look at the number of people who will be at the Bahrain forum who are not from government but are from independent civil society.

Secondly, look at the number of governments, including governments who have disagreed with American policy about Iraq, including the government of your country, who are contributing to this effort. This is not a Washington monopoly; this is a collaborative effort involving countries like Spain, Greece, Turkey, the Netherlands, Hungary, the United Kingdom, other G-8 nations. All of whom, especially the non-G-8 members, all of whom have supported reform because they believe in it, whether or not they agree with American policy in all aspects.

QUESTION: Hi, I'm Tarek Rashed from the Middle East News Agency. I'm just wondering, your part involving governments in the region in this process. I'm talking particularly about the Fund and the Foundation. How are you going to make a compromise in this paradox when the NGOs involved will be rallying in fact against the regimes and the governments in the region?

And my second question is where will the Foundation be based? Thank you.

MS. CHENEY: I think it's important to talk specifically here in order to answer that question. With respect to the Foundation, first of all, contributions to the Foundation have come from governments. They will also come from the private sector. But when the board of the foundation is established and when the chairperson of the board is selected, they will not be from governments. We have a very clear rule in the charter of the Foundation that there will be no members of any government on the Board of Directors or as chairperson.

And I think what you see, if you look at the extent to which you've got governments contributing, but an entity that will clearly be run by nongovernmental representatives, is a very historic and unique thing for the Middle East. You know, it will be focused specifically on funding and supporting civil society and democracy.

So I think that it is important to focus on the fact that this is a first such entity of its kind and that we are very committed to making sure that nongovernmental actors have a controlling role in that Foundation.

With respect to the Fund, you'll see the same restrictions in terms of who's on the Board of Directors and who's the chairperson of that Fund. No government entities will be in either position.

Both of these new organizations will be based somewhere in the region. We haven't selected exactly where that will be yet. And, you know, as Dan said, we've modeled the Fund in particular after the Polish American Enterprise Fund, which was very successful in both helping to provide capital to small and medium-sized enterprises but also because of the stature of the people who were on that board, working with the Government of Poland to help them put in place economic reforms that were necessary so these businesses could flourish. And we hope very much that we'll be able to replicate that model with this Fund for the Future.

So there will be an element of working with governments to help them adopt and, you know, policies that improve the investment climate and allow the Fund itself to make investments in their countries.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. CHENEY: We don't know which country yet, but they'll both be based somewhere in the broader Middle East.

QUESTION: Hasan Hazar, Turkiye Daily. Is the Broader Middle East Initiative just promoting democratic (inaudible), supporting trade and process -- reform process in the region or are there any more expectations just -- military cooperation, something like? Can you elaborate a little more?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Some people believe that an objective of supporting economic reform, education and democracy is quite a sufficient agenda for this process. In fact, there is no security component to -- in the Forum for the Future. However, NATO has begun a program of cooperation and outreach to interested governments in the region, both through the Mediterranean dialogue process but also recently to governments in the Gulf. So this is a separate issue.

NATO cooperation such as training for peacekeeping, counterterrorism, other forms of cooperation is an open process for willing governments to join. But that's not part of the Forum for the Future.

QUESTION: Christian Wernicke from the Germany Daily, Sueddeutsche Zeitung. I'd like to follow up on the question of my Turkish colleague. To (inaudible) more precisely, during the last weeks of preparation of this conference, have you ever sensed that your efforts for democracy and human rights have been hampered by all the news on CIA -- exemptions from -- against torture -- about the discussion on the McCain amendment about these black sites. I mean, there's definitely proof for huge and impressive press freedom but a human rights treatment has been recently put into question. Does that hamper your efforts?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Not that I've noticed. No.

MS. CHENEY: No. And I also think that it's important to make sure that we all have all the facts before we undertake discussions about any element, any aspect of the war on terror. And I think there's been a lot of desire and attempt on the part of some members of the media and others to sort of run with stories without all the facts. But I would echo what Dan said, which is that, you know, our commitment to democracy is one that's very much understood and that has borne fruit and we've developed some very important partnerships throughout the region.

In my own personal experience, you know, I was at the State Department for two years between 2002 and 2003 and then I left for a year and, when I came back at the beginning of 2005, I was very struck by the different atmosphere, both in the Middle East and also in Europe. You know, in 2002 and 2003, when the U.S. began its efforts to promote democracy, as Dan said, we were met with tremendous skepticism by Europeans and by many in the Arab world and we were in a position in some instances where we felt that we were really pushing and pushing and pushing reform. The situation has changed fundamentally now. We find ourselves in the Near East Bureau at the Department of State in a very unusual provision, which is having to rush at times to keep up with the pace of change in the region.

I mean, I think about the example of what happened in Lebanon after the Hariri assassination, when you had, you know, millions of people gathered in Martyr Square in Beirut calling for freedom and then you had an immediate move to election. And we were in a position where we had to work very quickly to get assistance there so that we could work through, you know, Lebanese NGOs to conduct polling, to help training poll watchers. And it was a terrific challenge to have because we were really running to keep up with people in the region who were calling for freedom.

And I would just say that that, you know, to me, I think that signals the sea shift -- the sea change that we've seen over the course of last year.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: That's quite right and I also want to push back a little bit against the logic that underlies some of the questions like that. Are we -- and this is a rhetorical question, I warn you in advance -- are we to conclude that because there are questions and controversy about some U.S. policies that, therefore, we must conclude that democracy and freedom in the broader Middle East is no longer appropriate? Because one or another U.S. policy has raised questions, therefore, there shouldn't be press freedom in the broader Middle East, therefore, people should be jailed for no reason? I don't see the logical connection.

The fact is that those who support reform in the broader Middle East are doing so because they think reform is a good thing. And they have welcomed support from us. They welcomed it from the Europeans. Since you're from Germany, I should mention that Joschka Fischer, who is not -- your former* Foreign Minister -- who's not known as an ideological friend of this Administration was vocal, eloquent and powerful in support of this initiative. And that is a very good example of the broad base of support that we've come to enjoy, as Liz says, in the past year.

MR. BAILY: Here, in the back row.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm Omar Razek from BBC Arabic. My question is related to the Egyptian parliamentary election today, the first stage. I wonder how far you can relate the religious groups like Muslim Brotherhood and Holy (inaudible). They are running for the election with big number of candidates. What if they won a majority in a country and (inaudible) political question, but is valid. Will you accept to deal with religious groups in the Middle East if they accepted the rules of democracy? This is the first question.

Second, some (inaudible) the United States of this Administration specifically, you are depending (inaudible) in promoting democracy, some for friends and others for your opponents. And you are not willing to press your friend enough to promote real democracy and might accept actual changes of (inaudible) like in many countries in the region. How can you reply to this criticism? Thank you.

MS. CHENEY: Well, the second question, first. It's just simply not true. You know, the extent to which the promotion of democracy and the promotion of freedom and opening up societies and, you know, allowing women the right to vote in countries like Saudi Arabia, all of those issues are issues that are on the top of the agenda for us. And again, I think this is an idea that's become part of the conventional wisdom, but it's just wrong. We very clearly talk with governments across the region and undertake projects across the region that help to promote and support these issues, regardless of the other issues we have on the agenda with these governments.

And I would say that in order to understand the reason for that, you have to remember that for us the promotion of freedom and the promotion of democracy is a critical national security interest. We believe that victory in the war on terror requires that societies open up, that young people have a voice, that young people have hope, that young people have the ability to build their own future.

So the issue of urging governments to open their societies is something we think is necessary for us to win the war on terror and to protect our own national securities. So of course, it is at the top of our agenda no matter who we're talking to in the region.

On the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, I would just say that the Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt, as you know, and I think it's very important, both with the Muslim Brotherhood and with other Islamist groups to ask the question of whether they would protect the rights of others if they were elected. And in many countries today it is the Islamist groups who are most well organized as opposition groups and that reflects a problem for the people in those countries. It reflects the fact that they don't have a full choice.

For too long political parties have been banned or oppressed or unable to operate and, so part of the process that countries need to go through is opening up their public space for debate. So that when an Egyptian or a Moroccan or a Jordanian or a Saudi goes into the polling both they have a real choice. You know, they've been able to watch through a free and independent press campaign commercials by all parties. They've been able to attend rallies by parties. They've been able to really listen and choose, based on a free and open system.

Because at the end of the day I don't believe that if people had that kind of truly, free and fair and open system, they would choose extremists. I don't think people in the Middle East would choose to be ruled by extremists. I donít think people anywhere would choose that. And so I think that -- it points to the challenge of not only having an election, but having an election that's preceded by a truly free and fair and open system that protects the rights of political parties beyond those like the Islamists who are very well organized and very well formed today to truly get their message out to people.

QUESTION: My name is Rusen Cakir. I am from Turkey Vatan newspaper. Just following up your answer that the result of the United States vis-ŗ-vis the Islamic movement creates some troubles like months ago in Istanbul there was a meeting of women in June about the Brotherhood (inaudible) and it was on women. And I was there and mostly people were -- the women were coming from (inaudible) organization. I mean, the reality of the Middle East, there are so-called civil society organization but mainly controlled by the regime. And in Istanbul meeting the women, most of them were making some kind of propaganda of their regime. But you know that, in this country, mainly the women, the Islamist (inaudible) really very strong, but they were not so much (inaudible) invited to this initiative. So I think there is a big question of this really representing the society. Are you really dealing with the real representative of the society or the regime provide you so-called representative? Okay.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: There are several parts to that question which is an interesting one. First of all, the breadth of civil society groups that will be present in Bahrain is impressive. These are not regime-oriented or stooged civil society organizations; they are genuinely independent.

Secondly, the question of Islamist parties is a complicated one. As Liz said, for a very long time there has been no place in most countries in the broader Middle East for the expression of and development of liberal opinion and liberal parties, that Islamism was the only opposition. And as societies open up, I suspect -- I don't know, these are independent places -- but I suspect you will see two things: You will see as space develops, liberal parties of different varieties moving in to fill the space that is newly available.

And secondly, I suspect that you will see so-called Islamist parties beginning to differentiate very widely from those who are genuinely extremist and those who move in a democratic direction.

Now, without making direct comparisons or talking about models, I do notice that the Ak Party -- the history of the Ak Party in Turkey is, generally speaking, the history of a party with modern Islamist roots, which now describes itself as Islamic Democratic as Christian Democratic parties are -- a model of Christian Democratic parties in Western Europe. That's not my phrase, that's what I've been told every time I go to Turkey.

And it seems to me that the development of the Ak Party into a democratic party of center right orientation has mirrored and supported the development of Turkish political society as a whole in a liberal and democratic direction. I'm not saying that the Turkish model is for every country in the region. Countries don't follow each other in a mechanistic way, of course not. But it is nevertheless instructive of the power of democracy to reshape the political landscape in ways that you don't always anticipate. And not all change is so dangerous. We should not be -- we needn't fear it.

QUESTION: But (Inaudible) very important Islamic economic mobilization, social mobilization and cultural mobilization. There are so many Islamist movements who are not affiliated with any kind of Islamist parties. So it's not only the aspect -- I appreciate your aspect -- but there's not only political one.

MR. BAILY: We have time for one more question.

QUESTION: [Aya Batrawy, Kuwait News Agency] Can you just explain here the breakdown of the funds that are going to this -- $35 million from the U.S., I think, and other countries? And how did you get the support of Arab governments in this when you're -- I don't understand the connection -- like why would they support -- I don't know, I mean, are they supporting this with funds -- the Arab governments -- because if that's the case, then why don't they just give these funds directly to the civil society? Why do they have to go through this whole thing?

MS. CHENEY: Well, I think there are two issues. The U.S. is putting $35 million into the Foundation and other governments are putting in $9 million, including I think there's about $2 million that's coming from the European Commission. The extent to which Arab governments are participating, the Government of Jordan has put $1 million into the Foundation. We expect that we'll have contributions from other governments as well. They've expressed support and they've told us that they will contribute and we expect you'll see that happen over the next week or so after the announcement of the Foundation.

With respect to the Fund, we're putting in $50 million. The Government of Egypt is putting in $20 million and the Government of Morocco is putting in $20 million.


MS. CHENEY: And Denmark is putting in $1 million. Sorry. And, you know, I think the issue for the Foundation is that Arab governments -- you know, first of all, I think that the history of NGOs and governments in the Arab world is, as one of your colleagues mentioned, it's a difficult history. And in some instances you had NGOs that are not really NGOs but that the governments tried to make look NGOs. And I suspect that in some cases these governments want to send a message to the international community that they're moving in the direction of democracy and by putting money into the Foundation they can do that and they can help to promote the opening up of their societies in a way that they might be hampered by doing if they were given the funds directly.

I would also caution you not to think about this in terms of the governments of the region are opposed to democratization because that's not true. And I think all you have to do is look across the region to see the steps that have been taken, whether you're talking about the elections in the Palestinian territories, the elections in Iraq, the elections in Lebanon, the elections in Egypt, the elections in Saudi Arabia, the extent to which, you know, the Moroccans have a new family code that protects the rights of women. I mean, you've got example after example after example where governments themselves are coming to recognize that they have to open their systems up, that these systems cannot maintain -- cannot continue to be sort of the stagnant political and economic systems that they have been for man years.

And looking for ways to do that, while there might be differences of view about the pace and how quickly you can do that, I think it's wrong to characterize the governments as being opposed to opening up the space for debate and opening up their systems.
MR. BAILY: Thank you very much. I'd like to remind you about the briefing at 2 o'clock. (Inaudible) there's another briefing here at 3 o'clock on the UN Human Rights Initiative, specific, human rights that (inaudible).

U.S. Department of State
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